Two Query Questions in one week! I'm feeling lucky!
I hope to bring you many fresh interviews with agents from fresh agencies. Feel free to throw agent suggestions at me on twitter.
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 other writing sites. They are the type of questions that you need answers from the real expert--agents!
Today we hear from an agent at an agency I've never interviewed before. We boldly go where I've never gone before. :-) Ann Rose of the Prospect Agency answers to your questions about querying and shares information about her wishlist.
Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?
So, the answer is yes and no. Yes, I always look at sample pages no matter how strong the query is. Query letters are hard and not everyone is a master at them. In the end its about the book, so good query or not I’m going to check out the writing. However, if the query states it is something I don’t represent I won’t look at the pages.
How open are you to writers who have never been published?
I am completely open to new writers. I love finding fresh voices and new perspectives. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?
The dreaded rhetorical question in a query. Are they as taboo as the rumors say?
For me the answer is, yes. I hate them. Any question can be turned into a statement that doesn’t make the reader want to stop and think about the answer.
How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Are movie/tv reference okay as comp titles?
Comp titles won’t make or break a query. A good comp will intrigue me into reading, but a bad one (like a book I don’t particularly love) won’t stop me from looking at pages either. I think it’s fine to reference movies/TV/video games. Anything that helps set the tone for the story you are tying to tell.
Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript?
I don’t need chit-chat that is just telling me what is on my own website. If the personalization is; “I’m sending you my YA book because you rep YA.” I say, skip it. I love personalization that feels personal, without being creepy stalker stuff.
How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those?
I receive about a hundred letters a week give or take, and of those I ask for approximately one out of every ten.
How do you feel about writers nudging on full/partial requests? At what point is it appropriate?
I don’t mind writers checking in but give me at least three months before you nudge.
If the writer gets an offer or has a question I’m always open to those.
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 perfect, in my opinion.
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?
If an author includes their Twitter handle in a query 9x out of 10 I will look them up. If I’ve been on the fence about the project and see things that I like or find interesting on their feed I might be more likely to ask for the project.
I am no social media expert by any means, so I think that you have to do what feels right for you. If the idea of tweeting makes you sick, don’t do it. If you love to take pictures maybe Instagram would be better. I think having a social media presence can help, but if the idea of keeping one up makes you want to rip your eyelashes off – hard pass. I’d never require my clients to do anything they weren’t comfortable with, that includes being active on social media.
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?
I’m not sure if I’m understanding this question correctly. Did I already ask for the materials? If yes, then yes, send an updated file.
If this is a project I didn’t request, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it and drastic changes have been made I’m open to seeing it in my query box again. Just don’t send the same project a few months later with the exact same submission. Our system lets us see all the submission history of querying writers.
What themes are you sick of seeing?
Do not send me your character waking up in the first pages. I think after seeing this over and over and over I just can’t handle it anymore. If the first words are “And she opened her eyes” I’ve already checked out and stopped reading.
Do you look at trends or editor wishlists when deciding to sign a manuscript?
No. It’s in my opinion that good books will sell no matter the trend. So, if you have a super kick ass vampire novel, send it my way.
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?
I am super editorial, and I’m not afraid of a manuscript that needs some work. But that doesn’t mean send me a first draft.
My clients all have my cell phone number and know it’s fine to text or call whenever. If they are stuck on a plot point and need to chat, pick up the phone. If they need some general encouragement because they are working on edits, shoot a text. I think the worst thing I could do for my clients is to make them feel like they can’t talk to me. They all know if they email me they will get an answer within 24 hours but most likely sooner. We are a team and I am here to support them.
What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you?
Let me see…
Sending me a book that is already published. This seems like a no brainier, but I get at least once a week - “I don’t want to market this book that I put up on Amazon two years ago and haven’t sold any copies of, I just want to write so I’m looking for an agent.” – Don’t do this.
Sending me a book that is way outside the standard word count for that genre.
Sending me a query that talks for paragraphs and paragraphs about marketing and how it’s the next best seller, but never once tells me about the book.
Not following submission guidelines. So, make sure you include a query, synopsis and 30 pages.
I think those are my biggest pet peeves.
What three things are at the top of your submission wish list?
A YA version of Clue with the snark/humor of the movie and complete with three different endings. (I need this book like yesterday.)
MG that isn’t afraid to explore tough topics
MG that isn’t afraid to explore tough topics
What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?
This is tough…
The Awesome by Eva Darrows
Love Simon by Becky Albertalli
The Wishing Heart by JC Welker
500 Words or Less by Juleah del Rosario
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick
The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Anything by Jennifer Armentrout, Elizabeth Briggs, Courtney Summers or E. Lockhart.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Meet the Robinsons
The Princess Bride