Inside Scoop: Dish From a Literary Agent Intern – More on Queries

8025427_1For my second official blog post as Linda’s intern I’ve decided to write about queries. I know, you’re thinking another query blog? Well, yes! Because no matter how many times the specifications of what is asked for when sending in a query are discussed, there are people who (ready for it?) STILL don’t do it correctly. *Gasp*

What I’m going to be talking about today are the parts of the query where you pitch. That’s right folks, believe it or not they matter. Not just the pitches about your manuscript, but the pitches about yourselves too. Since I’ve been reading so many queries and seeing just how people try to sell themselves and their manuscripts I wanted to point out a few things.

  • Don’t sell yourself more than your manuscript. It happens. Sometimes there is a bit about the manuscript, promptly followed (or sometimes preceded) by the 15 literary awards that the author has won, the numerous associations they are part of and countless other facts, both related and not. Please include information about yourself, but do it with some humility in mind. That is not to say giving information about your successes isn’t important. Awards are great, just let them be relevant to your writing or your manuscript. If you are sending in a YA novel, I don’t need to know you have won awards for making pottery.
  • Do not compare your manuscript to 3 other books that have no common thread. It does not make more sense or give an idea of what your book is actually about. Do not say it’s a cross between Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird with a twist of Gone with the Wind. That does not give a clear depiction of what your book is about or make much sense. Instead, give a picture of the story you created, using your own words and thoughts. It’s ok to include comps when they truly describe an aspect of your manuscript you can’t describe any other way. But describing your manuscript with your own words can give a much better idea of what it is and how you see it.
  • Make sure you give a concise summary of your manuscript. We want to be able to get a sense of what you are talking about. Being bombarded with too many thoughts about your manuscript can muddle the clear depiction you want to give. You want to make sure you will grab the interest of whoever is reading your query so they will want to give your manuscript a chance. Keeping it down to a couple of paragraphs is more than enough to tell about your manuscript.

Kim Photo BioSo that’s what I have for you this month! Thank you for taking the time to read my pointers and I hope this was helpful in your pursuit of finding an agent. I wish you continued luck on your journey and I’ll talk to you soon! Let me know in the comments section below if you have specific things you’d like me to blog about in the future.

Kimberly Richardson is currently interning for Linda Epstein at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, while pursuing her Masters degree in Pace University’s Publishing Program. You can follow Kimberly on Twitter @kimberly_ann688.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Three Reasons I Reject Queries

detective21. Submissions for genres I don’t represent

I know you think I’m cool (I’m really not). Or you read something about me that makes you think I’d be the perfect person to have as an agent. But the truth is that if I don’t read and represent the kind of book that you wrote, I’m just going to reject your query. I’m not really sorry about that either. You see, when you have an agent you want them to totally love your work, to get it, to be able to make editorial suggestions to you because you’re on the same page and to go to the ends of the earth to sell it. When someone sends me a thriller, a horror story, paranormal romance, a mystery, I just want to get on a bus, go to their house and shake them! Look on my agency website or this blog to see what I’m looking for! Why can’t you do that? Ok, so I said I might like a cozy mystery, if it was really quirky. Glomming onto the word mystery and sending me your mystery manuscript, when it’s neither quirky nor cozy is just being a dumb-ass.

2. Not knowing who I am

I know I’m not famous. I know I’m new to this agent game. I know it’s scary to send your work out into the world to be read by someone you don’t know. But you need to at least know my friggin’ name. If you send me a query letter that starts out, “Dear Agent,” “To whom it may concern,” or even worse, just begins by blabbering at me with no salutation at all, I just don’t start out inclined to read whatever’s coming next. Of course the worst thing you can do is open your query letter with, “Dear Michelle.” Or anyone else’s name that isn’t mine. Seriously, people.

3. Being too weird or too familiar

A query letter is a business letter. I’m kind of weird myself, so I have a little bit of room for weirdness. You can be creative in a business letter. But when I get weird queries or ones that I have to take a deep breath and focus focus focus on to understand what they are even saying, I invariably just reject them. I don’t have time for this! I have a gazillion other queries to read! And you know what? I’m not your friend. You don’t know me, no matter what you might have read about me. We might get to be friendly, if I represent you. But for now, just write your query like you’re writing to an insurance company trying to get them to cover something they don’t usually cover. You wouldn’t be cutesy. You wouldn’t start rambling about unrelated things. If you were smart, you wouldn’t try to bully them or threaten them either, because that never works. (You’d be surprised at some of the nasty follow-up e-mails I’ve gotten after I’ve politely rejected someone’s manuscript. And then the writer still thinks I might represent them!)

I’m in this business because I love books and reading, writing and working with writers… I’m not your friend or the enemy and I’m also not a plumber you’re trying to hire. Writers, please do your homework before sending out queries and then be professional and polite.

(This blog post was originally posted here in 2011, but is still absolutely relevant and true.)

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Showing vs. Telling in Fiction: Some Tools

showvstellI did a workshop this past weekend at a writers conference on showing versus telling in fiction. I prepped for it and made a powerpoint and a handout and practiced what I was going to say and had hands-on writing exercises and everything. People who took the workshop said they got something out of it, but I can’t help feeling like I didn’t quite hit the nail on the head with this. Oh well. Here are some tips, stolen from my handout:

 

Verbs are your friends: For example, you could write “Hermione walked to the library.” Or, you could try, 

Hermione snuck to the library.

Hermione trudged to the library.

Hermione marched to the library.

Sometimes using a strong verb can create a more powerful image than using an adverb. For example, you could write, “Ron wrote his name messily on the chalkboard.” Or, you could try,

Ron scrawled his name on the chalkboard.  or  Ron scribbled his name on the chalkboard.

Don’t forget the details, details, details! For example, look at this beautiful paragraph:

Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and clapped and Mr. Olivander cried, “Oh, bravo!”

 You can show character through dialogue.  For example, if you know Draco is an elitist; Draco is arrogant; Draco is self-important, then you might, like J.K. Rowling, write a sentence like this:

“You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

This isn’t magic or rocket science. It’s stronger, more vivid writing.  You are trying to create a visceral connection between your reader and your work, not just an intellectual one. So go for the guts, not just the head.

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized