Thursday, April 9, 2015

Query Questions with Valerie Noble

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, Valerie Noble from the Donaghy Literary Group is here to talk about her query slush. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Not that I can tell, yet. I'm still fairly new and was inundated with queries when I first started so it's taken me a while to catch up.
Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
Definitely not. 
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
I will always look at the pages.
Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
Not yet, it's all me. I'd love to have an intern in the future.
Do you keep a maybe pile of queries and go back to them for a second look?
Yes. Especially when I feel overwhelmed from reading them, I don't want to reject someone simply because I'm tired.
If the manuscript has a prologue, do you want it included with the sample pages?
I'm on the fence on this one. I used to wonder why agents hated prologues so much but now I understand. So many queries include them and they aren't really prologues, or are totally unnecessary. But if a prologue is good, I like them. It's a fine line. 
How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
It's helpful when an author understands his/ her genre and where their book will sit on a bookshelf. So I like comparisons but they aren't necessary.
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?
Not often but I do pass something on if I think it might be a fit for someone else.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I think a query should stay professional. 
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 don't think it is necessarily a red flag, but a query comes off as more professional if they include those things. 
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?
Absolutely. Refining the query is important, remember this is the first time we are hearing anything about the characters so don't overwhelm us. 
Should writers sweat the title of their book (and character names) or is that something that is often changed by publishers?
A good title and good names are important, but it's subjective and yes, publishers can and do ask for changes.
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I've been closed for queries for some time now but when I first opened I received over 1000 queries in a 2 month period. Of those, I requested about 10%, which still gave me over 100 manuscripts to review. 
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 think an online presence is necessary but it does not factor into my decision on representation. Once they sign, yes, I encourage them to get active online. 
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 think it is okay as part of their signature.
If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested?
Don't re-send the query. If a manuscript has been requested, I don't mind if the author reaches out and asks if they can send an updated version. 
 What bio should an author with no publishing credits include?
I'm fine with just "my name is...and here is a brief description of my story". 
What does ‘just not right mean for me’ mean to you?
Usually, the pages don't draw me in. Or the story is something I have seen over and over again. 
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
I want to be. Fortunately, the authors I have signed haven't needed much editing from me. In my opinion, they are perfect :)
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Light fantasy which is a mix of real world and fantasy
Science fiction
I like dystopian but it really has to stand out. 
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
This is tough. I read everything, all genres, except romance. Recently, I loved The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, and I loved the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. 


While studying chemistry at California State University, Long Beach, Valerie mastered the art of doing proper research, particularly for technical writing. Her love of science and reading merged when she began penning her first novel in the midst of her studies. In true scientific fashion, Valerie researched all there was to know about publishing. She connected with agents, editors, and other writers, and interned for Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency.

 An education is never finished and Valerie continues to cultivate relationships and hopes to use her knowledge and skills in finding fresh new voices for Donaghy Literary Group.

Valerie loves science fiction and fantasy (think Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins) but reads everything under the sun. For her, it’s more about the writing and less about the genre. In saying that, Valerie is generally not interested in romance or paranormal. 

Valerie is seeking Young Adult, and New Adult in the following areas:
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction