Tag Archives: agents

The Great Big Post of Querying

12 Aug

So, recently, a reader emailed me asking me how I went about querying and finding my agent. I’d actually meant to put up a post about this a long time ago, but the old post included my actual query, which, now that I look at it, is rather spoilery…

I will, however, go through some of the tools I found most helpful and give a basic outline of how the process went.

I started writing my query letter literally a month or so before I sent out my first email (I didn’t snail mail any queries), and then I revised and revised and revised and revised some more. I sent it to critique partners, read it to friends, etc, until I’d whittled it down to about three paragraphs that made sense, got to the heart of the conflict, and gave the reader just enough world building. 

During this time, I was collecting a list of agents I’d like to work with, too. Many of these names I got from blogs, since I’d spent so much time reading agent blogs to figure out how to put together a query letter in the first place. Some I got from contests (I got my agent Emmanuelle’s name from Miss Snark’s First Victim’s Secret Agent Contest!).

 Wherever I got the names from, I checked to see if they had blogs or twitter or anything like that. Not everyone does, and that’s fine if they don’t, but if they do tweet or whatever, sometimes you can get an idea of what they’re looking for. I know the internet’s not the best way to make a judge of character or anything, but sometimes you can get a sense of how someone’s like to work with.                                                      .
Also, a check on querytracker (I did a whole long post about that here) never hurt, either. There’s also www.agentquery.com, but I didn’t use that as much. However, they usually list a number of links to interviews and such that the agent has done, and those can be really helpful. 

Publisher’s Marketplace does require a subscription fee, but it’s not too bad and if you have a membership, you can see what’s been sold by whom and to whom. Which is handy if you’re looking to see who has, say, a really good track record in cozy mysteries or something. Not all sales get reported to PM, though, and some are reported late, so it’s not an end all be all source. 

The Absolute Write forum (or water cooler, as they call it) can be very helpful, too. Many agencies have their own thread in the Writers Beware subforum, and you can search a particular agent’s name to see what sort of experience other writers have had with them in the past. Often, you’ll even see a few people announce that they’ve recently signed on with said agent. The smaller agencies sometimes have rather lackluster, seldom-visited threads, though…which doesn’t at all reflect on the quality of the agency. 

Finally, I got a TON of help from just other writers. The girls at LTWF were an enormous help, as were other friends I made online, who gave me advice about everything from manuscript formatting to query-letter-writing.

I sent out queries in really small batches, since my overall list was pretty small. I ended up signing with Emmanuelle after about two months (longest two months of my life. Truly, lol), but I suppose if I hadn’t gotten any offers after a long while, I would have had to widen my search a little. 

In the end, everybody talks so much about query, and there’s a ton of advice out there (even about the best day of the week or the best time of day to send a query—as a literary intern, I’m just going to say…at least at the agency where I work, this is not going to matter in the least), but in the end, there’s only so much you can do. And writing a really strong story trumps most of the other stuff anyway 🙂


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and her book WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is about a 15-year-old girl fighting for her right to survive in a world where two souls are born to each body and one is doomed to disappear. It recently sold in a three-book deal to HarperTeen. You can read more about her writing process, travels, and books at her blog.


Never Forget WHY You Write

6 Apr

When you first begin writing, you do it for various reasons…  Maybe it’s an escape.  Maybe it’s for entertainment. Maybe it’s because if you didn’t you would just die.

Whatever the reason, it gets your butt into a chair and your fingers onto a keyboard. As you BICHOK away, you may or may not finish what you start…but ultimately it doesn’t matter because at this point you are writing mostly for YOU.

But then, at some point, you decide you want to write to get PUBLISHED.  Suddenly, your entire approach to writing changes–as it should!

You learn about writing.  You build your tool-box of characterization, plotting, scene-construction, outlining, voice, and more…

Then (or more likely at the same time) you start to learn about the PUBLISHING INDUSTRY. You accept that it’s not going to be easy, but by golly you won’t give up!

And maybe, if you’re obsessive (read: ME) you spend every hour researching agents, refining your query letter, joining another society/crit group/workshop–all meant to help you jump that first hurdle in publication: AQUIRING AN AGENT.

And then…one day–maybe one year down the road or twenty–you are retrieved from the slush.  Your MS is good enough, the agent makes an offer, and…

BAM! You have an agent! Now what…?

Oh, there’s still more for your obsessive nature to dwell on.  First, you’ll probably go through revisions with your Shiny New Agent, and then, lo and behold, you GO ON SUBMISSIONS.  To editors!  It’s out of your hands now, but that doesn’t mean you won’t check your email with psychotic determination.  That you won’t spend every waking hour daydreaming about that second giant hurdle in publication: SELLING YOUR NOVEL.

And then…one day–maybe one year down the road or twenty–your novel does catch the eye of an editor.  Your MS is good enough, the editor makes an offer, your agent negotiates the deal, and…

BAM! Your book has sold. Now what…?

And here, my friends, is where–if you’re really like me–you may suddenly have to revaluate everything. Technically, by all your friends and family, you’ve MADE IT.

Selling  your novel was your dream!  You’ve spent sooooooooo long and spent soooooooo much energy trying to reach this point, you never really thought beyond.

Um, well, if you wish to make this your LIFE (as must of us certainly do), then you’re going to have to write another book.  And another book after that and another after that…and multiply that by infinity.

But even harder, you have to write good books.  And that’s really freaking scary.

To quote my agent,

Second Book Jitters ares viewed as…cliche almost? Like it’s become such a normal discussion topic that many people don’t acknowledge it anymore. But that term has its roots, and in my opinion, is always worth bringing up.

The Second Book Jitters are undoubtedly real, and I think they come from the sudden realization that all that energy you’ve focused into steps 1 (Agent Acquisition) and 2 (Selling the Novel) has now got to go somewhere else: a good second book that readers will enjoy.

But truly, I think “second book jitters” could just as easily be renamed “First Book Jitters” or “Eighty-seventh Book Jitters” or how about just BOOK JITTERS!

Why? Because readers are notoriously hard to please, yet when we seek to be published, we take a vow to write for our readers.

And now we get to a point where you have to rediscover the “spark”.  You have to get back to the whole reason you started writing in the first place:


That’s right.  Writing started with YOU, and now you’ve got to bring it back to YOU.

First drafts are for you. Revisions are for readers.

Yes, you may write for publication and for your readers, but when you BICHOKing out your first draft, you’re writing COMPLETELY FOR YOU.  You must tap into whatever it is that compels you to write, and you have to use it to get that first draft out!

I write because I have a feeling to share.  Just like a piece of music moves me, a story will burn in my heart until I have to tell it.  And finding those feelings, nurturing those stories, setting aside commercial-concerns and self-doubt for a few months while I hammer out a first draft–all of it is CRITICAL for me to write a novel.

And it took me a few months of chasing my tail to finally sort all that out…

But now I know what motivates me to write.

I know that, ultimately, writing is my career, and that means staying in touch with MYSELF.

I know I have to focus more of my time on WRITING than on All The Other Crud (social networking, obsessing over foreign rights, dreaming of selling future books I haven’t even written yet!).

Ah, now if only I had stayed in touch with myself throughout the querying/subbing process… I’d have saved a lot of time (and some crippling self-doubt) later on!

MORAL OF THE STORY: No matter where you are in the journey to (or on) publication, don’t lose sight of why you write.  Writing is for you; editing is for your readers.

So why do you write?

What is about storytelling that attracted you in the first place?


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her on her blog or twitter.

The Parts of a Good Query Letter

28 Feb

by Susan Dennard


I have a popular post on my personal blog that’s part of a series I did called How I Got My Agent.  I thought I’d take out the “good bits” from Part 1, and share them with you here.

Much like in the How to Write a 1-page Synopsis, I’ve drawn up a “worksheet” that you can use to format and write your novel’s query letter.

And if you’re interested in reading about WHY my query worked from my agent’s point of view, you can read about it on the NCLit blog.


The Query

I started querying on October 6, 2010.  But before that, I spent a loooooooong time honing my query letter.  Like, I took workshops, read books, and got feedback until my eyes bled.

But it all paid off!  Out of the 12 agents I queried, 9 requested a full or partial manuscript.  WEEEEE, right?  (Note: part of my success rate has to do with my research, but I’ll talk about that in Part 2: The Prep.  Nonetheless, a good chunk of my success was thanks to my kick-booty query.)

The thing about query letters is that there is a general standard for what should be in a query and how it should be presented. Above all else, you must include a summary of your book — you must show your book’s plot. Next, you need to keep the query professional.  This is a business letter — remember that!

A few other rules to keep in mind:

  1. Be brief, be brief, be brief! Your goal is to snag the agent’s attention immediately and only share enough information so they want to read more.  Keep the story summary under 250 words.
  2. Do not tell the ending! The purpose of a query is to show an editor/agent that you can tell a story from beginning to end, but you want to leave the end unknown. This is much like the back of book – you want to sell your story and entice them to read more.
  3. You must lay out,
    1. the MC’s goal,
    2. why the MC is choosing to act,
    3. what’s at stake if the MC fails.

The Parts of a Good Query

Below, I have written out the building blocks of a strong query letter.  I’ve filled the formula in with my own query, and I hope you find it useful!

Opening lines — Why are you contacting this agent/editor? What is the title, genre, and word count of your novel?

(I’ll get into this more tomorrow and explain why I suggest starting here.)

I read in an interview that you seek strong female leads as well as steampunk.  As such, I thought you might enjoy my 90,000 word young adult novel, THE SPIRIT-HUNTERS.

Hook — What is a one sentence zinger that introduces the MC, sets up the stakes, and is (most importantly) concise?

After her brother is kidnapped, Eleanor Fitt – a sixteen-year-old with a weakness for buttered toast and Shakespeare quotes – must leave the confines of corsets and courtesy to get him back.

Summary Paragraph 1 — Briefly describe the ordinary life of the MC. Follow this with the inciting incident and why the MC must pursue it (i.e. what is at stake?).

It’s 1876, and Philadelphia is hosting the first American World Fair, the Centennial Exhibition.  It’s also hosting rancid corpses that refuse to stay dead.  When one of those decomposing bodies brings Eleanor a hostage note for her brother, she resolves to do anything to rescue him. But to face the armies of Dead that have him, she’ll need a little help from the Spirit-Hunters.

Summary Paragraphs 2 & 3 — List/show in 2-3 sentences what the MC must do to solve the problem before him/her. What choices must he/she make? Be sure to end these  paragraph with a sentence explaining what will happen if he/she fails.  You want to leave the agent with a perfectly clear idea of why this story matters.

The Spirit-Hunters, a three-man team hired to protect the Exhibition, have a single goal: return the Dead to their graves. Yet, what began as a handful of shambling bodies has escalated beyond the team’s abilities, and time is running out. Whoever rules the Dead is losing control, and when the leash finally snaps, Philadelphia will be overrun with ravenous corpses.

Now Eleanor must battle the walking Dead and deal with her growing attraction to the team’s inventor, Daniel, an exasperating but gorgeous ex-con. From the steampunk lab of the Spirit-Hunters to the grand halls of the Exhibition, Eleanor must follow the clues – and the bodies – to find her brother and stop the Dead before it’s too late.

Conclusion — List your qualifications as a writer (societies, publications) in one sentence. If you can, try to find 2 works similar to your own (this shows the agent what audience you believe will read your novel).  Then thank the agent for his/her time.  Sign off.

Though the novel has been written as a trilogy, it can stand alone.  I believe it will appeal to fans of Libba Bray’s GEMMA DOYLE trilogy or Cassandra Clare’s CLOCKWORK ANGEL.  I’m an active member of RWA, SCBWI, the Online Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop, and YALitChat.  I live in Germany and am working full-time on my next YA novels.  You can learn more about me at http://susandennard.com.

So there you have it: a simple way to start building your query.  Again, I hope you can use it.  Be sure to read Part 2: The Prep — or all the preparations needed prior to actually mailing your queries.

BOTTOM LINE: A good query can do wonders and instantly pull you to the surface of the slush!

Do you have any tips to share?


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped by Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her debut, The Spirit-Hunters, will be available from Harper Children’s in 2012. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

3 Things to Do While Querying

28 Dec

How many of you guys out there are querying or planning to query soon? It’s an interesting process to say the least—full of ups and down and random jerks sideways (just to keep you on your toes, you know).

There’s checking your email fifty times a day, squealing every time an agent responds and going into a) an Omg-I’m-SO-excited dance or b) a Whaat?-but-but-but… pout fest depending on the contents of the email. There’s the memorization of the mailman’s delivery times, if you’re one of those who send queries by snail mail. And there’s lots and lots of query-stress venting to writer friends who smile and try to be encouraging and tell you to CALM DOWN, you just sent that full three days ago, of course Agent Awesomesauce hasn’t read it yet.

But mostly, there’s just a lot of waiting. A looott of waiting. Days and days and weeks and weeks of waiting…kind of like how you’re waiting now for me to stop blabbering and get to the point of this article.

…which is: (ahem) Three Things to Do When Querying.

Number 1: Sleep on everything.

No, not literally. I know at least one of you out there had a Huh? moment. I’m not recommending you develop a sudden habit of conking out on department store bed displays or subway benches.

What I mean is, don’t make any hasty decisions. Wrote a batch of queries today? Resist the urge to send them all off immediately. Sleep on it, then re-read them the next morning with a fresh mind and see if there are any grammar/spelling mistakes. Make sure you’re addressing the right person, too. That always helps with the whole Make a Good Impression thing.

The same goes for any substantial reply you make to an agent. A few hours usually won’t hurt anything, and it’ll help keep you from regretting hastily penned responses. At the very least, wait fifteen minutes or something. I don’t know about you, but anything I write tends to be more coherent and rational if I’ve had sixty minutes to ponder it, versus one.

Number 2: Research some more agents

This will keep you busy and help dull the insatiable appetite you’ve probably developed for all things publishing related. Use Querytracker and AgentQuery until you can navigate them with your eyes closed. Follow #askagent and #askintern and #queries on Twitter.

Find an agent who sounds great for your book? Read any interviews they’ve done. Check out their agency’s website. See if they tweet or have a blog. Research, research, research. Then craft a query to suit their interests—while remaining true to your story, of course.

Number 3: Work on your next book

You’re going to need one. I don’t remember who said this, or even the exact words he said, but it rings true to me: “I want to be a writer, not someone who has written a book.” Okay, so we can argue all day long about who gets to be called a “writer,” but that’s not the point. The point is, keep writing! If you find Mr./Ms. Perfect Agent and get signed, then yay! you’re ahead of the game for book number two! If, for whatever reason, your current book fails to attract any offers, well, you’ve got another project in the works.

Any other tips from those of you querying? If you haven’t started yet, what are your thoughts/apprehensions about the matter?

And finally, good luck to all!


Kat Zhang is a Spoken Word poet and a Creative Writing major. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen and spends most of her free time whipping HYBRID–a book about a girl with two souls–into shape for submission to publishers. You can read more about her writing process and books at her blog.


When multiple agents make an offer

29 Nov

by Susan Dennard


Goofy and I are back to wrap up our last post: When an agent requests your manuscript.  So please, put on your imagination caps (or Disney caps — whatever), and imagine the snide voice-over yet again!

Also, if you want to see how I (Susan, not snide narrator) actually handled the Great Agent Hunt — from query prep, to querying, to offers, to choosing — I’m talking about it this week on my blog. 🙂

Now onwards!


I gart too many choices...

Agents!  Everyone wants one, but no one can seem to find them.  More elusive than a bird-of-paradise, and even easier to scare off for good.  Demand far outweighs supply.

Except when it doesn’t.

More and more often these days, when a writer gets an offer, they wind up with several offers.  >1 agent wants to get their hands on the manuscript because it’s a darn good story, it’s well-written, and it’s highly commercial.

So what do you do in this situation?  How the heck do you choose just one?

First Things First

First, make sure that you have notified all other agents in possession of the manuscript and given them a response-deadline (see When an agent requests your manuscript to learn how).

Second, DO NOT REFUSE ANYONE before the time is up OR before all agents have responded.  You may, of course, make a decision, but don’t notify anyone until you’ve reached your deadline or all agents have said yay/nay.  Again, this is described in more depth in When an agent requests your manuscript.

Now onto the Famous Call.

What To Ask During The Call

Be sure to gargle plenty of salt water and practice your phone-voice.  You want to make your best impression, after all.  And also, be sure to avoid phrases like, “Garsh” or “Huh-hyuck.”  These do not give off an impression of intelligence.

Prior to the call, you should prepare a series of questions to give each agent.  Even if you have only one offer, you should do this.  Some important things to consider are:

  • How did you get to be an agent?
  • How many clients do you have now?
  • What professional organizations are you a part of?
  • Do you handle film rights?  Foreign rights?  Audio rights?
  • Are you a hands on agent?  Or do you prefer to leave all that to the writer alone?
  • In what “state” do you think my book is?  In other words, how much editing do feel it still needs?
  • What would be your timeline for submitting?
  • How often do you like to check in with your clients?
  • Do you charge any fees?  And what is your percentage?
  • What would you expect from me as a client?
  • If I sign with you, what will happen next?
  • Can I see a copy of your agency agreement?

The last question is of particular importance.  Try to see a copy of the agreement — most agents will happily comply — so you can be sure it’s a contract you want to sign.

What To Consider Next

I'm not sure this agent fits...

Once you’ve spoken to each agent on the phone, now is the time for you to DECIDE.  If there is no obvious choice — someone with whom you instantly connected and without whom the world would be dreary and gray — then now is the time to compare/contrast.  I suggest weighing pros and cons.

For example, if you want minimal agent feedback, and Agent 1 is hands-on while Agent 2 is hands-off, then Agent 2 has +1 pro and Agent 1 has +1 con.

Some aspects to consider (and that work well as pros/cons):

  • Enthusiasm (for your book, for your career)
  • Agency agreement
  • Experience
  • Hands-on/hands-off
  • Age (perhaps you’d rather work with someone close to your own age)
  • Number of clients
  • Editorial vision for your book
  • Career vision for future books
  • Submission plan for this book
  • Phone conversation (too friendly?  too cold?  not professional enough?)
  • Professional organizations

Tally it up, ponder it, dwell, moan, whatever.  Just be sure to have a decision in time to meet your own deadline!

Oh, you have decided already?  You’ve found The One you want representing you and your novel?  Well, in that case, let’s move to the final phase of this process then.

Saying “No”

Because you’ve chosen, you now have to tell all those other sweet agents “no”.  Email is the best way to do this, but it is no easy task because, to put it simply, rejection sucks.  Face it bravely, dear Writer, and if you like, use this template to help guide your words:

Dear<Agent Name>,

Thank you so much for the time and effort you spent considering me as a client.  I appreciate your enthusiasm, and even more, I appreciate your offer of representation.

After much thought, I’ve decided to decline your offer.  I ended up with several offers and was forced to make a choice.  It was an especially difficult decision because <insert something you really liked about the agent>.  I wish you the best with all your future projects, and thanks again for taking the time to consider me.

Best wishes!


And there you have it, folks.  Don’t forget to notify your chosen agent, of course!  They’ll want to know that you’ve selected them, and they’ll want to draw up the needed paperwork quickly.

Now run around and squee your head off, for it’s definitely something you have earned.  Best of luck in your career, Fearless Writer!


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She is repped Sara Kendall of NCLit, and her manuscript is currently on submission to publishers. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

When an agent requests your manuscript

9 Nov

by Susan Dennard


As I was writing this, I got to thinking of all those awesome Goofy cartoons. You know the ones I mean – where Goofy learns to play baseball or ski or swim, and hilarity ensues… So heads up. Goofy’s gonna learn to navigate agents too…

Oh, and you have to imagine me as that snide voice-over in the cartoons. Very posh, very serious.


Garsh! This is hard.

Writing! The age-old profession for the entertainment of millions. Amongst those brave enough to pursue a writing career, it has been directly linked to premature aging and stubby fingernails.

These days, it seems the internet is saturated with information on researching agents. On querying agents. On handling The Call. Yet, where does one find information on partial or full requests? What does one do when offered representation while other agents still possess the manuscript? Or, what all writers dream about, what does one do if multiple agents offer representation?

Requests for Your Manuscript

Once you get over the initial and inevitable hand-clapping and squealing, try to calm yourself. After all, ::condescending voice deepens:: initial professionalism doth the man…er, dog…er, writer make.

Simply fill out this handy-dandy template, paste a copy of your query letter below it, and then attach the manuscript file to the email.

Dear <Agent Name>,

I was delighted to receive your request for a <full or partial> of <Book Title>. As asked, I have attached the manuscript (in MS Word format) to this email. I have also pasted my query letter below.

Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you.


<Paste Original Query Letter Here>

An Offer While the Manuscript is Still Out

I gart an offer! Huh-hyuck!

Oh happy day! You have received your first offer. What do you do now? There are still 6 (or 16 or perhaps even 60) agents still in possession of your manuscript or query or synopsis.

You have two choices:

1) You may choose the offering agent and instantly – instantly, I repeat – notify the other agents of your decision.

2) You may decide to hold off on acceptance until you have heard back from all the other agents. If you choose to do this, then simply fill out this handy-dandy template and send it to all agents who have not yet rejected you. In the subject of this email, be sure to say: OFFER OF REPRESENTATION for <Book Title>, <Name>.

Dear <Agent Name>,

I would like to inform you that an agent has made offer of representation for my <Genre> novel, <Book Title>. I wish to make a decision regarding this offer within the next <Time Frame>, but I also want to give you a chance to read the <full or partial or query or synopsis or whatever you sent> I sent. If you could please let me know your position with regards to <Book Title> by <Day>, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks so much, and I look forward to hearing from you.


<Paste Original Query Letter Here>

Additionally, be sure you choose a reasonable time for decision making. The standard amount is a week to ten days, but you can do more (if perhaps you contacted a lot of agents) or you can do less (if you want a quick answer).

That said, if you give the other agents a deadline, then you REALLY SHOULD NOT accept any offers before that deadline. By giving the agents a chance to finish your manuscript and decide if they want to make an offer, those agents are effectively clearing off their schedules and prioritizing your manuscript. For you to accept an offer before hearing back from them is considered rude – you have just wasted their time.

Stay Tuned

Oh the complex world of writing! All non-writers wonder why you do it, and all writers wonder how you could ever do anything else.

Goofy and I will return at a later date to walk you through the final question posed: “What does one do if multiple agents offer representation?”

For now, though, Goofy must ice his sore muscles, and I – haughty voice over that I am – must go gargle salt water for my future gigs.


Susan Dennard is a writer, reader, lover of animals, and eater of cookies. She recently signed with Sara Kendall of NCLit. You can learn more about her writing process, crazy life-thoughts, and crippling cookie-addiction on her blog or twitter.

Agent Interview: Naomi Hackenberg

22 Jul

As a blog fiercely dedicated to helping readers understand the inner-workings of the publishing industry, we thought it might be fun to start a new series in which we interviewed literary agents we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some of us are signed, and some have interned with agencies, and we felt that the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through these experiences should be shared with our readership as well. As gatekeepers to the industry, agents play a vital role in the road to publication. Each agent and agency does things differently, so hopefully these interviews will help you all understand what they do a little bit better, and what makes life in this industry so special! And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find an agent who could be the perfect fit for that novel you’re writing!



Introducing Naomi Hackenberg
of the Elaine P. English Literary Agency

Naomi was interviewed by one of the Elaine P. English interns, LTWF contributor Sammy Bina

LTWF: How did you come to work for Elaine P. English?

Naomi: I was moving back to D.C. after grad school and I knew I wanted to get a job in a literary agency; Elaine was simultaneously looking for a new assistant; and the rest, as they say, is history.

LTWF: When did you know you wanted to get into publishing? I know you recently became an agent yourself – how did that happen?

Naomi: When I finished undergrad, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I basically took the first job that came along (which was NOT in the publishing industry). After I worked for a while, I realized that I wanted to be in publishing, so I went to grad school to transition into the industry. While I was in grad school, I had an internship with a literary agency in Chicago. I loved reading query letters and submissions and observing that intersection of the industry–dealing with authors, editors, rights, etc. When I finished the internship, I knew that I wanted to get a job in an agency. I’ve been assisting Elaine with her projects and selling foreign rights for the agency for almost two years.  I’m still doing all that, but it’s been my goal since I came to the agency to represent my own projects as well, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do that.

LTWF: What is it about YA that made you want to represent it? Do you think you’d ever consider representing more than just YA?

Naomi: I think the YA market inspires authors to write with unfettered imagination, and I’m continually impressed by the characters YA authors create; the questions YA authors ask; and the worlds they build.

Although I am only accepting unsolicited queries for YA and MG fiction, I do currently represent authors who write adult, young adult and middle grade fiction, and I anticipate that I’ll continue to expand representation in the future.

LTWF: What about your current clients made you want to sign them?

Naomi: They all have protagonists with whom I fell in love and hooks/ideas/premises that I feel are new/unique to the market, and they are all books that I want, passionately, to sell.

LTWF: Finish this sentence: “I would love to see more…”

Naomi: …funny books, YA mysteries, and dystopian fiction.

LTWF: What’s currently at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Naomi: My To Be Read pile is SO BIG and what’s on top is constantly changing. I’m currently in the middle of SHADE by Jeri Smith-Ready and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson. Other titles that I hope bubble up to the top of the pile soon are: GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray; THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE by Jandy Nelson; THE SINGER’S GUN by Emily St. Mandel; and ANNA KARANENINA by Leo Tolstoy (ok, fine: the latter’s primarily on the top of my To Be Read pile in my dreams–I’m majorly short in my classics reading and I’d like to catch up on it, but it’s hard to get those books to the top of the list).

LTWF: And now, for a non-publishy question! What do you like to do when you’re not being an agent?

Naomi: I love to read (of course), go to Nationals games, and occasionally cook elaborate meals.

Thanks for having me!


You can query Naomi via email at naomi@elaineenglish.com, or find her on twitter!


Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her dystopian romance, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.

Questions to Ask Your Agent

24 May

mmm chaiI’m currently going through the delightful processes of finding an agent, so I thought it was about time plan for the next step: what to do if an agent offers representation. I know that day is probably a long way away, but I also like to be prepared. So, I asked the agented ladies here at LTWF what questions they asked (or wished they had asked) their agents when they got that first call. I did some poking around the internet too, in hopes of discovering some more questions to ask a prospective agent. And boy did I find them all over the place! I wouldn’t have even thought of most of these myself, which is why I’m devoting this whole post to the topic. Finding and accepting the right agent is a major step and not something to jump into lightly, so make sure you know enough to make an informed decision!

I’m not saying you should ask all of the questions I have listed, or only these questions. And I wouldn’t even dream of trying to memorize them. I plan on having a separate word document on my desktop (easy to find for the panicked) that I can read off (because my brain will shut down and I will probably be incoherent/in disbelief).


-How much work do they think your book needs? And what kind of revisions?
-Are they an editorial agent that will be involved in the editing process?
-How involved do they want to be in the process; do they want to see each draft or only final ones?
-Will the manuscript be ready for submissions soon?


-Which houses/editors do they have in mind?
-How long do they give editors before giving them a nudge?
-Do they do big batches or small ones for each round?
-Do they have a game plan for selling your book?

Communication (came up a lot and I can see how it’s crucial for you and your agent to be on the same page)

-What’s their response time, whether for emails, snail mail or calls? (If it takes a while for them to respond it’s good to know in advance so you don’t have to worry that they’ve forgotten you.)
-How often do they get in touch with clients? (Some agents will check in every week, some will only check in when there’s news. If you are a bit nervous starting out, you’ll probably want occasional check ins just to reassure you that your agent remembers you.)
-What’s the best way to contact them?


-Do they want to help you build a carer/brand or do they want to work with you on a book by book basis?
-Do they have a vision for your career? (Do you have your own vision and do these match?)
-Do they represent all the genres that you think you are likely to write in? (For instance, I need someone who does more than children’s/MG if I have a career agent because the other book I’ve written is YA fantasy.)


-Will they explain it to you? All the tiny little details? (If you have questions after reading it)
-Do their answers satisfy your concerns/questions?
-Will they explain the publisher’s contract in all its little details?

The Agent

-Does the agent ‘get’ your book? Do you get the feeling that they understand what you’re trying to do with it?
-Why does the agent want to represent you? Do they love your book? Are they excited?
-What have they sold that’s similar to your work? What have they sold in general and recently?
-How many clients do they have?
-Can you speak with their other clients?

Questions I stole from other sites

Casey McCormick’s incredibly helpful/detailed post on what to ask: http://caseylmccormick.blogspot.com/2010/02/call-or-what-to-ask-literary-agent-when.html

-Will I be working solely with you, or will there be times I’ll work with an associate or assistant? (eg. Do they have the interns do some of the revisions?)
-Are you confident you have enough time and energy to add another client to your roster? If it’s not already full, how many clients do you wish to have on your list eventually?
-What happens if you can’t sell this manuscript?
-What if you don’t like my future projects and ideas?
-Would you still support and represent me if at some point I wrote outside of my current genre?
-Will you keep me updated as rejections and offers come in? Are you willing to share the rejections with me? (If you want to see them)
-What are your commission rates? Are they the standard 15% domestic and 20% foreign/film?
-What is your procedure for processing and disbursing client funds?
-How soon will I receive my share when payments are received? (Typically publishers pay agents and then the agent pays the client)

Rachelle Gardner also has a detailed list: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/05/questions-to-ask-agent.html

-Does the agent charge for mailing? Copies? Faxes? Phone calls? Any other fees?

Ginger Clark’s guest post on Nathan Bransford’s blog gives an agent’s perspective on offering representation and what she thinks clients should do: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2007/10/guest-blog-ginger-clark-on-how-to.html

Check out those links and make your own list! Let what’s important to you guide what you want to ask. Remember to research the agents beforehand so you don’t have to ask them questions they answer on their websites.

And feel free to share any questions I haven’t included!


Jennifer Fitzgerald is the author of Priscilla the Evil along with several short stories and another novel on Fictionpress. She is starting grad school in the fall and until then is spending her time revising, querying agents, and doing some archaeology. You can visit her blog here and follow her on twitter here.

Question of the Week: What Education is Required in Order to Become an Agent? (and then some)

12 Mar

This Question of the Week is actually 2 questions, and comes from cgwriter – who we thought should get an answer ASAP. Since we get a number of questions about how to go about getting a career in the publishing industry, we thought it would be useful to answer this question in regards to becoming an agent with how to become an editor as well. Cristina (cgwriter) asked us these questions (and we hope this helps!):

“1) I am currently an English major, with no minor. I’d like to decide pronto whether I minor in anything or not, seeing as I’m already a sophomore.

My question is, what kind of minor (or classes) should I take if I want to be a literary agent? As in, what kinds of classes will be helpful to me? I was told I need to have a background in law and marketing; is that true?

2) It can be kind of daunting seeing you guys so successful so young. Would you consider yourselves to be the minority? I can’t imagine myself being published, engaged, etc at only 23, yet you guys managed to pull all of that off. It’s inspiring, though!”


1) As a writer, I don’t know much about how to land a job as a literary agent, but I do know other people who have graduated from college as an English major (or History major, or something super random), and the stuff they’ve done AFTER graduation has helped them. Doing an MFA program for creative writing can definitely give you a leg-up. But for a quick-and-dirty thing that’ll give you a bit more of an edge on your competition, check out programs like the Columbia Publishing Course. My friend took the course right after she graduated from college, and it ultimately helped her land a job as an editorial assistant at a major publishing house.

2) There are plenty of young, successful authors out there–but I think everyone (no matter their age) feels that there are people who have become successful far earlier than them. You just have to stop comparing yourself to people–it’ll only make you crazy. My age didn’t play a part in getting my dreams accomplished–I just knew that I wanted to be published, and have spent many years working towards it. If anything, I think that seeing other successful young writers should inspire–not intimidate. It’s all about hard work and dedication. If it’s your dream to be published, then you’ll work for that dream every single day, until it’s accomplished. Age ain’t nothin but a number.


1.       A lot of agents that I know of are English majors. Other majors that might be helpful would be Journalism, Creative Writing, and Business. The most important thing, however, is to take something you enjoy. Having a minor in another subject would be useful (for any position in publishing, really). But again, consider having a minor/second major as icing on the cake. It isn’t REQUIRED, but having more under your belt doesn’t hurt either. If you minored in history, for example, you would have a knowledge base that would allow you to take on historical fiction (not that you NEED a history minor/major for this, but people would certainly respect you more), or non-fiction (here, having the minor/major in history could be important). Decide what books you would want to rep as an agent. If all you’re interested in repping is YA, then perhaps having a History minor isn’t necessary.

I’m going to take this question a step further by looking at editorial jobs, as well. For becoming an editor, being an English major might make things a bit difficult. Here’s why: First, the majority of people going into publishing are (gasp!) English majors. So, there ends up being a CRAZY amount of competition. Having a major (or minor) in another subject can help you get an editorial job in specialized/ niche areas. Have a major in art? You could be THE editor for all the awesome art books. Heck, you could even be the art director at a publishing house. Business major? You’d be a shoe-in as an editor for business self-help books.

I know that while I was doing my undergrad, I had no clue what was needed to get into the industry. I ended up finding a publishing program at Ryerson University for people who have finished their undergrad studies. I also know that at York University in Toronto, there are publishing courses that you can take during your undergrad (although they are normally third or fourth year courses), and they also offer a joint Book and Magazine Publishing certificate course. For anyone interested in Publishing, check all the colleges/universities in your area. They might have a Publishing degree (I know that the Simon Fraser University in British Columbia offers both publishing degrees and certificates, for example). In Toronto, in addition to York U and Ryerson, Centennial College and Humber College also offer Publishing certificates. These courses are invaluable; I can’t even begin to describe just how much I’ve been taught taking these courses. In fact, I think it’s THESE courses that will help. Some places will offer mandatory internships; others will have internship postings you can apply for (which is how it works at Ryerson).

Internships are REALLY key. It’s the way to get your foot in the door, no matter what position you want in the publishing industry. I got my internship through the Publishing program at Ryerson (and it wasn’t easy). Mandy got hers by networking with other agents and agencies; following them on their blogs and on twitter, and by applying once she saw they were looking for interns. Publishing is an industry that requires experience, so the more you have, the better! Look for an internship; it’s your BEST way in. Also, networking is HUGE in this industry. In order to make it as an agent, you need to know editors. Author/book launch parties, any groups you can join (for Canadians – esp. Torontonians – check out the Young Publishers of Canada group for events, or become a member of the BPPA [the Book Publishers’ Professional Association]). For any job in this industry, it’s all about who you know.

As for a background in law and marketing, I don’t think that’s necessary for becoming an agent. If you have that, all the power to you, but everything concerning rights will be taught to you at an agency while you are interning there (and unless you were an editor or some other big-shot in the publishing industry before setting your sights on agenting, you’ll NEED to get an internship). Getting a part-time job at book store as well while taking your undergrad would be useful, but not necessary – but it would show that you have always been passionate about books, and would prove that you know the market.

2.       I’m not sure if I would consider myself successful just yet! I’m certainly not published, nor do I have a real job in the industry just yet – my foot is only halfway through the door! But I like to think that my passion for books is what has helped me land such a great internship. If in a year or two (or three, or four, etc) I see my name on a book, I will probably just die of complete and utter happiness. There are so many people who are younger and even more successful than I am – but that doesn’t mean I am not talented enough to make it! It’s all about looking for those opportunities, and spending hours among hours honing your craft and improving your skills. All I can say is… just keep on pushing – the road to getting ANYWHERE in this industry is pretty daunting; but so long as you’re passionate and keep your head up, you’ll be fine! You just have to put yourself out there – which can be scary, and will most likely result in some people telling you that you’re not good enough – but who cares what they say? You just keep on pushing. And then one day, you’ll be standing on top of the (publishing) world, laughing.

The Writer Writing Her First Book


Everyone’s perspective of success differs. I’m twenty years old and am neither engaged nor published. However, I still consider myself to be successful. Why? I completed a 90,000 word historical romance. I have mustered enough courage to query to agents. Two agents replied to my first batch of query letters and asked for partials. While the first agent later rejected me, the second agent was interested and asked for my full manuscript. I’m still waiting for her to respond. However, whether she offers representation or not does not define my success. Success to me is that I’ve gotten this far in the first place, and that I am enjoying my journey to publication.

-The Writer Who Got a Full Request


So, we were wondering – how many of you also plan on (or are thinking of) pursuing a career in the publishing industry? (Other than becoming a successful author, or course!) If you are, where in publishing do you want to end up?

A Tongue-in-cheek guide to being an agent.

11 Mar

I was going to post something serious today, but I’m not in a serious sort of mood. So instead…. I bring you….

The tongue-in-cheek guide to being both an author and an agent.  As seen on twitter.

1. Make a really nice form rejection. ‘Cause rejections suck.

2. Be nice to the crazies. The crazies are the ones who will get on a message board  (as well as MY blog) and totally bash me.

3. Learn my lesson and turn off anonymous comments to my blog.

4.  Sign some awesomesauce writers.

5. Remind my awesomesauce writers on a near-daily basis that I’m still here. Becuase I remember sometimes wondering if my agent remembered me. Even though she just emailed me yesterday.

6. While my client’s work is on submission, I should just email themn so they don’t wonder if I died in a fiery wreck in a canyon somewhere. Not that there are any canyons around here. But they might wonder.  ‘Cus even though I told them I’d share any news the second I got it, they’ll still think I’m holding back.  And they’ll sit, their fingers poised over the keyboard, wondering if I will be annoyed if they check-in. (I won’t.)

7.  I should never call my clients unexpectedly, especially if something is on submissions. Becuase it will make them hyperventilate and/or sweat profusely. If I MUST call unexpectedly,  and it’s not THE call, I will say so immediately.

8. If their work is rejected (gasp!) I will immediately say such phrases as, “But I still love you!” and “damn it we are not giving up that easily! We’ll show them!”

9. I will send a questionnaire to all of my new authors with the following question: If you receive a rejection,  how would you like it soothed? A) Chocolate.  B) Wine C) Wine? Screw that, give me the hard stuff D) Joke about busting some kneecaps. Unless the editor was mean. Then maybe we’ll really…. no, no, we’ll just imagine it.




Agent, D4EO Literary