Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Query Questions with Rebecca Friedman

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.

Hello and welcome to Rebecca Friedman. Rebecca recently opened her own agency and you can now find her at The Rebecca Friedman Agency.

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

There are definitely slower times when I can devote more energy to the query pile, but it's not the same every year. The only time that almost guarantees a longer wait period is the holiday season. The office is busy, people are on vacation, and there are usually a lot of loose threads to pull together before the end of the year: all that pushes slush pile management lower down on my priority list.

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

One typo won't send a great query directly to the trash, but after two or three, I start to notice. I want to know that you put as much time into pitching a book that I will put into representing it.

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

I do look at them, but that doesn't mean it's not important to have a strong query. The excitement with which I read sample pages after a good query can make all the difference.

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

Yes. The beginning of a book is absolutely crucial to hooking a publisher, so I want to see that your opening is strong.

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

For the most part, a query should zero in on pitching the manuscript, but there is room for personalization. I like to see that an author has done their homework: mentioning one of my previous titles or discussing how your book suits my taste and would fit my list are two examples that often catch my interest. This doesn't guarantee anything, of course, but if I know you spent a little extra time crafting a query for me, I'm more likely to spend a little extra time reading.

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?

Missing it is not a deal-breaker if a query is great, but that is definitely crucial information.

Writers hear a lot about limiting the number of named characters in a query. Do you feel keeping named characters to a certain number makes for a clearer query?
While there's no hard and fast rule, I've definitely gotten hit by name overload. A query should make me want to read more, not summarize the story. It should be streamlined and intriguing; in most cases, naming all the important characters gets in the way of actually pitching the book.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?

Titles and character names can absolutely change, but that doesn't mean they aren't vital in the querying process. A good title that grabs my attention can make all the difference when I'm reading queries for four hours straight.

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?

If I'm interested in seeing a revision, I tell an author in my response. If I give the notes without specifying, it doesn't hurt to ask, but I wouldn't put too many eggs in that basket.

What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

Some basic information (where you live, what you're doing, education, etc). A few personal details can be very charming. It's not just the project an agent is signing; it's also the author, so I want to who you are.

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

Often, I come across a query that is strong and intriguing, but for one reason or another, I'm not the right agent to represent it. Maybe it's a genre I don't work in; maybe it's too close to another book on my list; maybe the market is too challenging for this type of book--it's a catch-all term for a huge array of potential hurdles.

What themes are you sick of seeing?

Everyday guy's wife/daughter/sister gets kidnapped and kicks off a series of action-packed events.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?

Absolutely. The amount of work I do on a manuscript changes from book to book, but I always go through at least a couple of revisions with a client before sending it to publishers.

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

Journalistic nonfiction with a strong voice, literary novels of suspense, and contemporary books that deal with issues without being "issue books."


Rebecca Friedman started her own agency, Rebecca Friedman Literary, in 2013. Previously, she worked at the Hill Nadell Agency and Sterling Lord Literistic. She is most interested in commercial and literary fiction with a focus on literary novels of suspense, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, and young adult, as well as journalistic non-fiction and memoir. A graduate of Barnard College, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.


  1. This was a great post. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Really helpful advice! Now I can get back to freaking out over my synopsis instead. :P

  3. Is she open to queries? If so, where do we send them? Thanks.