Friday, September 23, 2016

Query Questions with Kristy Hunter

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 series 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 from the real expert--agents!

Query Questions is back with a fresh set of questions and more agents. The people have spoken and let me know which questions should stay and which could go. We've got a few brand new situations that writers would like clarified.

From the Knight Agency, Kristy Hunter is here to share her thoughts on querying. 

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
We monitor the submissions inbox very closely year around. The one exception is the week between Christmas and New Year’s—we still check the inbox, but our office is officially closed that whole week. As a result, our response time may not be as fast as normal.

Does one typo or misplaced comma shoot down the entire query?
You’d be surprised at how many simple errors we see in query letters. Occasionally, it can make us wonder just how much time was spent pulling the project together. That said? We are all human. We all make typos now and then. If your writing is strong and your premise is right up our alley, are we going to let one little misplaced comma stand in our way of reading more? Probably not—but you should still proofread.

Do you have an assistant or intern go through your queries first or do you check all of them?
I check them all. In addition to be an associate agent, I also act as The Knight Agency’s submissions coordinator. I preview all submissions before they are forwarded on to the appropriate agent.

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query?
I wouldn’t say they are a must, but I do appreciate when thoughtful comp titles are included in a query.  They can provide me with a good idea of what to expect from your project and also with some early ideas of how it could be positioned in the marketplace. On top of that, comps can be an excellent way to show me that you truly know the genre you are writing. The trick is really finding the right comp titles. I generally find that something both recent and realistic works best.

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?
One of my favorite things about The Knight Agency is how collaborative our work process is. We all have fairly unique tastes and, because of that, we are very quick to share a project that may be better suited for someone else’s list. That’s why we state on our website that there is no need to query multiple agents. If it’s better suited for another agent, we make sure they have a chance to review it before we respond.

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’m not really a stickler for where this information needs to appear—at the end or the beginning. Either works for me. But yes, it does need to be included and I will most likely take it as a red flag if it isn’t.

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 having an online platform is always smart. I don’t require that anyone start any sort of online account just because they sign with me. There are some people who are truly afraid to put themselves out there online and I would never force them to do so. But agents and publishers see a strong online platform as an easy way for an author to reach their target audience—which, in theory, could help with book sales down the road. I absolutely wouldn’t turn down a project I loved just because an author wasn’t active online, but I do see having an online presence, especially a significant one, as a benefit in this day and age.

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?
If an author has a website, blog or twitter handle, they should definitely feel free to include those items in their signature. In fact, I would encourage this as I often check out these items once a project piques my interest.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter, or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I prefer that the query letter be both professional and to-the-point. Your query letter is an opportunity to make a strong first impression. I find that humor is very hard to translate through email—especially when you are talking to someone you’ve never met. Better to be safe. Also, keep in mind that we literally see hundreds of queries a day. If I have to dig too hard to figure out what your project is about, I may assume it’s not for me.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to read any personal information at all.  A short bio (2-3 sentences max) is always appreciated--especially if where you work/live/grew up somehow influenced your work. 

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
I love a wide range of books and it’s always a challenge to narrow it down to just a few. Recently, I read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir which just blew me away. I’m always looking to acquire strong YA projects. Some of my favorite reads include Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I’m continually drawn to upmarket women’s fiction that has a strong sense of place or time, such as The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. For Middle Grade, I’m on the hunt for heartfelt novels that deal with evolving friendships, such as The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, or something that features some sort of club or secret society. I’m also a huge fan of romance—both contemporary and historical—and one of my all-time favorites is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Another book that blew me away recently? Why We Came to the City by Kristopher Jansma. I absolutely fell in love with the writing.

Kristy Hunter joined The Knight Agency in 2014. With a degree in Women & Gender Studies and English Literature from Vanderbilt University, Kristy moved to New York City immediately after graduation to try her hand at publishing. She completed the Columbia Publishing Course and worked in the city for several years—first at Grove/Atlantic and then at Random House Children’s Books—before deciding it was time to make the move back down south. She now takes advantage of her new surroundings by being outside as much as possible with her dog.

Kristy is currently accepting submissions from a wide variety of genres, including women’s fiction, mystery, historical romance, romance, young adult, and middle grade.

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