57. Publishing 101 REDUX: Querying & Representation
This week Kelly and JJ revisit an old topic: Querying & Representation! It's been over a year since we last discussed this topic, so we decided to give it another go. Plus, Kelly has news that is highly relevant to this week's episode. ;-)
The last time we discussed Querying & Representation!
What agents are looking for in a query:
CLARITY. We talk a lot about clarity on this podcast, but what it is impossible to oversell the importance of being able to write clearly and concisely: to give a good picture of what the stakes are.
Also: FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. Read submission guidelines. Tailor the query to the agent. You wouldn't believe how many people fail to do even this.
What makes agents decide to offer representation:
First and foremost, the agent must have a personal connection with your work. It's hard to advocate for and sell a project if you don't have strong feelings on it.
But business absolutely does play into the decision. Does the agent see a place in the market for your work? Do they know who they can pitch/sell the work to? If not, no matter how much they love it, they may have to pass.
After an agent makes an offer of representation:
They would make an formal offer along with an agency agreement.
Most agents are fairly editorial nowadays, mostly because the market is much more competitive than it used to be. The agent will generally work with you to make your draft as strong as it can be before sending it out on submission.
What is the use of an agent editing a work before it goes on submission? Books are acquired by committee, so the work needs to be as strong as possible in order to get the approval of the most amount of people at acquisitions board.
How an agent decides who to submit your work to:
Some agents have a "shotgun" approach, but most agents tailor their submissions. A large part of the business is cultivating relationships with acquiring editors, figuring out their tastes, knowing what sorts of books they like to read and what books the house publishes well.
How an agent helps you make the best decision when it comes to accepting an offer of publication:
Getting the editor and author together on the phone is probably the most important—chemistry is very important.
Note: the most money doesn't necessarily mean the best deal. If the most money means they want you to change something fundamental about your book, it's probably not the best fit.
Also: a lot of money = a lot of pressure to perform to expectations. If your book does not perform to expectations, it may make it more difficult to sell another project.
Why an agent and author would decide to part ways:
The two of you no longer see eye-to-eye as to where your career is headed.
The "romance" has fizzled.
An agent-author relationship is like any other relationship, sometimes it just comes to an end.
The agent might decide to move to a different agency and the client doesn't want to come with
Reasons an agent MIGHT decide to fire a client:
If an author's behavior was harmful or detrimental to other people or would otherwise reflect poorly on the agent.
If the author goes behind the agent's back, i.e. "cheats" on their agent with another—this is an absolute ethical no-no.
Reasons an author might decide to fire an agent:
If the agent is unable to sell their work.
If the agent appears to lose interest in their work or is otherwise uncommunicative.
What We're Working On
JJ is working on book 2. Moving on.
Kelly is a literary agent now! What she's looking for:
Middle grade, young adult, and women's fiction across all genres.
Work by marginalized authors (especially #ownvoices)
Read her guidelines and query her if you have something you think might be a good fit!
Books Discussed/What We're Reading
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken**
Windwitch by Susan Dennard**
I'm Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi
Off Menu Recommendations
** PubCrawl alumna
That's all with this week! Next week we'll be continuing with our Publishing 101 REDUX series with SUBMISSIONS! As always, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, or reach out to us on Twitter with the hashtag #askpubcrawl.