Tag Archives: Query Roulette

Feedback from a Literary Agent: A Tale of Two Stories

Glinda the Good Witch

Glinda the Good Witch

This was one of those weeks where I got to make someone’s dream come true and put a “perma-grin” on their face for a few days. But I’m afraid I also dashed some hopes. Perhaps that’s the case every week, as I go through queries, and for some I request a deeper peek and for others I just decline. But the fact that as an agent I have that “power” is never so in my face as when I hear pitches at a conference, or like last night, when I gave feedback on authors’ query letters at the WNBA-NYC Query Roulette.


Holy Picture Book, Batman!

Holy Picture Book, Batman!

First, the wish-granting story

I offered representation to a wonderful children’s book author earlier  this week! Not only does this guy clearly have talent, but we seem to share the same quirky sensibility and sense of humor, and he has done the things he needs to do to hone his craft. It’s not always about degrees and letters after your name, but let me tell you that going for that MFA has the potential to really kick your writing up a notch and have you stretch in ways perhaps you didn’t know you could. I may have to get me one of them myself. (See my post about writers educating themselves.) I can tell already my new client and I are going to be a dynamic duo. And I can’t wait to share his work with editors!

url-2Then there’s the hope dashing story

I hate that I am sometimes the person across the table that says something to an author about their manuscript that will make their lip quiver, their eyes brim with tears, and have them take a deep breath just to hold it together. And then that author may or may not have been heard crying in the bathroom. Oh my. That is not the power I want to have.

Unfortunately though, because I have a commitment to making dreams come true, I also am committed to telling the truth to authors. Especially authors who seek me out specifically to get feedback about their work. If I don’t think your work is strong, it’s my duty to tell you. If I think your query letter needs work (a lot of work), it’s my obligation to point out where. If I share what a tough market it is for what you write (memoir, picture books, a particular subject, etc…), I’m doing my job if I tell you the truth.

Your job as an author is to take it. Take the feedback, input, critical commentary, and use it. Use it to make your work better, or build a stronger platform, or perfect a pitch. Use it to put aside your current project and write your next manuscript. Or use it to help you decide that perhaps writing isn’t for you. Or to decide that writing is for you, but getting published really isn’t so important. But your job is to use it.

Of course though, telling the truth to authors doesn’t make my job easy.

How do you handle hearing the truth about your work?




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Writing Conferences: What’s in it for an Agent?

urlGoing to writing conferences and teaching workshops is something that many agents do. I like doing conferences for a few reasons. Of course, I’m always looking to find my next amazing client, another writer who will knock my socks off. That goes without saying. But for me, I also like doing conferences because it keeps me on my toes. The more I talk to people about what it is that I’m looking for, what makes a good query, what makes a good pitch or hook, how to improve your craft, the more clear that becomes for me. And my “what I’m looking for” keeps changing, too. Not the part about the excellent writing, of course, but what I’m currently interested in reading and what the market can bear. Putting myself in a situation where I have to speak (repeatedly) about that is a good way to keep it all fresh in my own mind.

There’s also the networking aspect of conferences. An important part of being a literary agent is forging connections with editors. Getting to know editors a little bit more personally allows me to really focus on which editors will like the work that my clients are writing. There’s nothing worse than pitching my client’s work to the wrong people (well, there’s plenty worse, but you know what I mean). I love when I am reading client work and I start building a submission list in my head, knowing exactly which editors will love it.

Then, for me there’s also the “wanting to make a difference” piece of going to conferences and teaching workshops. Just as a human being on this planet, I like to know that I’m making a difference for other people. It gives me great pleasure if I can say even one thing that will help an author with their manuscript, with their query letter, with their elevator pitch. Sometimes it’s just a kind word of encouragement. Other times it’s a harsher word of critique that (hopefully) will help kick a manuscript up to the next level or re-focus an author on a more productive track toward publication. This is extremely satisfying.

So, here are 6 places you’ll be able to find me this year. This list is not complete, because I’m still being offered conference opportunities for fall and winter 2013. I’m also putting together a writing retreat/workshops with a colleague of mine, that will run either this summer or in the fall (we’re still working out the venue details). For more information about that, click here.

1. “Writing a Top Notch Query” workshop at Hofstra University this Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30pm in Hempstead (Long Island), NY

2. “Query Roulette” through the Women’s National Book Association, like speed dating with agents, next Thursday, March 21 at 6:30pm in New York City

3. Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, Saturday, April 6 in New York City

4. “The Art of Craft,” New England SCBWI Conference, Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4 in Springfield, Massachusetts

5. Backspace Writer’s Conference, May 23, 24, 25 in New York City

6. Willamette Writer’s Conference, August 2, 3, 4 in Portland, Oregon

If your writing group or association is interested in having me attend a conference or give a workshop, please email me and we’ll work something out. I haven’t done Skype visits yet, but I’m open to that, too!


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I Just Have to Meet You, Linda! Where Can I Find You? Conferences in 2012

If reading my blog isn’t enough, and you just have to meet me, face to face, you will have a number of occasions to do that this year! Here’s what I have set up so far for 2012:

I am participating in Query Roulette through the New York Chapter of The Women’s National Book Association on February 28th in New York City. It’s like speed dating with agents! Click here for more information.

I am teaching a two hour Query Writing workshop at Hofstra University in Long Island on March 10th. Click here for information and to register.

I will be at The Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon from August 3rd – 5th. Click here for more information. I’m not sure if I hope it will be like Portlandia or it won’t!


Come the autumn I will also be at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in Newport Beach, California from September 23rd – 25th. Click here for more information. So Cal in the Fall! I can’t wait!

Is there a regional conference in your area that you’d like me to attend or that is looking for literary agents? Let me know about it!


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