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've been trying to get an agent from The Knight Agency for forever. I'm so pleased to bring you Melissa Jeglinski!
Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
I’m open to queries all year round. I try to reply within two weeks, unless I’m out on holiday.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
A small typo or misplaced comma will not make me turn down a project, but a lot of such mistakes warn me that you might not be careful with your work and that is a red flag.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I will look at the first paragraph without fail because honestly, I know queries are really hard to write. Sometimes the writing is much better than I would expect from what is presented in a query so I always take at least a smidge of a look.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
At The Knight Agency all of our queries go to our submissions email and our submissions coordinator gives them a first look. However, anything I’ve asked for or that may be in response to an article, contest, or interview I’ve done will be forwarded directly to me.
Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?
Nope. I make a decision on queries right away. It’s the only way to stay on top of them. However, I can sometimes waver on partials.
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
Let it be known that I do not like prologues; I find them almost always unnecessary. However, if you choose to start with one, then they are your first pages and should be included.
How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
I find many queries include strange or wrong comp titles and I’d rather not see any than think I should be getting one type of read and end up with another.
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?
At The Knight Agency we prefer you query only one of our agents at a time. We will frequently pass along queries we feel may be perfect for one of our colleagues as we are always in touch with one another about what we are looking for.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
Feel free to include a bit of chit-chat if we have met before or if you have been referred to me by one of my clients. Otherwise, I just want to know what your manuscript is about. You’ve got mere paragraphs to grab my attention so don’t waste any space.
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 will not request a project when either the genre or word count is not included. I just can’t read your mind and these are usually the most important elements of a query.
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I don’t see every query I receive as our submissions coordinator does weed out ones for genres I don’t represent or perhaps are obviously just not right for me as I always update her on what I’m looking for. But I estimate I get about fifty queries per week. Of those I’ll request one, possibly two partials or complete manuscript.
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 never base my requested on whether the author is active on social media. But I do check to make sure if they have a presence, it’s a positive one. Once I sign on a client I do encourage them to try their hand at some social media but it’s not a requirement.
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?
I wouldn’t turn down a query if there are links in their email signature. However, if the entire query is just a link it becomes an automatic no for me.
What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
When I do use this wording as a response, it means that I didn’t find the project so exciting I couldn’t say no. It could be the writing, the plot, the ultimate execution. It could also be how the writer presented themselves and maybe I just don’t want to be so detailed in my response. I often hesitate to give detailed feedback because I think that gives a writer hope that I’ll take a look at the project again when often the issue is not something I think can be easily changed; style, plot—these are big issues. So I find it better to pass in a more generic matter. I know that can be frustrating to a writer but my workload prevents me from being so detailed. Also, I find some writers can be downright nasty when I give a true reason for passing and I just don’t need the negativity. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been cursed out by complete strangers just by telling them I don’t represent their genre. So I tread carefully for my own sanity.
What themes are you sick of seeing?
In Middle Grade age projects it’s the children receiving special powers on their birthday or just being so downtrodden I’m not sure how to connect with them. For Young Adult it’s a female protagonist so obviously in love with the wrong boy you just want to snap her out of it. In Romance it’s the simple conflicts that can be solved with a good conversation. I like complex plots and characters.
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
Coming from an editorial background I am a very hands-on agent. I work with my clients to edit their projects while we are on submission to editors. However, once their manuscript finds a home, I do step back and let the author/editor relationship deal with issues.
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
A Cozy Mystery series with a unique setting and different kind of protagonist (no paranormal.)
A Middle Grade novel featuring a ghost or something quite dark but not horrific—keeping the readership in mind.
A Romantic Suspense series featuring super sexy heroes in some dangerous profession.
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
My favorite book of all time is THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. The plot is complex and the MC’s conflicts are timeless.
I have really enjoyed Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series and Lisa Kleypas’s Wallflower series.
Recently I have enjoyed WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart and CAROLINA MAN by Virginia Kantra.
My favorite movies include The Winter Soldier (Not usually a super hero fan but Cap is so earnest, what’s not to love), State and Main (quirky cast and plot) and Aliens (the most kick-ass heroine ever.)
A graduate of Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English with a writing concentration, Melissa began her career as an editor with Harlequin Enterprises. Looking to work with a variety of authors and genres, she joined The Knight Agency in 2008. With over two decades experience in the publishing industry, Melissa has fostered her clients to National prominence including a recent Newbery Honor. She is a member of RWA and AAR. Melissa is currently seeking projects in the following areas: Romance (contemporary, category, historical, inspirational) Young Adult, Middle Grade, Women’s Fiction and Mystery.