Monday, July 3, 2017

Query Questions with Gabrielle Piraino

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.

A brief break for Query Kombat and we are back with Gabrielle Piraino of DeFiore Literary

Is there a better or worse time of year to query?
Spring and Fall are the busiest times of the year in publishing on the whole, so if you query me outside of those seasons, I’m likely to have a little more time in the day to review queries. That being said, if your query letter is strong and your manuscript jumps off the page, I will happily be in touch no matter what day/month it is. 
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
Due to volume, I read sample pages when I’m intrigued by something in the query, whether that's a character, the concept, or the writing style. Strong query letters 100% set the tone for the project from the get-go. 
How open are you to writers who have never been published?
Very much so! 
The dreaded rhetorical question in a query. Are they as taboo as the rumors say?
I personally don’t mind as long as it makes sense within the context of the letter. If that’s the most effective way you’ve found to hype your work, go for it! 
How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Are movie/tv reference okay as comp titles?
I love to see comp titles in a query so I can immediately understand the positioning the book. Whether the comps are movie/TV shows doesn’t bother me. It’s another way of describing your work within the context of the entire media landscape. 
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
Personalized chit-chat is fine as long as it isn’t the entire scope of the letter and still remains professional. If we have met in person or if you've been referred, that’s the perfect place to employ a bit of it. Barring that, I usually respond best when authors dive right in and tell me exactly what the book is about. A great hook never fails to capture my attention. 
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
Ha! It varies from around 50 to north of 125 per week. If I’m being slow getting back to you, that’s why! Of those, I request only what I absolutely fall in love with. Unfortunately, there’s no magic mix of things that will bump you to the top of my list, but I’m very partial to a great voice and unique world-building. It’s heartbreaking to pass on a story whose voice I didn’t connect with but had a phenomenal concept. 
How do you feel about writers nudging on full/partial requests? At what point is it appropriate? 
I fully understand the anxiety of waiting to hear back from an agent! If you haven’t heard from me in a few weeks after sending your manuscript, do nudge me! I’m always juggling multiple projects and I might have had to shift my focus away from a manuscript request in order to support the needs of a client. Any time after 4 weeks is appreciated. I try my very best to get back to prospective clients as quickly as possible though. 
When a writer nudges with an offer, what length of time is helpful to give you enough time to consider? A week? Two weeks?
Two weeks is very appreciated. In the event that I haven’t requested the full manuscript, I understand if you’re looking to hear back sooner in order to make a decision regarding your current offer. Just list the time at which you need to hear back very clearly and I’ll do my very best to get back to you in a timely fashion. 
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?
There’s a lot of opportunities for writers to find communities and beta readers online. That being said, I won’t turn down a debut author with a dynamite story just because s/he doesn’t have an online presence. It is always helpful, but in my opinion, not a make or break it element. I would wholeheartedly support a client starting a social media presence, and would be helpful and supportive towards that goal if the author wanted to do so. 
If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? Does it make a difference if the changes are from an R&R with another agent?
If I already requested the manuscript and passed, feel free to reach out again, especially if you’ve revised in light of constructive critique (from me or others). In very first sentences of your letter, mention that I had previously reviewed an older draft of the manuscript; a reminder to jog my memory is always well served. 
What themes are you sick of seeing?
I’m going to flip this question around and let you know what themes/tropes I would love to see more of: strong, independent (badass) girls, diversity/LGBT+ stories that aren’t heavy-handed, scary horror, villains that you fall in love with, and genre-blending! 
Do you look at trends or editor wishlists when deciding to sign a manuscript?
I watch the daily deals, but chasing a trend or a specific editor’s MSWL sets a very difficult target to hit. 
Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Does a manuscript have to be sub-ready or will you sign stories that need work?
Yes, I’m very hands-on and open to tackling editorial revisions with my clients. If I’ve requested a Revise & Resubmit, I’m very hopeful that my editorial feedback will help elevate the novel to a point at which I can offer representation. Of course, if a query is submission-ready, I’m happy with seeing that as well! 
What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you?
I have a couple: please spell my name correctly; please use proper English and double check all of your grammar; please follow my querying instructions and make sure that your manuscript fits within a genre I’m currently interested in representing; please don’t send me multiple submissions in a row. 
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
Right now, I’m way deep into the nerd-core, as I call it. Everything SFF right now is pinging my interest. I always love to see fast-paced thrillers, horror that convinces me it goes bump in the night, and high-concept fantasy that drops me right into the middle of a fully-realized world. 
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
I run the gamut! I’m still obsessed with TROLLS and ZOOTOPIA, but also I will never turn down TRON (both the original and the reboot), THE MATRIX, or FIGHT CLUB. I also love the trend of superhero movies—anything to do Harley Quinn and Deadpool, be still my heart. Authors I’ve read over the years that have totally informed my taste (in no particular order) are Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman, CS Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, Orson Scott Card, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, Tamora Pierce, Ursula Le Guin, and Alison Croggon.


Gabrielle Piraino was raised a Navy brat but has always called the East Coast home. As a kid, she could either be found with her nose in a book or clambering around outdoors collecting freckles, though not much has changed. She graduated early from St. Bonaventure University with a dual-B.A. in Honors Classical Languages and English. Trading upstate for the five boroughs, Gabbie then earned her Masters of Science in Publishing at Pace University in Manhattan. She has previously worked for both major commercial publishing houses and literary agencies alike, including Farrar, Straus & Giroux and most recently, AGI Vigliano. Gabbie joined the team at DeFiore and Company in the summer of 2016. Outside of the office, her hobbies include baking, crafts, rugby—though she’s retired from the pitch—losing miserably at Mario Kart, and befriending strangers to pet their dogs. 

When considering new projects, Gabbie is most drawn to strong narrative voices, unique world-building, and diverse casts of characters. Focused specifically on building long-term relationships with authors, she is currently  accepting queries for sci-fi, fantasy, horror, thriller, and up-market chick lit (both Adult and YA). She’d also be happy to review queries from prospective author-illustrators for comics/graphic novels, as well as Children’s and Middle Grade stories with compelling characters. 

Please submit all queries via email to with “QUERY” in the subject line, as well as a brief plot summary; a brief, relevant bio; the first 50 pages in the body of the email; and a link to a website/portfolio for prospective illustrators. Please do not include attachments. 


  1. Thanks for this great interview. Can I ask for clarification? You say to include 50 pages in the query email, but the DiFiore website says 5 pages. I'm assuming 50 pages is a typo because it seems like a lot to paste into an email, but I wanted to be sure.

    Thanks again.

  2. Abbe, please do send the first 50 pages of your manuscript along with your query. Not a typo! Thank you.