Agents get a lot of queries, way more than we can represent. That means a lot of competition for querying writers. Believe me, I have plenty of experience querying as well and understand the frustration. Sometimes being an agent and knowing how it all works soothes the rejection, but not always. Rejecting queries is my least favorite part of agenting. I know how those rejections feel having been on the other end of them. But when it comes down to it agents might only take a handful of new authors a year but receive hundreds of queries. Currently I’m building my client list with vigor, which means I’m hungrily looking to fill out my list, but even then I still get way more queries than I can represent.
So why do I reject queries? A lot of people assume the majority of rejections are due to bad writing or us hating the queries. Most queries where the writing falls short just need another round or two of edits or are newer authors who will improve with time. Often a project needed one more round of edits before querying, but there is too much editing needed for me to feel comfortable taking on the project. I’m a big fan of Revise and Resubmits because if this is the case but I love the project, I’ll request a R&R to see how the author handles the edits. Being able to edit well is a key to success as an author. Continue reading “Why I Reject Queries”
Who doesn’t enjoy stories about people dying due to unsavory plots to grab power or wealth? Stories of people being poisoned and dying young are all through history and this book explores the most famous cases as well as the poisons of the day. The full title of the book is The Royal Art of Poison: Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine, and Murder Most Foul and that title really is the best descriptor of this book. Let me tell you this book was absolutely fascinating! This is definitely one of my favorite recent nonfiction reads and I highly recommend it. Eleanor Herman has all kinds of interesting books on history.
This book is great not just for those interested in poisons of the past, but any authors looking for information for their writing. This covers everything from how dirty the palaces were (men used to just piss everywhere apparently) to how they used mercury for medicine and in makeup along with arsenic. The makeup of the day was more likely to kill you than keep you beautiful. And if you wanted to die your hair red to be like Queen Elizabeth you might lose it all instead. Sometimes mercury could cure you, but only if it didn’t kill you first. Continue reading “Book Review: The Royal Art of Poison”
I think it’s pretty safe for me to say many if not all of us working in publishing struggle to have a healthy work-life balance. Our jobs can be time demanding so much so that it can feel like there’s never enough time to get everything done. As an editor I had to balance how many projects I accepted at one time. As an agent I keep a close eye on my client list and how many upcoming projects I have when I consider making an offer. My big goal for 2019 is to try to obtain a healthier work-life balance. Thankfully since I live in Pittsburgh instead of NYC, my cost of living is lower which means I can keep my client list smaller. So here’s some cold hard truth about my work-life balance as an agent.
Clients always come first, but because handling work for them takes up my regular work hours, reading to find new clients often gets pushed into personal time. Once you get behind on queries its difficult to catch back up without closing to new queries. I set aside a half hour a few times a week to go through queries. This keeps me on track, but as the number of queries in my inbox rises so does the time needed to get through them and read all the “maybes” I have marked. And really that’s why you really need to grab me with your query and first chapter because there are probably five or more other manuscripts being considered for a full request and I don’t have time to request and read them all. Continue reading “Work-life Balance in Publishing”
This Is Our Story is a YA contemporary about a hunting trip gone wrong. Basically when it comes to YA contemporary this is the sort of story I’m searching for in my slush. I enjoyed the mix of mystery and romance. I grew up in a small town and found the small town setting of this to be pretty on the nose. Like any book there were a few spots that could be improved, but overall I really enjoyed the mystery ride this book took me on.
This Is Our Story is about five boys who go on a hunting trip only for one of them to end up dead from a gunshot. No one is willing to confess and the boys band together to protect each other. Kate ends up interning with the district attorney and gets caught up in the investigation and finds herself getting a little too close to one of the boys. With the case heading to trial it’s up to her to help prove who is guilty and who is innocent. Continue reading “Book Review: This Is Our Story”
Sometimes authors have no idea how many queries agents or how we choose projects. I wanted to do a compilation of some 2018 stats and what I saw that I liked and didn’t like in queries along with a few things to keep an eye out for when you query literary agents in 2019 to improve your chances. These stats focus on fiction since fiction dominated my slush. Going into 2019 I plan to hunt down some great nonfiction projects.
First of all, I got hundreds of queries this year even with only opening to queries in September. November was my busiest query month with 252 queries. Things slowed down in December to about 190 queries. This was likely due to many other agents closing for the month and people taking a break for the holidays. This is what makes it hard to stand out in the slush, the sheer number of subs agents receive. Make sure your query is on point before sending it out. I saw a lot of queries that left out stakes or got too convoluted or even focused on themes instead of plot or left out the plot altogether. Avoid these mistakes because they make a project easy to pass on. Continue reading “2018 Query Round Up”
By submission list, I mean the submissions your agent sent to editors. A big trend in my query box lately is previously published and previously represented authors. Many books were already out on one or two submission rounds. I personally like to ask about all this and know as much as possible if I’m interested in a full. I’m seeing so much of this lately that I wanted to post a little reminder here about keeping submission info.
I’ve started a habit of asking if the last agent sent the MS to any editors when I request a full from a previously represented author. I take my submissions game plan into heavy consideration when I’m reading a full and if a book has already been sent to just about every editor, I wouldn’t expect to be able to sell it and might ask to see the next book instead. The more editors to have seen a book, the harder it could be for me to sell.
Why keep the list? Past submissions on books can help target submissions on your next book. Maybe an editor asked to see future books or recommended a different editor. Maybe one made it clear they weren’t fond of the author’s writing style, in which case it would be a waste to send the next book to them instead of a different editor at that house or imprint. If editors have already seen one book your next agent won’t want to send the same book to those editors a second time.
If you decide to split with your agent make sure you keep your submission list since it will come in handy to your next agent. And if your current MS has already been given to editors, your agent will need to know who.
If you are in the query trenches you have my sympathy for how difficult the going can be. You should also make sure you only query an agent one project at a time. I get a lot of queries for a whole series (fantasy is the big offender for this) or an author pitching multiple books in the same query letter. Pitch one project at a time to an agent. I’m going to explain exactly why that is.
First off, I will more than likely only pitch one project of yours at a time. That means I need to know which project you are currently focusing on and want to sell. If you throw several at me, I don’t know which one you want to go up to bat with the most. It’s also more reading time not only to decide if I like your writing, but which project to sign. My time is limited when it comes to reading projects to sign clients, so I need to choose carefully. Having a whole series or several books to get through is a much larger time investment than looking at one project and unless I’m in love with a concept the time investment makes it easy to pass. Continue reading “Query One Project at a Time”
If I had to pick my favorite overall book of 2018, the award would definitely go to Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant. That book gripped me in a way no other book could compete with this year. The tension was magnificent and I loved the unique take on mermaids. Overall my adult reading was more varied than young adult this year. My top picks are in historical, horror, and science fiction.
My other Adult picks for 2018 include The Song of Achilles, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Baby Teeth, and Adrift. A shout out goes to Semiosis and Circe. All of these books released in 2018. Continue reading “My Favorite Adult Reads of 2018”