Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Query Questions with Stacey Donaghy

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.

So glad to have Stacey Donaghy of the Donaghy Literary Group! Stacey was recommended by a request on twitter. If you have a favorite agent you want interviewed, hit me up on twitter. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?

It really depends on the agency and what their submission guideline page indicates. Often agents will close to queries during holidays, such as Christmas.  It is important to pay attention to the details on the agency site.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?

Not at all!  I would prefer error free but would never turn a writer away because of a typo. If the entire query is filled with SPAG I would be concerned about the state of the manuscript.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

It really depends on the story being presented and whether or not the overall premise appeals to me as an agent.  If I love the story concept but the query is not strong, I will read through the sample pages to get a better sense of the writing.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them? 

I currently review all queries sent to me. This could change at some point, but for now I prefer to review on my own.  So please be patient if you have queried me.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?

The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is that many writers use prologues when they are not necessary.  Something that you may want to consider is- whether your story really needs a prologue before submitting your work.  

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 will always pass a query or manuscript to another agent if it does not fit my list.  I recently shared a manuscript with a colleague at another agency because it was outside of my genre list but an excellent read, and I knew it would fit her list.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

There is nothing wrong with being personable when querying an agent. That said I really want to hear about the manuscript!  

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 is not a ''red flag" it is more of a need to know.  Genre and word count are very important to include.  You could have a really interesting YA but your word count could be way above what’s acceptable for this category.  This could indicate that your manuscript is not yet ready to submit, and may require a great deal of editing to get it where it needs to be.  That said I would want to know this important detail before I spend time reviewing.

Is there a bias against querying authors who have self-published other books?

Not at all!  I represent two well-known authors both of whom started with self-published books.  

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?

 Best guess 50-80 approximately 10%, it depends on what comes in that week.

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? 

Social media is great exposure for writers if utilized properly, and not for spamming people to death.  It is important to have a vehicle for your marketing efforts.  I think if a writer has a great book written, and they have a strong presence on social media- word of mouth can help to get a story noticed!

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? 

 It is more than acceptable to include a link with your signature.  It is never a good idea to send a query telling an agent to click on the link to learn more.

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include? 

Your education, and or profession, why you are the ideal person to write this story and anything that would be relevant to your writing or chosen genre.

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?

It means that it may not fit my list, or that the story includes elements that I am not in love with.

What themes are you sick of seeing?

Special Academy Schools- super power or paranormal teens live at school and are training to save the world.
Angels – guardian and fallen, unless along the lines of City of Angels J
Werewolf stories –hot guy looking for Alpha

What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?

“I have a story that is going to be huge; it’s going to make us rich. I am writing exclusively to you and no one else because I believe that you are the best agent to represent my story.”

This was mass emailed to many agents at the same time.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?

New Adult
Romance (not historical)

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? 

Oh No! This may not help you at all!

 I don’t like doing this because my tastes are so eclectic in terms of what I read and watch.  That you cannot really go by this list.  If you have a unique story that you think I will like and it fits my list, please feel free to query.

This is only a snap shot of what I like:

Movies/TV:  The Vampire Diaries, Twilight movies (yes I like them), The Lovely Bones, Grace of my Heart, Seven, The Usual Suspects, Good Will Hunting, As Good As It Gets, The Truman Show, Meet Joe Black, The Matrix, Ghost, Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping, Bed of Roses, City of Angels, The Butterfly Affect, If Lucy Fell

Books: (Not including my amazing clients)
Jamie McGuire
Anything Stephen King, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag

Book Titles: Beautiful Disaster, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Outsiders, Lord of the Flies, Flowers for Algernon, 1984, The Time Traveller’s Wife, Pride and Prejudice, The Hunger Games



Stacey Donaghy is a strong advocate for her writers.

With over twenty-two years of experience and formal training in Adult Education, Management, and Social Services, Stacey brings a wealth of technical and professional experience to the literary world.  As a manager in the field of Education & Training, her roles have included people management, curriculum development, academic editing, marketing, creative design, publishing, proposal writing, contract negotiations and public speaking.  Her training includes Principled Negotiation Techniques as it applies to relationships and contracts.
Some of Stacey's first-time and self-published authors are bestsellers.

Stacey is a former agent of the Corvisiero Literary Agency in New York.


  1. I love your Query Questions posts! Thank you, Michelle. Stacey sounds like a great agent, and I especially liked her exra comment on Twilight. :-)

  2. I love learning more about agents; thanks, Michelle, for these ongoing interviews. Maybe I'll consider Stacey for the NA I'm editing!

  3. Stacey sounds a very interesting agent. If our genres were same, I would have loved to query her.

  4. Thanks for interviewing Stacey :) I think she's awesome