Friday, October 17, 2014

Query Questions with Jen Karsbaek

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.

While you're waiting on the results for Nightmare on Query Street, what better substitute than an interview with one of the agents? Jen Karsbaek is here from the newly renamed Fuse Literary Agency

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
We typically close to queries in December, but otherwise have at it! If things are busy when you query it may take me a bit longer to get to you, but if you wait you’re just going to be further down the list when I do get back to queries.

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I generally look at the sample pages, but if a query is particularly weak and/or is not strong and not in a genre I typically represent I will skip the sample pages.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
My assistant primarily helps me prioritize full manuscripts and gives a second eye for editing, I currently look at all of my queries myself.

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
The sample pages should start where your story starts. If you feel the manuscript is better served by starting the sample pages after the prologue that should probably tell you something about your prologue.

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?
If I see a query that I think someone else in my agency would like I will tell the writer to query that other agent. You can always query more than one Fuse agent, as long as you only query one at a time.

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?
Word count is not necessarily a red flag, but I do want to see it. Not including the genre of your work usually is a red flag, though. Often it makes it appear that you don’t know what the genre is.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
There’s a decent chance your title will get changed, but you should still sweat it. A really good (or really bad) title will sometimes have me skipping straight to your query from my query box.

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?
Those are totally fine in an email signature. Great, even, because if I am considering offering representation then you’ve given me more of the information I need to make that decision. Honestly, I think you can even include one or two links in the last line of your bio in your query “I blog about XYZ at”

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?
Whether or not you have publishing credits I want your bio to tell me why you are the person to write this book.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
I am fairly editorial, although I like to start with things that are relatively polished to begin with.

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
A fresh story with flappers, preferably set in Chicago; an amazing book club read; books with GLBTQ characters.


Jen Karsbaek joined first Larsen Pomada Literary Agency, then Fuse Literary Agency in 2013.
Jen is aggressively looking to build her list with women’s fiction, upmarket commercial fiction, historical fiction, and literary fiction. She looks for books with particularly well-developed characters and strong authorial voice. In historical in particular she is interested in books that bring the setting to life and maintain balance between historical accuracy and strong plot choices. She is also interested in mystery, fantasy, and occasionally romance approaches to any of the genres listed above. She is not looking for YA or anything that is primarily fantasy, romance, or science fiction.


  1. Thanks!

    This made me remember this PC game I LOVED called Laura Bow and the Dagger of Amon Ra. It was great. Set in the 20s. Speakeasies, flapper dresses, sexy stevedores...loved that game.