Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Query Questions with Danielle Barthel

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.

Today we have Danielle Barthel from New Leaf Literary to share some agency insight with us. 

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

I'd say holidays can be tough, because we're winding down our year and trying to get everything done that's necessary for the business. 

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

Not one, no. But it should really be as clean as possible. 

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
At our agency, both agents and assistants go through queries, and we look at every one that comes in.

Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?

I personally do. I give myself some space from them and go back to see if I like them just as much later. 

If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Yes, if that's where your story starts, that's where we should start reading!

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
They're really valuable for us, since we have such a small space to get to know the story.

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?
New Leaf does this for sure. We're a small agency, and everyone has a specific taste, so we are constantly sharing in house.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
Maybe one line of chat, but truly, at the query stage, it's about falling in love with the manuscript.

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?
It's just frustrating. Giving us as much information as possible, in a clear and concise manner, is so helpful going in. 

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?
Yes. Queries are all about focus, and if you bring up too many names, we're not sure who to focus on.

Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
Don't sweat too much about the titles--those change frequently. Character names usually need a good reason to change (ie. there's already a Katniss out there and she's a big deal).

How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
Our agents receive hundreds per week!

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?
For illustrators, if you're querying a manuscript dummy, I'd actually like there to be a link, because our agency does not accept attachments, and it will give me an idea of your art style.

 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
Just something that might make them memorable. If you have kids, where you live, what your day job is...all acceptable details (and there are certainly more than that!).

What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
Generally, either it's a genre I wouldn't represent, or I do not connect to the characters.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
We're definitely a hands-on, editorial agency. That's one of my favorite parts!

What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Unique retellings, captivating and romantic contemporary, and lifestyle books that are easy to connect to, but have a different hook than books already out there. I also love anything that gives you a look behind the scenes.

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

I could watch FROZEN every day (I'll always love Disney). SCARLET by AC Gaughen and THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken are fantastic stories, and I've been reading Sarah Dessen since middle school.


Following her completion of the Denver Publishing Institute after graduation, Danielle began interning at Writers House. While there, she realized she wanted to put her English degree and love of the written word to work at a literary agency. She worked as a full-time assistant for three years, and continues to help keep the New Leaf offices running smoothly in her role of Coordinator of Team and Client Services.
In her downtime, she can be found with a cup of tea, a bar of chocolate, or really good book...sometimes all together.


  1. Actually for me this is very usefull . tnx for share

  2. Ahh, thank you! Big thanks to Danielle Barthel for giving the interview and to the writer of this blog for hosting it. This is be extremely helpful and I'll need to remember this page to come back to later!