Monday, January 29, 2018

January 2018 Agent Interview

Agent Mentor for January 2018

The Lark Group

Abby Saul, our Agent mentor for January, has stopped by to answer a few questions. She will also be available to answer your questions on Jan 3rd in our first twitter chat of 2018! Pop in on #1st5pages and ask a literary agent specific questions for your project. In the meantime, the questions we asked Abby are below! 

Abby, when reading a query/pitch, what makes you want to request the manuscript?

I get about 200 queries a week, so the queries I request really have to stand out! The first thing I notice is if the author has done a professional job with their query, which means they have followed guidelines and sent an error-free message. After that, I respond to a query like a reader considering a book at the bookstore: Does this description make me want to read more? Am I dying to know what happens? Does it make me want to spend time (and thus $$) on it? And finally (if we've gotten this far!), I respond to a query like an agent: Is there a market for this book? Does the author bring anything extra to the table (awards, publishing history)? So the best queries -- the queries that make me request the manuscript -- are professionally written and edited, follow submission guidelines, and describe a book that I'm eager to read and that I think I can sell. (Bonus: queries for a funny project make me laugh, queries for a serious project don't!)

What makes you reject on a query or pitch?

As I mentioned above, the first thing I notice is whether submission guidelines have been followed and if the query is well-written (and error-free!). A single typo in a query will not mean I reject the project, but pitching a genre I don't represent, forgetting to include the word count, or writing with bad grammar (etc!) will lead to a rejection. I also reject projects that haven't "sold" themselves to me well -- the description is lackluster or, honestly, not very well written. After that, there are many reasons I might reject even a very good pitch: the book itself doesn't catch my attention as a reader (it has an overdone or staid plotline or setting, for example), I have recently had difficultly selling a similar project so I don't want to try that again just now, or I simply don't like it. Personal preference plays a huge role, and it has to! I am looking for projects to fall head over heels in love with, so I have to be picky. I am positive that I have passed on some fabulous books because the query didn't do its job well -- so remember, writers, you owe it to yourself to spend time perfecting your pitch! (I actually just did a big Twitter thread on why I reject queries -- check it out for even more on this topic!

Are you an editorial agent?

Absolutely! I play a big role in editing my clients' work and helping them at all stages of the writing and rewriting (and rewriting and rewriting) process. When I submit a project to editors I want to be sure I am giving them no excuse to say no, which means the manuscript has to be pretty much near publication ready. So I usually do at least two rounds of editorial with my clients, and then a smaller copyediting/clean-up pass, before a project goes out on submission. I also am often the first beta reader and editor for clients as they work on Book(s) 2 (3, 4, etc), helping them troubleshoot and conceptualize their latest projects. I love editorial work!

What genres are you drawn to the most?

I love all sorts of projects but am most drawn to -- and thus limit my wishlist to -- literary, mystery/thriller, historical, and women's. Within those, I am open to almost any storyline as long as the writing is smart and compelling, but am particularly a sucker for dark secrets, crumbling mansions, nostalgic grownups, and charm (in settings, characters, or writing). I am fine with crossover! I tend not to like magical realism, political/CIA thrillers with lots of running and explosions (Jack Reacher is not for me), or books where the protagonist could be described as a "dude" (male protagonists are fine! Just no dudes). On the historical side, I am looking for new eras (so no WWII books right now), and would love something set "between the wars" or in some other overlooked but vibrant period. I like dark dark dark mysteries and thrillers but Agatha Christie mysteries (and to a lesser extent, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh whodunits) have always been, and still are, my comfort reads, so I have a soft spot for smart cozies and Golden Era throwbacks as well.

What do you like to do for fun?

Read, of course! (Seriously! I am always reading.) But also hike, cook, watch the latest best thing on Netflix, and -- since the birth of my first child in September -- sleep!

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