Tag Archives: queries

Just how important are those dang query letters? What do I really want to see in them?

Those dang query letters are important. They are my introduction to you and your work (unless I already know you). If I’m struggling through reading your query letter, I’m probably not going to keep scrolling down to read your manuscript. I’ll just cut my losses and reply with a pass. I know you don’t want to hear that. But it’s true.

A good query letter will do its job and pique my interest. It will invite and entice me to read your manuscript. It will put your work in a context. It will intrigue me and perhaps even make me want to Google you.

This is what I want to see in your query letter:

  • that you take your writing seriously and professionally
  • that you’ve done your homework and know what should be included in a query letter… and what should not.
  • that you’re following my submission guidelines, which you can find many places, including on my agency website and here on the blog
  • that you’re not being weird or cute in the query (except normal weirdness or cuteness) because a query is a business letter
  • that you understand what an agent does and does not do (i.e. I don’t publish your book. You don’t hire me.)

The above are general things I want to see. I’m not getting specific, because I feel like I’ve talked about query letters a whole bunch here on the blog. Like here. Here. Here. And here (I got a lot of pushback on this one. People didn’t like my tone.)

Do you have questions about queries? I’m happy to answer questions!

And now, because I always put pictures in my posts, here’s a post of my new typewriter. I bought it this past weekend for no reason whatsoever at all except that one can’t have too many typewriters. Right?

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What I’m looking for in 2015

This is always such a difficult post to write, trying to encapsulate in a blog post “what I’m looking for” in a manuscript. Six months from now I might feel differently. I might even feel differently right after I hit the “publish” button on this blog post. I fear that what I’m looking for comes out of an amorphous, organically burping puddle of orange purple pink black lava, spewing fumes of sulphur (or is that lavender? patchouli?), continually giving birth to odd, original, quirky-yet-well-written children’s books. Yes, that explains it (or doesn’t). (I’ve posted this video before, but it’s worth starting 2015 with a laugh, as it’s often exactly how I am.) Ok, here goes with some “what I’m looking for” and what I’m not looking for…

1. Basically, I’m currently looking for unique, well-written children’s literature, from picture books through young adult, including both fiction and nonfiction.

2. For picture books, I like a strong voice, and when it’s funny, quirky and unusual. If you’re too didactic and teachy-preachy, it’s not for me. I don’t mind rhyme if it works for the story, but if you’re jamming your story into a rhyme scheme it’s not going to work, for the manuscript or for me. I’m looking for authors and author/illustrators. Also, I would never take on a new client who has only one picture book manuscript, so although you should only pitch one project at a time, make sure you have other things you can show me if I ask.

3. I like character-driven middle grade fiction with lots of action. I like middle grade mysteries, fantasy, scifi, realistic contemporary, historical, and when the lines between genres blur. Some recent middle grade books that I don’t represent but I wish I did: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; Hook’s Revenge by Holly Schulz. I want you to make your middle grade characters relatable and knowable, or your awesome plot will feel hollow.

4. For YA sometimes it’s easier to tell you what I’m not looking for. I don’t like or read Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars kinds of books and I don’t like things that are scary or horror stories. I’m not into “gritty” or “urban.” I do not like “issue” books (i.e. rape, abuse, eating disorders, run-aways, drug abuse, bullying, etc) where that’s what the whole book is about. I don’t like romance or paranormal romance (although I do like when stories get romantic). Here are some things I do like though: I like realistic contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical, GLBTQ, literary, funny, serious, nonfiction, fiction, re-tellings, epistolary, novels in verse, and I’d take a collection of linked short stories (but otherwise I don’t represent short stories). In YA, make sure your teenaged characters are really teenagers, not what an adult thinks teenagers are like, not a whitewashed version of a teenager, not what you might wish a teenager were like, not a caricature of a teenager. If it doesn’t really read authentically teen, I’m not going to want it, I wouldn’t be able to sell it, and teenagers won’t read it.

5. Genres I don’t currently want, for any age (mostly because I can’t sell them): dystopian or post-apocalyptic, almost anything with vampires, demons, mermaids, genies, etc… unless (because there’s always an exception!) you’re bringing something totally new to it.

6. I’m on the lookout for stories with diverse characters written by diverse people. By diverse I mean ethnically, racially, socioeconomically, all across the gender and sexual orientation spectrum, with and without physical “handicaps,” and including any other kind of “other” one might think of or create. As always, I want to represent, read, and promote voices that don’t traditionally get heard.

7. I am specifically looking for manuscripts that are well written and readable. I want to get so lost in the experience of reading your story that I forget it’s a submission. What that means is that not only should your story be well written, but it should be super polished, almost perfect, without any typos, spelling or grammar errors, etc… It should be a page turner! I’m looking for manuscripts that don’t still need a ton of editorial work (even though I’m a very editorial agent).

To submit, send me a short, snappy, professional query letter with the first 20 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. Don’t send me an email asking me if it’s ok to query. Don’t ask me in the comments section of this post whether <insert what you’re writing> would be something of interest to me. Put “Query” and the title of your manuscript in the subject line. Send it to QueryLindaEpstein (at) gmail (dot) com. That is my preferred email for queries, even though it’s not what is listed on my agency’s website (new website is under construction).

If you’re not sure whether you have something I’d like, do your research. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, have been interviewed, and have blogged enough here that you should be able to get a sense of who I am and what I’d like.

Ok, that’s it from me for the moment. I’m going to push that “publish” button on this blog post now…

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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.

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