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!
I'm thrilled to be back with another Query Questions interview from Jess Errera of The Jane Rotrosen Agency. Let's get to know more about her.
1. Is there a better or worse time of year to query? Any time of year is fine by me. I read queries all year round.
2. Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong? If the pitch is lacking but I like the concept, I will always review the pages—after all, not every author is great at pitching. However, if it’s something truly outside my wheelhouse, then I’m less likely to read on.
3. How open are you to writers who have never been published? Entirely open. Welcoming, in fact!
4. The dreaded rhetorical question in a query. Are they as taboo as the rumors say? This doesn’t bother me at all. I’m a fan of a tagline if it’s strong and suits the work, but a bad one isn’t a deterrent.
5. 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, including tv/movies. The caveat being that they should be realistic—there are some books and movies that are so big that they aren’t as useful as comps, so authors should select carefully. They should also be recent titles or, if they’re older, ones we still reference regularly.
6. Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript? I don’t mind chit-chat, but it’s the quality of your work that’s going to get me hooked. I’d focus on being polite, informed, and crafting a strong pitch.
7. How many queries do you receive in a week? How many requests might you make out of those? This is hard to pinpoint as it really fluctuates from week-to-week.
8. How do you feel about writers nudging on full/partial requests? At what point is it appropriate? I think after 4-6 weeks it’s ok to check in on a request.
9. When a writer nudges with an offer, what length of time is helpful to give you enough time to consider? A week? Two weeks? If you have solicited reads from a number of agents it is courteous to contact those agents and give them an opportunity to respond before you make a decision. I don’t think that there is any prescribed length of time for this, but rather something I would decide on a case-by-case basis.
10. 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? Having a platform is certainly attractive to a potential publishing partner and, as such, a large one can be an asset. However, the writing must be strong above all else. And I do think every author should be using at least one social media channel to engage with readers and build a community.
11. 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 always happy to see revised material if it means you’re putting your best foot forward, but best to send it as early as possible in case I’ve already dipped in.
12. Do you look at trends or editor wishlists when deciding to sign a manuscript? I do consider trends and I wouldn’t be a good advocate for you if I didn’t. I have to feel confident that I know multiple editors looking for the kind of story you’ve written before I can (or should) agree to represent an author.
13. 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? Every project is unique and so this decision is made on a case-by-case basis. If I feel editorial work will enhance the marketability of a project, that’s an option I am happy to present to the author. But of course, it’s always the author’s call depending on whether or not the feedback resonates with them.
14. What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you? Misspelling my name (or not using it at all) and not following the JRA guidelines are two things that stand out, but not such that I would automatically decline a query. That said, proofreading is your friend!
15. What three things are at the top of your submission wish list? These can and will change over time, but as of summer 2018 I’d love: an original standalone YA fantasy, more diverse YA, and a compelling yet commercial women’s fiction novel with a thread of romance.
16. What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes? In adult I love: ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman, THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern, THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein, and THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET by Yara Zgheib. On the YA side I love: I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson, THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renee Ahdieh, and RED WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE by Casey McQuinston.
Jessica Errera was born and raised on Long Island and credits her love of reading to the built-in book club that is her large family. Jess attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a BA in English and Dramatic Arts before returning home to New York in search of the elusive “real world job.” Luckily, JRA was in need of interns and, in the tradition of good romance novels, it was love at first sight. Jessica now works full-time as an assistant to Meg, reading to her heart’s content while also tracking book sales and PR. A self-proclaimed book nerd, Jess can often be found curled up on the couch with the latest bestseller. Her favorite genres include young and new adult, contemporary fiction, fantasy, and anything that can be read in a day on the beach.
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