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”
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”
I’ve noticed a few authors on Twitter wondering if agents actually have any interest in a submission if they send an R&R. The short answer to that? YES. Now lets get into the long answer and all the information about R&Rs. I’ve been known to give a few out, but they are usually rare. I’m going to explain why I personally give an R&R, what it means for the author, and what it means for the agent, including why some agents don’t bother with them.
Why do I give an R&R? Usually because I love a concept, can see what the book could potentially be, but feel in it’s current form it still needs too much work. If the writing is good on a technical level and the story itself needs some work, I’ll consider an R&R, but only if I’m in love with the concept. The R&R lets me test the author’s ability to revise. If they just haven’t gotten the right feedback yet, getting some guidance might be all they need. But if they can’t quite make the revisions work, I know the project isn’t for me. Taking on a project that needs a lot of work can be a bit too much of a risk, especially if its a debut author and I have no idea about their ability to edit and revise. The R&R gets rid of that risk. Continue reading “All About Revise and Resubmits (R&Rs)”
Something I’ve noticed as an agent is when I make an offer, authors are always interested in knowing what kind of edits are needed in detail, which is good. I’m very editorial, so it’s important to me that my clients are prepared to do revisions and if their current project doesn’t need them, future ones might. However many want to know all the details during the offer stage and there is a very important reason why we don’t give them at that stage. You won’t get more in-depth edits until you sign the contract. Sure during the offer I will let you know if it needs deep edits or light edits, but you won’t be getting an edit letter yet. Continue reading “Why Agents Don’t Give You Edits Until Signing”
Ever wonder how agents decide who to submit a project to and how we keep track of all those editors? The very not glamorous answer is spreadsheets, networking, and Publishers Marketplace. Publishers Marketplace (PM) can help keep track of agents for querying authors as well. If you are willing to throw money at a membership, even if for only a month, you can learn a lot from PM.
I keep crazy long spreadsheets of editors arranged by house and imprint. I have one for YA editors and a separate one for editors accepting adult books. When I say long I mean my spreadsheets can go up to hundreds of rows long. PM’s newsletter announces when editors move, leave, or new editors get promoted. New imprints or closing imprints also get announced. My spreadsheet helps me keep track of what genres editors accept, where they are, if they recently moved, and what past titles they’ve bought that are similar to the type of books I either represent or want to represent. If I or a coworker talked to the editor recently, I make notes of what they said they are looking for. Editors move around a lot and my spreadsheet makes sure I keep track of those moves and possibly changes in their acquisitions focus with their moves. Continue reading “Keeping Track of Editors”
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”
I’ve been thinking about pitch letters to editors a lot lately, mainly because I’m working on several. Authors are always talking about querying agents, but I notice many don’t know what to expect when their agent pitches editors. Basically the pitch letter is querying 2.0, but this time to editors. What makes the pitch letter more difficult is they can vary more than your regular queries in style. I’ve seen completely different approaches to pitching. Agents hone their own pitch styles. Some even prefer to call up editors to pitch over the phone.
I remember during one of my internships we did an exercise where all of us interns wrote a pitch for the same project. None of them were the same. Even when we focused on the same aspects of the book, we all chose a different wording. All the pitches varied depending on each intern’s own style and what stood out to them. I’ve talked about subjectivity playing a role in offers and sales before, but subjectivity can also play a role in how an agent pitches. Continue reading “The Pitch Letter”