Thursday, May 26, 2016

Query Kombatants 2016

The time is finally here! Time to release the Kombatants onto the unsuspecting public!

The choice was hard. Each of the hosts agonized, weighing this query against that 250. There were so many great entries. Of course, making it into a contest is no indication of the quality of your query. Many people who don't make it into contests find agents the tried-and-true way, by querying. (Ahem, me.) Thanks to everyone who entered and everyone who made the Twitter party so fun!

To those who didn't make it into the tournament, you donned your armor and dared to dreamed of victory. You boldly walked into an arena filled with 340 gladiators, and you didn't so much as flinch or break a sweat. There are none braver than those who try, fail, and try again. I'm begging you to be brave, because all you need is talent and drive. Luck and success will follow. Don't give up. Don't doubt yourself. And...if you do, tweet me. I'll find an army to come and lift your spirits if I have to.

You will succeed. All you have to do is believe in yourself.

To those who made it--CONGRATULATIONS! Out of 340 entries, you made it into the top 64. You bit, you clawed, you bled, and you MADE IT!  Celebrate! And do it loud. And in the midst of your celebration, I want you to help me lift the spirits of those who didn't make it. Use the QueryKombat hashtag to connect with and celebrate your fellow slushies. Tweet your sagest query advice, or that quote that kept you going when you were down and out, or your grandmother's secret tapioca pudding recipe ('cause everyone love tapioca!). We're more than a community; we're a family. So spread the love.

The matchups of who you will face will be coming shortly. Watch the blogs.

Now for my picks for the contest. To see Mike's and Laura's picks, check out their blogs. Kombatants don't miss the rules on judging and commenting included at the bottom of this post.


Insert Shakespeare Joke Here

Blood & Baguettes
What's Luck Got to Do with It
Water Unicorns and Armadillos
Definitely Not About Donald Drumpf 
Sugar and Blood


And I Feel Fine

Young Adult:

FBI Ruined my Love Life

Meet Me at Lake Nevaeh
I Forgot to Close the Door
My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery
Escape the Fate
Love(Tri) Angle
Truth & consequences
Southern Gothic Secrets
Cement Gargling 101

Middle Grade:
Jello Poems
The British are Coming
One-Handed Wonder
Kids + Monsters FTW
The Sticky Note Ghost

Important Information for Kombatants:

The first round will start on Wednesday, June 1st on all three blogs. We will try to post all the match-ups by 8:00 am EST, but please don’t rush to comment for reasons we will spell out under the judging section.

There will be 64 Kombatants (including two Free Pass winners) and these will be paired into 32 posts for the first round. Yes, we will try to match age categories  and genres together. This will totally depend on numbers. As you can imagine, we received a much lesser number of NA entries and a much greater number of YA entries. We’ll do the best we can to make the match-ups fair, but we are not limiting our Kombatant picks by requiring so many numbers of each age group. We are picking what we think are the best entries. 

In the event a Kombatant has to drop out of Query Kombat there will be two possibilities. If they drop out before the first round begins, they will be replaced with an alternate Kombatant contestant. (Alternate Kombatants will not be announced beforehand. We don’t want people hoping someone drops out. We may announce them after the contest ends.) If a Kombatant drops out after the contest has started, their opponent automatically advances to the next round. Any Kombatant that receives an offer of representation will please notify us so we may withdraw them. Receiving a full request or partial is not grounds for withdrawal.


Our fantastic judges will give their votes under their assumed nicknames in order to be able to vote honestly and freely. Go here to see the nicknames they have chosen. The voting for the first round will take place from June 1st until June 4rd at 8:00 pm EST. (For more information on the dates of the other rounds go here.) The winners of the first round will be announced on June 4th.

Judges will vote as follows: VICTORY to Kombatant nickname.  Then they may give more information as to why they voted that way. How much feedback they give is completely up to that judge. There are a lot of entries to read and a lot of rounds to go through. This is a long contest. But we’re sure the judges will do a fantastic job of sharing their thoughts.

To prevent favoritism, the judges have agreed not to vote on match-ups where they are close friends to a Kombatant or where they have beta read or critique partnered. Due to the length of this contest, judges have been assigned to rounds and may decide not to vote in all the rounds. 

In the event of a matchup vote tie, we'll call for more judges, then the round host will cast the tie-breaker vote if necessary. 

Now here comes the unique and important part!  We would like the judges’ votes to be easily located. Therefore, we are asking the judges to place their votes as a reply to the first comment in each match-up post. As soon as all the match-up posts are live, the round host will go through and made a first comment. Something like: This comment is reserved for judges’ votes. Please do not reply to this comment unless you are a judge. Then the judges can do their thing and leave their votes as replies to that comment.

BUT in order for this to work, people cannot rush to comment. The hosts have to have time to get the first comment up on all 10 or 11 posts of the first round and subsequent rounds. No matter how excited you are to share your feedback, please give the host time to get the first comment done before you comment. Any other first comments but the hosts’ will be deleted.

We understand that everyone is human and votes may not end up in the proper spot. All judges’ votes will count no matter where they end up.


Due to the nature of the head-to-head competition, commenting is a delicate subject. We don’t want feelings hurt. We don’t want people to go away angry. 32 people will be knocked out in the first round. That is brutal. And like any contest of this nature, the results will be subjective. Wonderful entries will be eliminated. Because not everyone will be seen by an agent, we do want to allow commenting as that may be the only feedback a query and first 250 entry will get.

Therefore, especially in the first round, we want a ton of comments. And we want those comments to be super constructive and helpful. In other words, be specific. Don’t just rave about a Kombatant’s entry like a fangirl/guy. Tell us why you liked it. Mention things like the query set out the mc’s motivation and stakes clearly, the query had a super voice, the query was confusing because…, the pages really showed the mc’s personality because…, the page felt flat because…, the concept was unique because…

Please no cheerleading comments in the first round or second round. (Friendly cheerleading will be allowed in the final rounds.) In the early rounds, if you want to cheer on your friends and CPs, do it on twitter. Try and give equal time to both Kombatants in a match-up. Don’t let someone be left out. If you see a match-up that isn’t getting many comments, we ask that you jump in and do your stuff.

We don’t want this contest to only be about fun and agents. We want all the entries to get helpful advice to make their queries and page stronger. Please remember this and be kind and thoughtful. Writers are amazing people. They go out of their way to help. We are sure we can count on you.

Enough preaching. Here are some more commenting rules:

We would like each Kombatant to give feedback on at least 6 match-ups.You’re on your honor system here, we won’t be monitoring this. We’ve got enough to do. We’d also like each person who entered Query Kombat to leave at least one comment on a match-up, but feel free to do many more! And please we ask that Kombatants who are eliminated, come back and leave comments on the next round. We still want to hear what you think.  We need you to make this contest a success!

Kombatants, please don’t comment on your own entry, whether that is to thank people or to explain/rationalize your entry. There will be so many comments that we ask you to wait until the last day of voting to offer thanks or congratulate someone, or leave any other type of comment on your own entry. If you want to thank people before the last day of voting, twitter is the place.

We are counting on there being no hard feeling comments. If there are, they will be deleted. We warned you’ll need a thick skin and it’s true. But we believe this can be done in a friendly manner.

Getting knocked out of the contest or not getting picked is no indication of a story’s quality. After all, we only have snapshots to go upon. All the hosts are very excited for Query Kombat to start, and we hope you are too. Feel free to leave us questions in the comments or just shout out your excitement. Follow us on twitter for more updates. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Want a chance to win a query critique?

Of course you do!

Here’s how:

From May 27th to June 1st (8am EST to 9pm EST), some judges of Query Kombat 2016 will scour the hash tag #QKCrit looking to make critique requests. If you want to get in on the action, all you have to do is tweet a 140 character pitch including your age category/genre under the hashtag #QKCrit. Judges will visit the hashtag and favorite entries they find interesting enough to critique. If your entry is favorited, touch base with the judge to find out how to submit your query, first page, or both! Judges may critique as many entries as they like. It is completely up to them to decided how many critiques they'll take on.

A few rules:

1. QK Entrants and spectators, please avoid favoriting entries so there’s no confusion.

2. The #QKCrit critique opportunity is ONLY open to QK2016 entrants who DON'T make it into the first round.

3. Participants, please limit your pitching to two per hour per manuscript (max of 2 mss)

4. Please don’t tweet directly to judges.

5. Oh, and if you snag a critique, be considerate and give other people a chance and take a break from the feed.

6. Have FUN!!!

We know it can be disappointing not to be picked for a contest, so we've come up with this pick me up to try to help even more writers.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Query Kombat 2016 Submission

The submission window is NOW CLOSED. 

If you don't receive email confirmation within an hour of submitting your entry, contact us via Twitter and let us know. Kontestants will be revealed on May 27th, and the tournament will kick off on June 1st.

IMPORTANT: The Query Kombat team reserves the right to disqualify any entrant at any time for any reason. If an entrant is disqualified before the agent round, an alternate will take its place. If an entrant is disqualified after the agent round, the opposing entry will automatically advance to the next round. The only time we will ever disqualify an applicant is if you say or do something to blemish the spirit of query contests. Query Kombat is supposed to be fun…

So none of this!

In order to enter the contest you MUST follow formatting guidelines, and submit during the contest window. All entries that follow said guidelines will be considered. 

In the event that we receive more than the available 64 spots (this is highly expected), Michelle, Laura, and I will savagely attack the slush pile in attempts to build the best team. We will pick (and announce) three alternates in case a submission is disqualified.

Entries should be sent to:  QueryKombat (at) gmail (dot) com.

We're asking for a $5 - $10 donation with each entry so we don't have to start charging everyone a fee. Neither giving a donation nor the amount increases your chances of being picked. 10% of all funds raised will go to Donations may be sent by clicking the Query Kombat icon in the sidebar.

Formatting Guidelines:

Font: Times New Roman (or an equivalent), 12pt font, single-spaced with spaces between each paragraph. No (I repeat: NO!) indentations.

Subject line of the Email: A short, unique nickname for your entry [colon] your genre (audience included). Do not skip this step or your entry will be deleted. (ex. I Fell in Love with a Ken Doll: Adult Erotica). Nicknames should be 25 characters or less. Make it as unique as possible so there are no duplicates. These will be the names used in the tournament, so keep it PG-13 and make it relate to your story.

In the body of the email (with examples):

Name: Michelle Hauck
Email address:
Twitter Handle: @Michelle4Laughs (Optional)

Title: Dodge the Sun
Entry Nickname: I Hare You
Word count: 81,000
Genre: YA Fantasy


Dear Best Contest Hosts Ever, (Greeting is optional.)

Seventeen-year-old Little Bit hates the magical anklet fastened on her by so-called friend, Garrett. It keeps her on the farm—keeps her from knowing why cows outnumber humans. Nothing gets out. Not even birds can flee Garrett’s enchanted prison. With no idea of the outside world, Little Bit wants freedom from the chains trapping her and answers about her past. Unfortunately, Garrett is about as forthcoming as the gold around her ankle.

Confused by her feelings of exasperation and affection for Garrett, Little Bit escapes when he’s knocked unconscious. Outside is a world devastated by a supernova, which made the sun lethal and awakened long dormant magic. Traveling by night, she seeks answers about herself, but finds mutated beetles and mega-sized possums. Worse, a nursery-rhyming cannibal skulks in the shadows as Little Bit follows rumors of a human colony in New Chicago.

But she’s learned only half the story—she’s not human. A lonely Garrett transformed her from his pet rabbit into a girl. Now only the renewal of Garrett’s spell keeps her on two legs instead of four. She’ll have to accept Garrett’s chains or lose her humanity forever, unless the sun’s deadly rays awakens magic within her.

Thanks for your consideration. (Closing is optional.)

(No bio or comps.)

First 250:

Words, words, and more words.

Don't include the chapter title and please, don't stop in the middle of a sentence. You may go over 250 by a few words (few means three) to finish a sentence.

All queries submitted are FINAL. We will not edit them in any way, shape, or form. Please read, reread, and rereread your submission before you hit send. 

Best of luck in the tournament!


Contests need to be fun. To help keep you from worrying as the hosts read through the emails, we're having a party! These are the daily topics, but feel free to start your own as well.

May 15th Before the big day arrives tweet your category and genre. Ask questions about genre if you’re unsure where your manuscript fits.

May 16th After 8:30AM tweet when you’ve submitted your entry to our QK email. Nerves and jitters can be calmed by sharing with others. All day long tweet out what your entry Nickname is and why you chose it.

May 17th Day 2 of submissions! Judges get fun secret names. Entrants get to create nicknames. Your poor hosts are left out. Create nicknames for Laura, Michael and Michelle! (Keep it clean. We blush easily.) And tweet your favorite comp title.

May 18th Submission Hump Day! Tweet your main character’s name and a special tidbit about them. See what sorts of names are popular and if anyone else shares MC’s names with you.

May 19th Tweet what you find the hardest about writing. Is it keeping out telling? Writing action scenes? What’s hard for you? Anyone have tips for making them easier?

May 20th Last day to submit! Say hi to an entrant you’ve never talked to. Wish them luck in the slush round. If you need to let out some nerves, see if your new friend will lend an ear.

May 21st Tweet something about how you write. Do you use music or prefer silence? Morning or late at night? We celebrate our differences.

May 22nd Tweet us your villain’s name and something evil about them.

May 23rd If you’re looking for some beta readers or CP, now is the time to tweet about it.

May 24th Tweet us your favorite line from your novel. If you read any you like, favorite it. Have any favorite lines from a novel that’s not yours? Tweet those too!

May 25th Tweet your thanks to the agents, editors, and judges of Query Kombat 2016. They’re dedicating a lot of time to help out. The least we can do is take a day to celebrate them!

May 26th The big reveal is tomorrow! Tweet the title of a soothing song that is helping you get through the day before the picks are revealed. Hold hands and sing Kumbaya lyrics like the band of friends you’ve become. (We’ll be running around like crazy gerbils getting everything ready.)

Saturday, May 14, 2016


So I'm a little bored waiting for Query Kombat submissions to roll in on Monday and I thought why not try a game. I haven't done any promotion for my books in a while, why not get on that? I have this tweet pinned to my twitter profile about Grudging.

Warrior/Soldier Dreamer Politician Philosopher Conscience Which will live to become Saint?

Each of the labels in the tweet describe one of the characters from Grudging. I wondered if anyone could match the correct character name to the label. This will be very tricky because, first, you have to have read Grudging and, second, some things don't become 100 percent apparent until the next book, Faithful (which nobody has read but me and my CP). I mean a few of the labels don't go in the obvious directions you'd expect, but some of them do. If no one gets the answer by Monday, I'll give a hint to help.  

Just comment with who you think goes with the labels and the first correct guess will win a prize. You can have a query critique from me, a signed copy of Grudging, or you can be a Query Kombat slush reader. Your choice. 

Hint: In Grudging there are only four point of view characters. In Faithful another woman gets added. Teresa is the philosopher.

Good luck!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Picture Book Party in July

We are doing it again! (And yes I recycled this post. So much to do. No time for fresh material.) Spunky. Adorable. Heartwarming.

Those are some of the words that describe picture/chapter books. I'm happy to join with Sharon Chriscoe to do a little something for a group that is left out of most contests. This mini-contest is for you!

Tell your friends who write PB and please post on twitter. Also the twitter party will be for everyone, so I hope to see you there under the hashtag #PBParty. There will be daily topics that apply to all writers during the submission week.

So far there are seven agents on board.  The agent round will be July 20 - 22nd. The submission day is July 10th at noon Eastern time. Then Sharon and I will go through the entries and pick our favorites. I'm not sure how many entries will be chosen, but the number will be around 20. Sharon is my expert on this as I don't know much about picture books, except I enjoy reading them.

The Rules:

Please be a follower of this blog. You can click the "Join this Site" button in the left sidebar. Please follow @Michelle4Laughs on twitter. I imagine I will be tweeting hints as well as partying!

You may send two entries for different manuscripts. That's two and only two, whether you have multiple pen names or multiple email addresses. Please be honest and not send more. Only one entry will be chosen per person. If you send two, still only one will be picked. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries thrown out (and sadly it has happened in the past.) 

On July 10th at noon Eastern the submission window opens. Do not send early or your entry will be deleted. You may resend at the correct time if this happens. I'm recycling an email address as I already have too many. Please send your entry to SunversusSnow at yahoo dot com

You should receive a confirmation email. If you do not, please contact me on twitter before resending. The window will stay open until we get 250 entries. However long that takes. It could be minutes or it could be days. I'm really not sure on this one.

This contest is only for finished and polished manuscripts. It has to be ready to go out to agents.

The Format:

Subject Line of your Email: PBParty: Title

Example:  PBParty: Hot Tub Santa

Inside the email please bold where bolded in my example. Single space with spaces between paragraphs. Use Times New Roman or equivalent font and the size should be 12. 

(Here's a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

Name: Sharon Chriscoe
Twitter Handle: @extracleansanta (optional)
Genre: (Here please tell us what type of picture book this is) Example: Board Book, Bedtime Rhyme, Nonfiction, Biography, etc. or List Chapter Book
Word Count: xxx (round to nearest ten, hundred for chapter books)


Your entire query letter here. Include your comps, bio, greeting, closing. (You may use whatever you want for a greeting. Dear Agent. Dear Michelle and Sharon.) 

Here is your chance to make your entry shine and make the agent fall in love with your words. 

First 50 Words:

Include your first 50 words for a picture book, 100 words for chapter books. Do not stop in the middle of a sentence. You may go over by one or two words to finish a sentence but not more than five. Single space and put spaces in between paragraphs. You may center or tab if appropriate.

Edit: For short picture books, less than 50 words may be submitted. Any count under 50 is allowed.

Also I will delete parts of entries after the contest ends, if requested. For those writers uncomfortable with their work being out there for all to see.  

Bonus: You may attach one illustration to your email to show an example of your artwork. If you don't have artwork, don't worry. 

I would like to thank Mel Stephenson for creating our logo artwork! Be sure to follow her at@paintandwords

That should cover about everything, but you may leave questions in the comments or on twitter. Don't forget the #PBParty hashtag.

We can't wait to see all the cuteness on July 10th! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Judge Nicknames for Query Kombat 2016 and a Chat Reminder

Since the kontestants get to invent amazing nicknames, naturally the judges want one, too! Plus it lets them vote with more freedom. To recognize our wonderful judges and know the vote is legit, here is a list of the nicknames they have chosen:

Barn owl
Cordelia Chase
Bob Thompstein
Tim Riggins
The Kraken
La Duendecilla
Solarpunk Godess
Katherine Pierce
Poddy Fries
Captain Janeway
Irene Adler
Bernadine Harris
Strawberry Shortcake
Apple Slices
Mallory Pike
Dana Scully
Dorothy Gale
Scowling Discontented Judge
Textual Couture
Alice Quinn
The Martian
Cookie Monster

It's fantastically fun to be silly sometimes and our judges had a blast choosing these names. We hope you'll have fun choosing an inventive nickname for your story!

And speaking of fun!

The chance to chat with our judges is today!

Join us on the hashtag #QKChat at 3:00 pm EST and 9:00 pm EST to ask questions about the contest and writing in general. You can ask writers who are further along on their journey what submission is like or how they promo or what they said during their call. Just don't ask them to reveal their secret nickname. :-) 

Remember submission for Query Kombat is just a few days away on Monday, May 16th. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Query Questions with Rebecca Scherer

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.


Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a new series of posts called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

It's been a while between interviews, but Query Questions is back! Rebecca Scherer of the Jane Rotrosen Agency is here with answers to your query slush questions. 

 Is there a better or worse time of year to query? Yes, but that time of year may be different for every agent. In general, we often say that publishing is the slowest in August, so that can be a good time. It’s often a time of year that I catch-up on my queries. But at the same time, I’ve certainly had some crazy Augusts. And every agent’s schedule (both personal and professional) is different, and some may have lots of publications or deals happening in August. Of course these are all factors you’re never going to know and shouldn’t go crazy agonizing over. The best advice is just to submit when you’re ready and when your book is ready.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query? Everyone is human, though it doesn’t set the best tone for reading the rest of someone’s letter if they make a glaring error early on. It depends on the type of typo and where it is. If a writer uses the wrong form of their/they’re/there in the first line of his or her query, it makes it hard to take the rest of the query seriously. That said, samples are long and I’m not put-off by a questionable comma or spelling in the first few chapters. Best to have at least a second set of eyes read your query letter over before sending.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong? If the query is in the genres/parameters I’m looking for, I will look at the sample pages. I rarely finish the full sample if I’m not hooked by the 5 page mark, but I do read them.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them? I usually do my own, but sometimes have a trusted intern go through queries for me and pick out the promising ones.  

Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look? No. If it was really a near-miss with an author, I’ll write the author a nice-no and leave the door open for future projects.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages? Yes! A prologue has a purpose; it’s how the author chooses to open the book and I want to see that. Otherwise, how will I know how the chapters play with the actual opening of the book? I always want to see the first pages of a book. Occasionally I’ll get queries that include three random chapters that jump around the book, but that’s never a good way to convey your writing style—though it is a good way to confuse prospective readers.

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Comp titles are very important in that they’re a quick way to get an agent’s attention. When I hear a good pitch with great comps (like “this is X meets Y”), it makes me sit up a little straighter in my chair and makes me want to move that query up in my pile. Of course, then the book really has to live up to that comparison to hold someone’s attention.

Some agencies mention querying only one agent at a time and some say query only one agent period. How often do you pass a query along to a fellow agent who might be more interested? Jane Rotrosen Agency is very much a team. If I see a promising query that’s not quite right for me, I will definitely send it out to  my colleagues. That’s why we always say prospective writers should research our agents and then try to decide who they think would be the best match and only send it to that agent.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript? The big thing for me is the hook. What’s the commercial conceit? What are the comps? And how does the writer situate the book in the market? That said background and biographical information can be very important and the basics (including relevant writing or publishing experience) should be somewhere in the query letter, though not in the lead.

Most agents have said they don’t care whether the word count/genre sentence comes first or last. But is it a red flag if one component is not included? It makes it harder to situate the book. Agents get a truly overwhelming amount of queries, so being able to scan a query for these things before reading is a helpful way to filter quickly for the projects that are in our wheelhouse.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers? A good title for a query is memorable, so that it sticks in an agent’s brain. Often, I’ll get promising-sounding queries in but not have time to read them right away and then things can get pushed to the back-burner. But if it’s a title that easily comes to mind, I’ll be more likely to revisit it sooner. I don’t think character names are worth worrying over. Name your children as you please!

Some writers have asked about including links to their blogs or manuscript-related artwork. I’m sure it’s not appropriate to add those links in a query, but are links in an email signature offensive? I don’t think links in the signature are at all offensive. An agent worth his or her salt is going to google a perspective client before taking them on anyway, so it is helpful to include relevant resources you want the agent to see. And if you’ve got an impressive blog or other web presence, that can only help. Cover art is less helpful to include since it’s not author-controlled in the event of publication (thinking of the adult market here, if you are a children’s author/illustrator, this could be different).

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? Only resend material to an agent if requested. Many agents are hesitant to give feedback in rejections at all for fear of being bombarded with many unsolicited re-worked manuscripts. If you had a true near-miss with an agent, she would make it clear that the door was open to resubmit new or edited material. And that definitely does happen. Several times I’ve looooved someone’s voice and style, but didn’t feel the premise was commercial enough or I just didn’t feel like I could sell that particular book at that particular time. Then if an author comes back with something new (and sends my original response back with it), I’ll remember that there was something great in this writer and then be happy to take a look at the new work.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include? Anything else relevant to the writing, like if your book is a historical novel set during WWII, what’s your connection to the era? How have you done your research? What makes you uniquely qualified to pen a story in a particular world or on a particular topic?

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you? At its heart, this common but true phrase in a rejection just means that the agent doesn’t feel that they are the best advocate for this manuscript at this time. That could be for a million different reasons (too similar to another manuscript they’re working on; voice didn’t do it for them; they don’t have a strong vision for who in publishing to sell the book to; they just didn’t get that got-to-have-it feeling from reading). And all of that is to say, that if an agent doesn’t feel strongly enough that he or she would be your best advocate, you don’t want that person as your agent. You need someone enthusiastic who is going to be your loudest voice and number one champion to sell your book effectively.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Definitely. Reading is the best part of this job and playing an active role in helping an author find the best expression of their book is the most gratifying part of the job.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query? I once received a query letter addressed as:  ‘Yo Becky,’ even though we’d never met and I’ve never been a Becky.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list? Well-done psychological suspense is at the top of everyone’s list right now. But it has to say something unique and the writing has to be sharp enough to make it stand out in a crowded but well-selling field. Women’s fiction for the book club reader that leans up-market. And I am always on the lookout for recently-set historical books—70s, 80s, 90s, particularly works with gritty New York settings. That’s the nostalgic New Yorker in me.

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? So, so, many—hence why I’m in this business! I guess the favorites that say the most about my submission taste would be anything Dennis Lehane, The Godfather (or any Mario Puzo book, since I’m a sucker for a well-done mafia book)—also love the movie, but the book is well-worth reading no matter how many times you’ve seen the movie. Patti Smith’s Just Kids is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read. Its ethos is poetically beautiful, but I love it for its loyalty to New York. Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is definitely a childhood favorite I still love and go back to. Anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I’d read a phone book if she re-arranged the names in it. And I grew up reading Agatha Christie books, so as many in publishing do, I probably owe my love of mystery to her. No one knew how to keep a reader hooked better than Elmore Leonard. Also anything Kurt Vonnegut. Other movies:  Dead Poets Society or anything set at a prep school; Almost Famous because it’s a love letter to music; 12 Angry Men is why courtroom drama will never go out of style. I’m also a big James Bond fan—both the books and movies.


When Rebecca Scherer first walked into the JRA townhouse, she thought the parlor looked like something out of her favorite Edith Wharton novels and couldn’t believe how lucky she was. She dove in whole-heartedly and had the good fortune to apprentice with the some of the best agents in the industry. Having worked her way through each department of the agency, Rebecca enjoys all aspects of the business and has a comprehensive perspective on the type of career management that JRA is known for. Now an Associate Agent, Rebecca works closely with Meg Ruley and Andrea Cirillo on their client lists while actively building her own. A lifelong New Yorker, Rebecca holds a BA in English Literature, Political Science, and German from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College. She is particularly interested in works of women’s fiction, mystery, suspense, thriller, romance, and upmarket/literary-leaning fiction.