Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Query Questions with Uwe Stender

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.

I know a few people represented by this agent and they all have book deals. Welcome to Uwe Stender of TriadaUS Literary Agency.

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

Not really, but I will likely not check emails Thanksgiving and the days right after and between December 23-January 2.

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

No, one won’t, but if you send a query that starts with “hello I'm writeing a couple books right now i had a view questions” it will.

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

Only if the query is strong.

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

No, I am a bit of a control freak, so I am compelled to read them all and I do!

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

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

It all depends, but mostly I just want to hear about the manuscript.  But if you know a client of mine, or have met me before or whatever, then sure, personalize it. But that won’t make me offer representation if I don’t like the writing.

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?

I’d prefer to know the genre and word count, because if the writer does not know the genre, that is a red flag.  And if I request a manuscript after a brilliant query and when I get it and then notice it is 199,000 words long, I will reject it and on top of it feel upset that I wasted my time to even request it in the first place.

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?

It probably does, but if you have four important characters in it, you should mention them.  It all depends how organically the query flows.

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

Don’t sweat it, as the title will often be changed.  “The Tragedy Paper” used to be “Blind Love”, “The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy” used to be “The Contracantos.”  Nonetheless, you want a good title that reflects the plot or the protagonist.

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

It all varies…about 700 a week and some weeks I ask for none and other weeks, I ask to see 12-15.

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?

In non-fiction it most likely will, though that is not 100% certain (just 99%, haha.) In fiction I don‘t care, but yes, I will ask them to get on social media as it will be part of the overall promotion once the book is sold.

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?

Offensive, no, just pointless FOR ME as I won’t click on them anyway.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?

Whatever they think is appropriate and helpful, if there is nothing, then nothing is better than something that is not relevant.

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

That it is not right for me, haha. (Sorry about that).  Sometimes it means that I for whatever reason did not connect with it, despite it being a strong project. But, this is a very subjective business, so I would not obsess over what it may mean.  There are plenty of good agents around; what may not be “just right for me” may be perfect for someone else and vice versa.

What themes are you sick of seeing?

Themes that seem too derivative and I am not big into “stepping into portals,” BUT if a writer came up with a brilliant concept, I would be interested in it even if portals were involved.

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

Yes, I am. I believe anything can be improved.  But then there comes a time when I cannot help improve it further and then it is time for the real experts, the publishing house editors, to work their magic once it is sold.

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

There are so many, I will write a book about those one day when I am retired.

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

I always love to see contemporary YAs that break my heart. I would love to see a sci-fi YA thriller based on a classic mystery theme and a humorous MG or YA that makes me laugh to tears because it is so funny.

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

Oh, that is a brutal question, as I have so many and those always change…but, right this minute, movies: Cinema Paradiso, Silver Linings Playbook, Toy Story 3.  Books: The Big Sleep, Eleanor and Park, Wonder Boys.


Our Founder, Dr. Uwe Stender, is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives).

Our best known clients are actress Melody Thomas Scott, CNN HLN and TruTV's In Session News Anchor Christi Paul, Eric Deggans,former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan, 4 time Grammy Award winning composer Lalo Schifrin ("Mission Impossible"), Elizabeth LaBan, Stacy Tornio, and legendary NBA referee Bob Delaney.

Uwe was a guest speaker at several major conferences including the SCWC in San Diego, the Crimebake (Mystery Writers of America New England Chapter), CAPA-U in Hartford, Connecticut, the Writers' League of Texas in Austin, Penn Writers, and he spoke on a panel at the Book Expo America in New York City.
We are always open to any strong fiction (our current focus in fiction is YA, middle grade, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction and Mysteries) and all non-fiction projects.


  1. I _just_ read Vigilante Poets, which was great fun. I don't think I would have picked it up if it had been called Contracantos.

  2. Thanks, Michelle & Uwe! Great questions and entertaining answers. =)