Tag Archives: query letters

Inside Scoop: Dish from the Literary Agent Intern

Kickin’ Things Off with a Contest!

8025427_1In my first few weeks interning for Linda, I’ve noticed a recurring theme among some of the query letters: they lack effective loglines (or one is not present). For those of you unfamiliar with this term—or who simply need to brush up on your writing terminology—a logline is a brief statement, usually only a sentence or two, that describes the plot of the story without giving away the ending, and is meant to hook the reader so they want to read more. This is also sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch—it should be short enough to deliver to an agent or editor on an elevator ride, should you ever find yourself in that situation.

A logline is important to include in a query letter as it can start off the letter with a bang. Rather than jumping right into a more detailed synopsis, the logline quickly snags the reader’s attention at the beginning of the query and convinces them that they need to know what this story is all about. Though crafting a strong and enticing logline can be tricky, especially for those of us who are not the most concise in our writing (guilty!), it can really strengthen your query.

So, to start things off, I’m going to hold a logline contest! As my preferred reading material happens to be YA, this contest is only open to loglines for Young Adult novels. (Sorry to those of you who don’t write YA; I had to draw the line somewhere so as not to get overwhelmed early in the game). Linda and I will judge your loglines and the lucky winner will get a copy of Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT!* Though Linda doesn’t represent Ms. Roth, we are both very excited for the movie to hit theaters in March, and we thought this would be a great prize for all you writers of YA. (Please note that this contest is only open to residents of the United States. Sorry, but international shipping is quite pricey these days.)

Before you all set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, think about how to best represent your novel in a compelling but concise manner. Even if you don’t win, think of this as a way to get your logline in shape for your next submission. Once you have perfected your logline, post it in the comment box. Only one entry per person (and Linda’s clients can’t enter). The deadline for entering is February 27th at 6:00am EST and the winner will be announced Monday, March 3rd.

Now, get ready…get set…write!

*Here are links to more information about Veronica Roth and Katherine Tegen Books.

Tara Slagle is Linda Epstein‘s current intern. Tara is working toward her M.S. in Publishing at Pace University. After completing her degree she plans to work in the publishing world as either an acquisitions editor or literary agent, focusing on YA and (the emerging) New Adult titles. 

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GUEST POST: Three Tips on Querying Agents based on My Recent Experience

Querying (Miriam)As a delighted new client of the lovely Linda Epstein, I am thrilled to share three quick tips on landing a sweet agent.

Tip 1: Don’t send your manuscript out before it’s ready.

Duh. Even before I sent out my first query, I could have told you that this was The Most Important Thing. But I’d worked on the first draft of my manuscript for what felt like sooooo long. I thought I’d do a quick pass, clean it up, and be ready to query agents within two months—so that’s exactly what I did. And, hooray! Two agents requested a full!…

THEN I woke up in the middle of the night with the horrible realization that the last third of my manuscript WAS IN THE WRONG ORDER.

So, yeah, those two agents did not make offers.

I revised again, and I sent it out again, with much more success.

Tip 2: Put effort into selecting your agents.

I did some serious research. I looked up agents in the Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, on QueryTracker, on Publisher’s Marketplace, etc. I looked for agents who were actively seeking the kind of story mine was: YA, strong female protagonist, historical fiction, etc.

When I thought agents might be a good fit, I internet-stalked the hell out of them. I read their blogs, followed them on Twitter, and perused their agency’s websites. I looked for clues that they might connect with my story on a deeper level than just categorically. That cut my initial list in half.

Then I queried, and half of those agents requested a full or partial.

Tip 3: Commiserate with other writers.

Querying agents is hard. Rejections came quicker than requests. After a few rejections, I started to wonder if the story I’d been working on for the past forever was any good.

The best remedy for despair is connecting with other writers: writers who have queried successfully, those who are going through the process simultaneously, and those who someday hope to. Read every blog on the querying process ever written. I got some of the best advice and most heartening stories from writers I’ve never met.

Good luck!

Headshot MiriamMiriam McNamara has her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently deeply involved with a historical fiction manuscript featuring double lives, star-crossed romance, and lady pirates. She lives in Asheville, NC.

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Rejection Letter Translations: What am I REALLY saying?

canstock12444309When I say, “I’m not the best agent for your work,” what I really mean is:

1. Although this looks interesting, or although I think you can write, I really, really, really don’t represent thrillers, romance, western, fill in the blank…

2. I’m not the best agent because this needs so much work  I wouldn’t even know where to start with it.

3. I’m not the best agent because I do very little self-help, memoir, cookbooks, etc… and you need someone with strong knowledge and connections in your genre.

4. I’m not the best agent because I don’t think your non-fiction idea has legs but I don’t want to hurt your feelings or discourage you because I could be totally wrong.

5. I’m not the best agent because I don’t get it and I’m not connecting to your story or your writing or something about your query.

When I say, “This isn’t a good fit for my list right now,” what I really mean is:

1. I’m already representing something similar to this. Sorry, but your idea isn’t totally unique. (I know! Can you believe it?!)

2. I really, really, really don’t represent thrillers, romance, western, fill in the blank…

3. It’s not a good fit because your query letter is so horribly written I couldn’t even finish reading it, so why would I bother to read any of your manuscript?

4. Seriously, vampires are so over, zombies never interested me, and if I have to read another portal fantasy I’m going to scream.

5. I’m just not feeling the love. Finding a new client is like dating and sometimes the chemistry is just off because it’s off.

When I say, “This isn’t a good match for me,” what I really mean is:

1. Dear God, please send me better queries because this one is pretty terrible.

2. Your manuscript may be well written but it’s on a topic that holds no interest for me. Zero. Zip. Nada. Not a bad idea, just not for me.

3. I’m not kidding when I say I really, really, really don’t represent thrillers, romance, western, fill in the blank…

4. It may fit all of my “criteria,” but I’m just not feeling the connection.

5. I need to be totally, unabashedly, head over heels in love with a manuscript, and for me yours is just ok. I’m the wrong person for it.

When I say, “I wish you the best of luck with it,” what I really mean is:

1. I wish you the best of luck finding an agent who will champion your work.

2. I wish you the best of luck in improving your craft.

3. I wish you the best of luck revising your story.

4. I wish you the best of luck on this crazy path to publication.

5. I just wish you the best of luck, for crying out loud! I like to see people succeed in fulfilling their dreams, even if I’m not the right one to help them.

How do you translate rejection letters?

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