Articles Tagged with #querytip

Mary C. MooreSeptember 11, 2023

One of my favorite independent publishers is hosting an auction. Levine Querido is doing amazing work in the kidlit publishing space, so I’m happy to support them with a donation of two query letter + five page critique. To bid on one of my critiques click here! (If I have already reviewed a submission of yours, you can still bid.)

Or check out the rest of their amazing offerings at the auction here.

Skimming vs Deep Reading Submissions

I quietly opened to queries ten days ago for the first time in over two years. I was closed for so long mainly because my clients were turning in multiple manuscripts regularly. It was averaging 30 manuscripts a year, which meant there was no time nor room in my head for deep-reading fulls in my submission pile. And the idea of opening up to queries was daunting, I’d been hearing from others how there’s been a surge in submissions since lockdown. But a few things aligned that pushed me forward. Most important, I caught up with my clients. On top of that my baby is now posed to enter toddlerhood, so the newborn days are a foggy memory. And lastly we revamped the website at the agency (check out the new Kimberley Cameron & Associates site, it is lovely, professional, and friendly in my totally biased opinion).

My cat Rainbow has a sixth sense for when I’m reading on my tablet.

Once I made the decision to seek new clients, I realized I was ready, keen even, to read subs. When over a hundred submissions rolled in that first weekend, I was surprised, but not overwhelmed, jumping in late at night, as the baby slept curled against me. I tweaked my submission form a few days later to find the quickest way to work through them thoughtfully, and plowed on in the odd hour I could find here or there. I skimmed through some fantastic pitches and lovely samples, all of them had potential, but only a few I set aside for further consideration. This is the easy part, the scanning, skimming, flicking through text. If this was all there was to it, writers would never have to wait long for a response.

But of course that’s not how it works. Many of you probably have partials or fulls that have been with an agent for months, even a year. Sure enough, five hundred submissions later, I’m slowing down. The maybe pile is growing. As eager as I am to find a new client or two, I’m not going to rush this part. Although I can enjoy a quick read, see potential in a few sentences, I’ve learned from experience that I have to truly sit with and deeply read a manuscript in order to absorb it, to have an editorial vision for it, to know if the connection I feel will be enough to champion it through the ups and downs. And that is a must before I take on that manuscript for representation. To find that vision, I have to be in that “Deep Reading” space. There’s a fantastic interview by Ezra Klein with literary scholar Maryanne Wolf on the difference between scanning and deep reading.

Both methods are valid, and indeed necessary when I’m considering submissions, but a deep read is the final step before I would offer representation, and it’s the most difficult to achieve. The research done by Wolf and others of the neuroscience behind the different ways we absorb information, is fascinating and enlightening and helped me further define how I want to work. It has also meant clarifying something I had already sensed, that I was going to take longer than ever to read and consider fulls for representation. But I have to be okay with that, and I hope after reading this, writers will choose to query me (or not) with this deeper understanding of my process.

Writer’s Digest Bootcamp is Back!

After a long hiatus, the agents of Kimberley Cameron & Associates are once again teaching a Writer’s Digest course. Sign up and you get to join an online forum where you have four hours over two days to ask me anything about publishing. I will be there in real time, and there are no stupid questions.

After the forum, I will critique your query letter and first ten pages (this does not count as a submission, it’s for you to improve your work, you can always submit to me officially at a later date after you’ve incorporated the feedback).

Even if you are not ready to query, you are welcome to join us and to get feedback on your rough draft.

Enroll here: https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/courses/agent-one-on-one-how-to-craft-query-letters-other-submission-materials-that-get-noticed-boot-camp

*Note, although you will have access to all the KC&A discussions, whichever agent you are assigned to will be the one answering your questions on the forum and critiquing your work, so if you are looking to connect with one of us specifically, make sure you let WD know.

Agents Query Too

One of the most important and also hardest aspects of my job is getting a project past the publishers’ editorial front line. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the process: once an agent has sent a manuscript to editors, said editors will read and consider whether or not they want to take the ms to acquisitions. That means the editor has to be passionate about it enough to get their team to read it fairly quickly (all of whom are swamped with their own tbr pile), draft a profit and loss statement, convince a room full of people that the ms is worth investing in. Basically stake their reputation on it.

This excruciating process can take weeks, and it is a lot of time and energy away from current work (not taking into consideration the project going to auction). So an editor can like a project–they mostly do like the client work that I send, as I work hard to maintain a standard and appeal to individual tastes–but simply liking a project isn’t enough. So I have to do everything in my power to get them excited before they read it, which means creating a letter that indicates why they are a great fit for the project, and one that includes a powerful pitch, current successful comparative titles, and a clear author bio. Sometimes I will pitch in person or on the phone, but the power points remain the same. Sound familiar?

If it works then they go in primed to love the manuscript. Which gives it the best possible chance to make it past the front line. And ideally go further–then the editor will use those same power points when lobbying your manuscript to marketing, financial, the publisher itself. And those points will be part of the final decision, i.e. if you are going to be made an offer.

So remember, that’s the end game. Your query is not just a way of introducing yourself to an agent, but to show how your manuscript can be positioned positively in the market and that it has potential to sell. You’re clearing the road blocks, so the decision gets down to the writing itself.

Don’t be intimidated by this, we don’t expect new authors to navigate the market with years of experience and execute the perfect query letter (that is why you’re looking for a literary agent after all), but at least understanding why these concepts are important can only benefit you on your road toward publication.

And even if you do pull off everything perfectly, you will probably still get rejected. It’s incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking, but you’re not alone, and we feel it too. Every agent has a few of those projects that they’ve never forgotten and were stumped as to why they didn’t sell.

But you can and will navigate the process with more confidence and knowledge and eventually there will be a project that will get that yes.

A Day In The Life of a Literary Agent (Or The Reason They Haven’t Read Your Submission Yet)

Beginning of day. The sun is up, kid is dropped off at school. Time for work.

The plan:

  • Answer emails.
  • Finish reading the last quarter of a client’s latest manuscript, it’s so good, but have some feedback before it goes out to editors.
  • Take another look at that intriguing submission in the inbox.

What actually happened:

  • The final version of that major contract that has been under negotiations for months lands. It needs a last pass before the author can sign it.
  • The first version of an audio contract for another project comes in. Needs to be looked over.
  • An editor expresses interest in a submission. It’s too early to tell, but must nudge everyone else who has it!
  • The cover of a different project has been finalized. It’s super beautiful and there’s all kinds of buzz. Time to alert the subagents and pitch it to audio!
  • A revise and resubmit from a year ago drops into the inbox. And it’s already got 3 other agents reading the full! Read a few chapters, it’s really really good and lands the wishlist. Shit.
  • An audio offer comes in already from the finalized cover project. Inform the client of the happy news and negotiate the deal memo.
  • A client is having a meltdown, need to talk to them asap.
  • Foreign rights sub-agent is asking about the book sales.
  • Did I have coffee yet?
  • An editor responds to a submission. It’s a rejection. Ugh. Have to tell the client.
  • Another editor requests a different submission. Exciting!
  • Another client sends their final manuscript. It’s ready to go out on submission. Have to develop the pitch.
  • Really need to finish the final quarter of that other client’s manuscript and write up my feedback.

End of day. Picked up kid from school, sun is down, still working through emails.

Wait, I was going to read that submission…


Personalizing The Query: How Much Is Too Much?

With the wealth of query tips, agent advice, and submission guidelines out there, you’ve probably honed your query to the finest point. You’ve had it proofread and polished. Maybe this isn’t even your first go, maybe this is the third or fourth time you’ve drafted a query letter. You’ve researched literary agencies extensively. At this point you’re not worried about the basics, you know what you’re doing.

But the finer points still nag you. Like do you include that short story that was published six years ago? Or do you put the comp titles at the beginning or the end? And, the question that seems to come up again and again, agent personalization, how much is too much?

(For those of you new to the query trenches: Agent personalization means that you have researched said agent before querying them, and you indicate this in the query.)

In this current age of social media, it’s hard to know where the line is. Agent X is always posting pictures of her beloved cat, and you also love cats, so why not mention Mr. Whiskers? But then Agent Y is tweeting about that creepy vibe he got from the author who mentioned his dog’s name. Did you say too much? (Probably yes you did.)

To prevent yourself from getting into the creepster zone, remember this. Literary agents have online personas. We want authors to find us, to know about us AS LITERARY AGENTS. So if Agent X is posting pictures of her cat on her public agent profile, and engaging with authors about her pet, and your book happens to be about cats, then by all means, mention Mr. Whiskers. (For example, I make my love of Doctor Who widely known, because I would love to find a project that has a similar vibe.)

But if Agent Y posted pictures of his dog on his personal page, even if it’s “public” better to leave it alone. Because although we agents understand that some authors will go to extensive lengths to research us, we do have personal boundaries and want them respected. Agent Y may be a more private person than Agent X, and if you can’t find any information about him other than what genres he represents, that’s okay. All you need to personalize his query is:

“As you represent [genre], I think you will be interested in my 75k [same genre] novel entitled XXX.”

That’s it. You’ve personalized the letter. Far more than average actually.

Pssst. This personalization will work for Agent X as well.

Query Boot Camp Is Back

Kimberley Cameron & Associates is hosting another Query Boot Camp via Writer’s Digest January 15-18. Get four hours of online time with me or one of our other agents to ask ANY questions you might have about publishing and writing*. Maybe you want to know if dragons make good romantic heroes, or what is the average word count for middle grade, or why you shouldn’t start your novel with the character staring in the mirror even if they’re a zombie. Or perhaps you want a peek behind the curtain on the daily work life of an agent, do we really cackle loudly as we throw queries in the trash and eat unsuspecting new authors for breakfast? I promise an honest and fun forum! There’s an added bonus of a query and sample critique after the course is over. It doesn’t matter if you are ready to query or just putting the first words of your novel down. Click the image below to enroll. Sign up soon as spots fill up!

*If you’re writing nonfiction I recommend requesting to join Elizabeth Kracht’s group as the rest of us don’t represent nonfiction.