Q&A: Does My Book Qualify for the Open Call?

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Dear Readers: I have received a few e-mails which fit the following pattern:

I have written a book about X topic. Would that qualify under the Open Call?


I am thinking about writing a book on X topic. Would that qualify under the Open Call?

I’m not going to share the specific topics here since they are largely irrelevant. No matter what topic you have chosen for your book, my answer to this question is generally the same.

Check this post later today for my response – and feel free to contribute your own insights as well.

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Amel is an experienced freelance writer, editor, and Arabic to English translator. She started the Muslim Writers Club as a means of sharing useful information about the art (and business) of writing.
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1 Comment

  1. If you’re not familiar with the Open Call, it’s basically dozens of agents at different agencies inviting Muslim writers to query them with their work.

    Every agency has its own specialties, with each agent further representing specific genres and types of books. Some agents, for example, only represent children’s picture books, while other agents specialize in science fiction, romance, fantasy, and other genres of adult or young adult fiction. Still others represent non-fiction, which could include memoir, history, politics, and many other topics.

    So, if you’ve written a mystery adventure that’s appropriate for ten-year-olds, you’d want to query agents who represent middle-grade fiction. You wouldn’t query agents who represent cookbooks, horror novels, or even adult detective novels.

    No matter what type of book you have written, you can probably find an agent who represents your genre on the Open Call List. There is no such thing as “qualifying” for the Open Call initiative, simply because it’s a broad initiative with room for many types of writing.

    As I have mentioned before, however, there are certain genres that are difficult to find mainstream representation for (such as poetry). If you are trying to publish a book of poetry, you may have to broaden your horizons a bit to connect with an interested publisher.

    Also, while the Open Call is a wonderful initiative, we are not in any way limited to agents who appear on this list. If you have approached all of the agents who are a good match for you on the list but still haven’t found representation for your work, don’t be afraid to cast your net a bit wider. Other agent listings include those found on Manuscript Wish List and Poets & Writers.

    Another thing you should be keenly aware of is your target audience. If your ideal readers are other Muslims, you might do better with an Islamic book publisher.

    That’s not to discourage anyone from seeking mainstream publication. Some books are capable of appealing to different demographics, and that’s a conversation worth having with any agents or publishers you approach. Muslim Child, by Rukhsana Khan, for example, is a book containing religious content (including Surah Al-Fatiha near the beginning), and yet it is published by a mainstream publisher (Napoleon Publishing).

    Finally, if you are only “thinking” of writing a particular book at this point, you probably don’t have to worry about getting an agent just yet. It takes a lot of work to write a book, and you should focus on completing your manuscript. Agents who represent fiction generally want to see the whole thing. If you’re writing non-fiction, the rules are a little different, but you should still have a solid plan/outline for your book.

    Some of you have sent me very interesting ideas to comment on, and I have not seen anything that would make me think that a particular idea is not “qualified” for the Open Call.

    What I have suggested to a few people, however, is that they need to really sit down and refine their ideas a bit so that they are able to convey the message of their book in a more concise manner that would be more appealing to agents.

    A “topic” is not really a book. It’s all in the way you actually bind together a story, theme, or narrative to present that topic.

    To illustrate that, recall the conversation we recently had regarding Islamic cookbooks. An Islamic cookbook could take many shapes or forms. It might focus on a specific point in history, or on a particular country, region, festival or event, such as Eid or Ramadan. It might focus just on desserts, drinks, or even a specific ingredient (like dates). It might show how an American Muslim maintains a halal kitchen, or how common American dishes can be made using halal ingredients. It could focus on the idea of sacrifice (and what types of dishes you could make with the meat of an entire lamb).

    As you can see, there are endless possibilities and approaches for such a topic, which is also the case with most other topics as well…so be clear on what you envision for your book before you start querying.
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