This set of FAQs will likely grow over time but here are some that I see on Twitter a lot as well as some I have asked and received answers to:
Q: What is a genre?
A: Genre in the literary sense means category, like poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. But for your purposes, it is the type of book you are writing. The category, which could be non-fiction picture books, YA fantasy or Middle-Grade Historical. So what is my genre? YA fiction, within which I write historical stories. Some people will say that genre is just YA or MG, while others will say it’s fantasy, etc. so before you submit to an agent find out what they think it is if you intend to use the word in your query, otherwise just tell them what you are writing.
Q: What is a trope?
A: A trope is a cliche. It’s a worn out characterization that writers sometimes use in their stories. Such as the nerdy kid who is skinny with thick glasses, or the popular girl falls for the big brawny athlete. You should avoid tropes in your writing because agents and editors hate them. However, if you can take an overused trope and give it a fresh twist, you might be OK.
Q: What is the difference between an agent, an editor, and a book editor?
A: An agent is a person who represents you to book publishers. The publishers, in turn, have in-house editors who work with the author once they purchase the book to get it in tip-top shape. A book editor, on the other hand, is a person you can hire before you get an agent to edit, proofread or critique your manuscript.
Q: How can I determine if an agent or publisher is legitimate?
A: The best way to do this is to ask authors you know for information, such as on writing groups sites on Facebook. Or you can research them on the Internet, or you can go to sites like http://absolutewrite.com and find the Watercooler, or you can go onto SCBWI and ask in the forums. I personally use Chuck Sambochino’s Childrens’ Writer’s & Illustrators Market each year because he keeps up with legitimate agents and publishers, and gives you all kinds of info on how to query. But as always, check the agency or publisher websites for the most accurate submission guidelines.
Q: Can I query agents and publishers at the same time?
A: Yes but you shouldn’ and here’s why: the agent is the one who will take your book to the publisher so why go to both? Either query one group of the other but not both. It makes you look unprofessional.