Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Query Questions with Pam Howell

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.

This week please welcome Pam Howell of D4EO Literary Agency. Pam is a wonderfully approachable agent, and I recommend you get to know her on twitter. 

Is there a better or worse time to query?
I don't think so, although querying during the winter holiday season may be slower. Some agents will close during that time. In fact, Foreword Literary will have an agency wide closure in November and December.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Typo yes, for me, probably. Misplaced, comma, nah,.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
Only if the query is strong and something I am interested in.

Do you have a assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I have an intern and he has a list. He knows what to request. Things he is unsure about he puts aside for me. Things he knows I don't handle he rejects.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Not the sample pages at the query. But if I request a partial or a full, yes.

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?
I pass along quite often. And not just in my own agency. I'll give a referral to an author for an agent friend as well. At Foreword you can query one agent at a time. 

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
No chit-chat. I want the simplest query ever.

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?
If I don't see the word count or genre I probably won't request. I don't care where it is in the letter but it needs to be there.

Is there a bias against querying authors who have self-published other books?
Not at all. At least not at Foreword.

Do you go through a large group of queries at a time or hold yourself to a few?
I try to finish off the box each time I go in. About twice weekly.

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I have no idea how many I receive weekly. A lot. And I tend to request a lot because I'm interested in a lot of things. 

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?
I don't care if they are active at query level (for fiction, non-fiction is different). But I do expect them to get with the program after a book deal is made.

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?
Email signature is the perfect place for that.

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Not much ;). Pam resides in San Jose CA where she works in a science lab that aided in her research of OMG! ALIENS!.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
It means it is in a genre I normally love but the book isn't subjectively fun or entertaining for me.

What themes are you sick of seeing?
Girl born/created in a lab. 

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
I once got a query from a porn star wanting to break into the YA market. The book was about poop.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
More MG in all genres except SF.
Historical Thriller in YA.
Adult fantasy that isn't too epic in scope. 

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
Avengers (Film)
Supernatural (TV)
Arrow (TV)
Sherlock (TV)
The White Queen (TV)
Love in the Time of Cholera (Book)
Vicious (Book)
Wallbanger (Book)
Beautiful Bastard (Book)
Defiance (Book)
Shadow and Bone (Book)
Mo Wren (Book)

And if you're looking for more agent interviews, be sure to check out I Write for Apples. Dee takes a wider look at the agent process. 


Pam Howell started her literary career as assistant to Laurie McLean, of Foreword Literary Agency, in early 2012. By April Pam was promoted to Associate Agent. In her first two years as an agent, Pam brokered 24 deals, with such publishers as Knopf, Scholastic, NAL, ACE, Grand Central, and others. 

She joined D4EO in June 2014, where she will continue to build her list. She has a passion for genre fiction as well as MG, YA, and New adult fiction. 
Pam is interested in the following genres:
High concept young adult in any genre. Some of Pam’s favorite recent YA books are: The Masque of the Red Death, Cinder, Shadow and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Small Damages, and Insignia.
Middle grade in these genres: fantasy. Pam’s recent favorite MG books are: The Peculiar, The Emerald Atlas, Storybound, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Icefall.
Romance in these categories: historical, fantasy, contemporary, and erotica. Pam’s favorite romance titles released recently are: Loving Lady Marcia, Be My Prince, Rogue’s Pawn, and The Siren.
New Adult in all categories will be considered. Pam has enjoyed Suddenly Royal, and Leopard Moon in this genre.
Speculative fiction in these genres: urban fantasy, paranormal, and epic/high fantasy.


  1. Some great answers in here. Both in query information and humor! Thanks for hosting these Q&A's.

  2. Wow, I stumbled on the post via Alex Cavanaugh via SC Write via your contest (nice breadcrumb trail, eh?), and I'm REALLY happy I did. I'm getting started on the querying process and I so appreciate this post. I appreciate even more that you had an agent answer the questions. Thank you, thank you!!!