Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Query Questions with Tracey Adams

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.

Good news, interview fans! I have a ton of agent interviews in the kitty, thanks to agent suggestions from twitter. This week's interview features the insightful Tracey Adams of Adams Literary

Is there a better or worse time of year to query? I don't think so, but it will probably take longer to hear back in the summer, and in the period between Thanksgiving and the new year. 
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query? Of course not! But do try your best to be typo-free.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong? Only if the query piques my interest.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them? There is no possible way I could read all the queries and still get work done for my clients. We have an assistant who reads first. 
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages? Of course. If it's not important enough to be included in sample pages, it's probably not really vital to the manuscript to begin with. 
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'll pass it along to another agent within Adams Literary if I think it's of interest to someone else - and sometimes to an agent friend beyond our agency, but not very often.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript? Huh?! Um, tell me about your manuscript please. That's why you're writing. If we have connections, though, please say so!
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? The genre always must be included. Word count is less important to me. I agree that it doesn't matter where this info goes in the query letter.
I’ve heard sometimes query letters confuse age category for the genres, just saying YA for instance. Can you explain the difference between category and genres for readers? YA is fine. We read that as 12 and over. Middle-grade should be for ages 8 - 12, and very often the main character is twelve. Tell us if it's a chapter book (shorter, probably needs black & white illustrations) which is generally ages 7 - 10, or a picture book. 
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those? We receive at least 200 queries every week. We require the full manuscript to be attached, so we don't need to request them. Maybe ten per week are intriguing enough to open the manuscript and read.
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? It's helpful to have a presence on social media, absolutely. But if you've written an amazing book, that's TRULY all we care about. We and/or your publisher will eventually get you active on line if you're not already. I can't emphasize enough - concentrate on your writing, not social media.
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? Links are very helpful, and we all look! That said, be very sure that what we'll see is professional and related to your writing career. 
 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include? Don't worry about it. A great pitch is all you need. Everyone loves to find a debut author!
What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you? To me, that means it's not something I'm personally excited about, or think I can sell for you right now due to market trends, or I may have too much that is similar. 
What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query? There is a very long list, and some great stories. One picture book featured a snowman on a farm who was made out of manure. It came to life after being struck by lightning. Adventure ensues. 
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list? Only one thing - something fresh, unique, different, surprising.
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? Oh wow, there is such a range. Everything from contemporary to comedy to dystopian to sci-fi and historical. One of my all-time favorite movies is Almost Famous, which has such a YA feel to it. I love classic friendship movies like Stand by Me. And I'm a definite sucker for mother/daughter and sister stories. My husband and I just finished watching Battlestar Galactica, so we are in withdrawal. We also love Homeland and Game of Thrones. I adore gorgeous, lyrical writing that is so beautiful I want to read it slowly - like Toni Morrison, Isabel Allende. And most importantly - just look at our client list. THAT is what I love most. 


Tracey Adams

Tracey Adams co-founded Adams Literary in 2004, after nearly a decade with literary agencies Writers House and McIntosh & Otis, where she was the head of the children's department. Prior to becoming an agent, she worked in the marketing and editorial departments of Greenwillow Books and Margaret K. McElderry Books.

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Tracey speaks frequently about her profession and the children's book industry at conferences across the country. She is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Author Representatives (AAR), and a founding member of the Women's National Book Association (WNBA) chapter in Charlotte, NC. 

In her spare time, Tracey enjoys Taekwondo, kickboxing, and test-marketing children's books with her two daughters.


  1. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again. princess costume

  2. These are all excellent questions, one of the best literary agent interviews ever.