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 things come in pairs. Welcome to Laura Crockett, another new agent from Triada US!
Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
It's more like days and times that'll be better or worse. It's best to query Monday through Friday. It gives me an opportunity in the evening to sift through them, and time on the weekends to devote to any manuscripts I may have requested.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Not necessarily, though if I find two or more errors I begin to lose faith and interest. The query should reflect your manuscript.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
Only if the query is strong. It's like shopping at a bookstore -- if you like the jacket summary, you open the book and read it, right? That's what I do with a query. Grab my attention and I'll look at the sample pages.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I check all of them!
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Yes. Many times the prologue provides some insight/intrigue.
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?
Query only one agent, period. If I receive a query I think Brent or Uwe might like more (and vice versa), I'll pass it along.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I would rather hear about the manuscript. That said, if the manuscript has some sort of connection to a book you know I've read and enjoyed, by all means mention that! It shows me that you've done your research!
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?
Definitely a red flag, especially if the genre sentence isn't included. I prefer to know what sort of mindset I should prepare for (historical fiction, fantasy, romance) when reading the query.
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?
The more named characters in a query makes the query overwhelming. The fewer characters mentioned, the clearer the query and purpose of the manuscript. Find the core of the story and pitch it.
Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Oh, believe me, titles will be changed by publishers. They know markets! That being said, your title should still be able to catch my attention. Character names are occasionally changed, so prepare for some discussion on that when the time comes.
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
Thus far I'm averaging 50 queries, but I'm new in the industry -- this'll change as time goes on and word spreads. As for requests, it will definitely fluctuate, but it looks like at least 2 of the 50 I'll ask to see a manuscript.
Update: Since the interview this has gone up to 200 per week.
Update: Since the interview this has gone up to 200 per 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?
I definitely care. This was something stressed over and over in my graduate program, at AWP, at BEA, and many writer conferences: that an author has an online presence, that they have an active twitter or blog or public Facebook page. It tips the scales slightly in getting an offer, and it really helps (I cannot emphasize just how much this helps!) the marketing team at the publishing house. I would highly suggest a writer starts creating an online presence immediately. Create a following, start conversations with other writers and published authors, make your name known. The publishers can better promote and sell your book if you join them in the process.
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 in the email signature are perfectly fine.
If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
Only if the material was requested.
What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Any information the writer thinks improves their work and credibility. Tell me your educational background, activities or organizations you're involved in, an event or experience that shows you understand the material you worked with to create the manuscript (ex: historical fiction set on a farm --> you worked at a farm for a summer or studied agriculture for a project, etc).
What does ‘just not right for me’ mean to you?
Simply that nothing grabbed my attention or stuck out to me personally -- just like when you're reading a book jacket. I can't help you make your book the best thing out there if I cannot muster up enough enthusiasm for it from the very beginning. If I can't think of editors and imprints who would also snatch up the manuscript, then it's not the right manuscript for me to read, enjoy, and share with others.
What themes are you sick of seeing?
Catty female friendships, female friendships where the only conversations are about males, insta-love, love triangles, protagonists hell-bent on revenge, and...well, dystopian. (What's happening to the rest of the world? Why is it always in the US?)
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
Oh, yes. I love editing. I love writing/typing all over a manuscript, offering my reactions and insight and comments and suggestions. I'm very detailed.
What’s the strangest/funniest thing you’ve seen in a query?
I have yet to find something incredibly strange or funny. A part of me wants to challenge you to make that happen...but maybe it's best not to!
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
(In no particular order) Contemporary YA that portrays anxiety or abuse, WWI and WWII adult and YA historical fiction, and YA and adult gothic/Victorian horror (there's gore and there's mood/atmosphere. I'm in the mood/atmosphere camp).
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
Books: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), Harry Potter (Prisoner of Azkaban specifically), The Likeness (Tana French), One Day (David Nicholls), Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell), Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepetys), The Hallowed Ones (Laura Bickle), Name of the Star (Maureen Johnson), Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
Movies: 2004 BBC North and South, 2013 Belle, 2013 About Time, 2003 Love Actually, 2009 Bright Star
TV Shows: Outlander, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwife, Bomb Girls, New Girl, Once Upon a Time, BBC Merlin, BBC Sherlock
My name is Laura, and I have my M.A. in Publishing and B.S. in Psychology. When I'm not working as an agent or bookseller, I'm reading, researching, and staying up-to-date on a variety of my passions (Victorian culture, Gothic literature, publishing, neuroscience, autism, stress and anxiety, music, books books books). I have a fluffy black cat named Rossetti, I love to knit, tea is my drink of choice, and I’m obsessed with British and Canadian television dramas.