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.
A big thanks to Kathleen Rushall for her interview. Not only is Kathleen a super agent extraordinaire, but she got a book deal for my CP Angie! (Angie Sandro's book DARK PARADISE comes out this July!) Kathleen is now at Andrea Brown.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
No, I know we’re all human. But you do want to be sure that your query is as polished as possible. While I won’t hold one typo against you, multiple typos are a problem.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong? Only if the query interests me enough to look further. That being said, if I can see promise in the concept of the story and the writing, I’ll still take a look at the sample pages (even if the query itself isn’t the strongest).
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them? Right now I process each query myself.
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages? Yes please. The sample should be the opening pages (whatever # of pages the agent specifies) and should start at the very beginning.
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? We work closely at Marsal Lyon. We do pass queries to each other if we think it might be a good fit.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript? I think it’s nice to see a friendly personalized sentence or two. The rest of the query should focus on the manuscript and any relevant background you want to mention. Remember the three things to include in any query: the hook, the book, and the cook.
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? Yes, please include the word count and genre in your query. It’s up to you if you want to put it in the beginning or closing of the letter. For picture books, I like to see the word count up front. For MG and YA, it seems to flow best in the closing.
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? Actually, I think it’s a great idea to include any relevant links in your pitch letter (below your signature is best). When I’m interested in a query I want to do my research on the author and check out his or her blog and any online presence.
If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? The general rule of thumb is that you only want to resend to an agent if they have requested to see it again.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Definitely.
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list? I’d love to find a unique, strong-voiced, realistic YA romance a la ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell. I’m also on the hunt for an engaging New Adult manuscript that stands out from the crowd. For YA and middle grade, anything that is heartfelt or emotional that can also make me laugh is of interest. Voice is key for me. I’m open to all picture books—I have varied tastes!
Kathleen comes to the Andrea Brown Literary Agency after agenting for nearly five years with the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She represents writers and illustrators for picture books (both fiction and non-fiction), middle grade, and young adult literature.
When it comes to picture books, Kathleen loves to laugh and have her heartstrings pulled, and likes quirky character driven stories with heart. Kathleen is also actively building her list of nonfiction picture books. She would love to find more biographies and what some call “ficinformational” picture books (books with a fictional story that ties into the Common Core).
Kathleen is actively looking for fresh middle grade across all genres. She has a soft spot for heartfelt stories, as well as humorous contemporary with a relatable voice. She particularly enjoys middle grade with strong friendship themes. She would be happy to find a middle grade fantasy, adventure, historical, or a high stakes story with a twist of magic. For YA novels, Kathleen loves voice-driven contemporary (and is especially fond of magical realism), compelling fantasy with unforgettable characters, historical fiction, and romance with lots of chemistry. Additionally, she is always on the lookout for something smart and edgy that pushes the envelope.