The best way to contact me is with a short 250- to 500-word query sent to my e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, I strongly advise writers to attend writers conferences where they can meet and network with published authors, editors, and agents. Face-to-face appointments are terrific because you have an agent’s attention for 15 minutes. Since in the last month I’ve received hundreds of e-mail queries, many of which I haven’t yet read, you can see how advantageous it would be to meet someone in person.
What do you look for in a query letter?
I need to know what kind of book you’re pitching. I recommend using the subject line to let me know whether you’re pitching a contemporary romance or a speculative novel. For instance, the subject line would read: QUERY – “Man in the Moon” (title) – romantic comedy (genre).
Craft your letter to appeal to my emotions in that first sentence or two. Ask yourself, “What makes my book exciting, unique, romantic, suspenseful? How can I convey that in a way that is memorable?” Agents want to find a gem among the stones. Make me want to read more and ask for your proposal. You might want to browse through a bookstore and read the back cover copy on a number of books. Those descriptions are what make me want to read a book.
What’s your ideal fiction client? Non-fiction client?
That’s an interesting question that I answered yesterday for a fiction writer I’m signing to our agency. Here’s the answer I gave to her: “My dream author is someone who has a heart for God, whether they write in the general markets or the Christian market. That author is teachable, dependable, creative, and has a sense of humor. I like to have fun in my work, but I take it seriously and work hard. Life is too short for constant conflict.” Of course, they also need talent. These days, publishers want fiction authors to write blogs and be actively engaged in social media like Facebook and Twitter. The number of followers you have makes an impression.
Non-fiction writers not only need to express their ideas with clarity and by using interesting stories, but they also need a platform. They should be a well-known speaker or an expert in their field. Non-fiction authors should be comfortable giving media interviews and know how to communicate the essence of their books. In other words, they should be able to play a key role in marketing their books.
How do you know if an agent is a good fit for you? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Is the agent a good communicator, or do you feel intimidated? Agents get 15% of a book’s sale, so they need to be more than a salesperson. Will that person help you to grow your career? Are they willing to brainstorm book ideas with you? Will they give you advice on how to craft a proposal? Is that person experienced and well-connected? I’ve known some authors who haven’t heard from their agents in a year. Just because someone offers you a contract doesn’t mean that they’re a good fit for you.
What’s the best advice you’d give a writer looking for an agent? Network. Network. Network. Join writers organizations and read trade magazines. Talk to other writers, especially published ones. Read your favorite writers’ blogs and find out who agents them. If you can afford to spend $20 a month, get a membership to Publishers Marketplace (www.publishersmarketplace.com) where every deal made is posted and you can search agents by name or search genres for agents who have sold something that might be a perfect fit.
What’s the best advice you give to your clients? Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. If you know that you know that you know you’re meant to write, don’t stop. As an editor I acquired writers who had written five or six novels before they were published. Work at your craft constantly and trust God that He will open the doors for you to publish at the right time.