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.
Please give a loud welcome to a newer agent. Caitie Flum of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency is answering query questions today.
Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Not really! I am always looking at queries. If you query right near the winter holidays, there many be a longer response time, but it won't change the response.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Not at all. A query full of them would but just one will not. It happens. There is probably a typo or misplaced comma in this interview.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I do not have anyone else going through my queries. It is all me.
Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?
Not really. If I am at a maybe, I will reread the query, think about it and decide then. I tend to set aside certain times to read queries, so I can take my time then.
How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
I don't need comp titles, but it does help give a sense to what the manuscript is if it is accurate. I have requested to see pages on a maybe query because of a good comp many times.
I am on social media a lot and I talk about pop culture a lot, so I get some really personalized comps that work.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I don't need the personalized chit-chat, but I think it helps when authors tell me why they are querying me. It can help me see their vision for their book a little more and I can think "I would be a good fit for this!". Not a requirement though.
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 is a red flag for me mostly because an author should know their own genre. If they do not include it, I wonder if they know what they wrote. Not knowing can be very problematic. There are so many times I request because it is a cozy mystery, but it is really a thriller, which are completely different markets. That isn't to say I wouldn't like a thriller, but it would be very different.
I also prefer word count/genre is first so I can quickly see if it is something I represent and know what it is before reading the query.
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?
Not at all. If it is in your signature, that is fine. But know that if you include it, I will click it. So make sure your content is good! Sometimes they include an inactive blog or a website that looks like it is from the 90s.
What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
The bio can be very basic, but isn't always needed. I have never rejected something because they didn't have a bio. I usually would like to know their day job, especially if it is relevant to what they have written.
What does ‘just not right for me’ mean to you?
It can mean so much, so here are just some examples
-it isn't a genre I represent
-it isn't a topic I am interested in
-the voice doesn't connect. This doesn't mean the voice is bad, it just means that the voice doesn't appeal to me
What themes are you sick of seeing?
Drug cartels. Drug trafficking. I am not interested in it, but get at least three or four queries a week.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
Yes. I think most agents are at this point - we have to be!
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Only three? That makes it hard!
1. Historical fiction (YA or adult) told from the perspectives we normally don't see.
2. Athlete/rockstar/actor romances. For athlete: baseball or soccer is my preference.
3. Story about siblings/family relationships, probably women's/book club fiction.
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
The problem with this question is I like ALL THE THINGS. Here are some of my favorites, but this is not a complete list. For opinions on books, you can check out my blog: http://caitieflum.wordpress.com (but I don't represent sf/f)
1. Anything by Rainbow Rowell
2. 90s/early 00s rom coms (10 Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls, etc)
3. The Lizzie Bennett Diaries (and everything the Green brothers do)
4. Laurie Halse Anderson
5. The Cuckoo's Calling
Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a BA in English with a concentration in publishing studies. Caitie interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an Editorial Assistant then Coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children's Book-of-the-Month Club.
Caitie grew up in Ohio where she developed her love of reading everything she could get her hands on.
Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, magical realism, and book club fiction.
Caitie is also looking for Young Adult and New Adult projects, particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, and contemporary books with diverse characters.
In nonfiction, she is looking for memoirs that make people look at the world differently, narrative nonfiction that's impossible to put down, books on pop culture, theater, current events, women's issues, and humor.