Saturday, September 10, 2011

Query Advice from a Literary Agent

As promised, I am sharing some pitching and querying advice from literary agent Michelle Andelman from Regal Literary Agency. [Some of this also applies in querying to editors.]
Understand the difference between a pitch and a synopsis. Michelle does NOT like synopses. Michelle doesn’t have time to read them. (Some agents and editors like them, some don’t.)
Synopsis- plot summary
Pitch- general story arc- in 1-3 sentences you present a story arc starting point- mid point and end point. The BROAD arc in 1-3 sentences.
In a pitch an agent wants:

1) Know how to orient where the project fits in the marketplace- similar books, or similar enough but different.
2) To be hooked. Your query should be written in a way that the agent will request more material.

DO give enough detail. Provide the emotional arc of the character, a general setting and central conflict.
What is interesting about them?
Structure- only mention it if it is important
If your YA novel is in first person don’t mention it unless it is different or interesting.

Follow Submission Guidelines! Each agency is different.
Michelle likes 10 pages with cover/query letter.

Research the market. Look at books you are now reading. How does yours compare? Does it have something MORE? Be CLEAR on the genre and the type of reader you want to attract.

Personalize the query. Do NOT address it to Dear Agent or Dear Sir or Madam. Those go to the trash. If you have met the agent personally at a conference, remind him/her in your query. Keep the tone warm- not crazy. Do NOT be too intimate.

DON’T talk about yourself. It’s about the project, not you. (Unless you met the agent at a conference.)

Don’t offer exclusives. Agencies expect you are making multiple submissions
IF an agent requests an exclusive, you can demand a time frame. Don’t be afraid to be assertive. The agent is working for you.

Don’t let requested material languish. After 6-8 weeks, jog the agent’s (editors) memory with an inquiry, otherwise your work might sit on his/her desk for 6-8 months.

Be ENCOURAGED if you get a detailed rejection. If the agent is willing to spend sometime with suggestions, that’s a good sign that the work is almost there.

Don’t Lobster (I don’t know what this means now. I did at the time she said it.) Let the project speak for itself.

Don’t pitch in your protagonist’s voice.

Give just enough detail to get a sense of who the character is, the underlying themes, and the conflict..
Given an amazing detail that will hook the agent. (One query that hooked Michele revealed the character "kept Julie’s ashes in Tupperware". A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. )
Letter should be no more than 3 paragraphs’!!! is a free site to help match you with agents and your type of work.
Be wary of paid sites- largely a moneymaking schemes for agencies.

Publisher’ is a valid paid site
Look at print versions of Literary Market Place and Children’s/Illustrators Markets in the library.
Happy Writing.

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