For our “Now What?” months, we wanted to be sure to get the perspectives of some very elusive publishing types: agents. Who are these mysterious creatures, and what are they looking for in your books? We recently held a chat on Twitter with the awesome folks of New Leaf Literary—Joanna Volpe, Kathleen Ortiz, and Suzie Townsend—about queries, publishing, and their best author advice for 2013:
What are your tips for a great author query?
“Get someone who hasn’t read your manuscript to read your query and give feedback. They should be intrigued and want to read more.” – Suzie (@sztownsend81)
“I love to see a good hook. What makes your story different from others? What makes it awesome? Like, super-awesome? Hook me in and get me to the sample pages. Query goal = accomplished.” – Kathleen (@KOrtizzle)
“In queries, I want to know the main character and the main plotline without anything weighing it down or confusing me. With queries, concise, well-edited, and professional is always best.” – Suzie
What are some of your query pet peeves?
“When your bio is longer than your pitch. You’d be surprised how many authors include too much about themselves or why the book is good. Just tell me what the story is!” – Joanna (@JoSVolpe)
“I can’t stand when a query asks me a lot of rhetorical questions or tells me to imagine something.” – Suzie (@sztownsend81)
“Being creepy. Don’t comment on agents’ pictures or say you know where they live.” – Suzie (Apparently, this happens more often than you’d think! – Ed.)
Should writers pay attention to genre trends?
“Don’t write for a trend. If you hear it’s popular now, it’s saturated on our end. Books are bought 12-24 months before pub. Write what you love. Make it different. And awesome.” – Kathleen (@KOrtizzle)
“I think it’s good for writers to be aware of trends, but I also think you have to write what you love.” – Suzie
“Genre trends do not matter. Write the story you are burning to write, edit it, love it—that’s all that matters to me.” – Joanna
In this day and age, why go with an agent vs. self-publishing?
“The thing to think about with self-publishing: are you going to market and publicize and get your book out there?” – Suzie
“Every writer is different. Some have no interest in handling the business behind their publishing. They just want to write. Some authors want to be more involved, so DIY works for them. Whatever route, an agent does more than just sell a book. We edit, coordinate publicity, advise, plan, and sell sub-rights.” – Joanna
“I don’t think it’s agent vs. self-publishing. I think the question should be more what is right for the author and the project: self-publishing, small press, traditional house, etc.” – Suzie
What is your favorite part of being an agent?
“My favorite part of being an agent is finding a new project in the slush that I love. And then selling that project, too!” – Joanna
“I love being able to work with so many writers and helping them turn a manuscript into a book. Holding the finished copy in my hands is so awesome.” – Suzie
“I also love looking to the future. How do we promote the upcoming book? How do we reach more readers? What’s next?” – Kathleen
What is your #1 piece of advice for a writer in 2013?
“Be willing to adapt.” – Joanna
“Do your research: not just about writing and craft, but also about publishing” – Suzie
“Write the best story possible, keep yourself informed on the industry, and have fun.” – Kathleen
Kathleen is the Director of Subsidiary Rights at New Leaf. She is interested in all genres of YA but is especially interested in a story set within another culture. On the adult side, she’s seeking romance titles, specifically urban fantasy and paranormal.
Suzie represents adult and children’s fiction. In adult, she’s looking for romance (historical and paranormal), and fantasy (urban fantasy, steampunk, epic fantasy). In Childrens’, she loves YA and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects.
Joanna represents all brands of fiction, from picture books to adult. She has an affinity for stories that have a darker, grittier element to them, whether they be horror, drama or comedy.