My Agent Lucy Carson Weighs In On the Market, Queries, and Sasquatch!
My rock-star agent Lucy Carson was so kind as to humor me and answer some questions I asked for the blog. These are things I’d want to know if I were an aspiring writer, and especially if I intended on querying Lucy (again).
Note: If you decide after reading this that you want to query her, make sure you send your query to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the word QUERY and your genre in the subject line, mkay? 🙂
So, here goes:
I’m truly tired of “disaster fiction”, especially of a climate change variety. Agents and editors have been turned off by dystopian for a at least a year now, but it feels like the latest thing is for savvy writers (who know that “dystopian” is a dirty word) to present a scenario in which climate change has isolated part of the population, or a specific city, rather than destroying the world as we know it. It has tons of overlap with dystopian fiction, distinguished only by a technicality. I would like to see more YA that plays with form (incorporating creative elements into the prose) or better yet with formula: take those tropes and turn them on their heads! As long as the story itself is compelling, with depth and characters I fall in love with, I welcome rule-breakers!
My number one pet peeve is the “consumer” approach to querying. You sent out ten letters to ten agents a month ago and several of them asked for your manuscript. Now you decide to query a new round of other agents. A new agent replies within hours, which should really put her at an advantage in reading quickly and aggressively, but 2 days later you have an offer of representation. Why? Because other agents have had this for weeks! Meanwhile, you’ll give new agent until Monday to make her decision. THERE IS SO MUCH WRONG WITH THIS. We agents don’t get paid read your manuscript, and we don’t read in the office—that’s when we take care of clients and actual business items. If we make time to read your work, it means that we said NO to reading the 300 other manuscripts that were pitched to us that week, and we turned down friends and family members to dive into your work. And now you’ll “give us” a few days to compete with your first choice agents? Nope. Don’t do this. It’s bad karma and just plain disrespectful.
I know it’s so hard for a writer to find the balance, but if you can manage to show me who YOU are while simultaneously pitching your book, it stands out to me immediately. Some folks will see this advice and then draft a query letter that tries too hard to make jokes along the way, so let me clarify: it’s not about humor necessarily, unless that is an authentic part of you and your writing. Mainly, it’s the balance of professionalism (have you spelled all names correctly, and done your research?), persuasion (can you get me excited to read your work without an all-out brag fest?) and humanity (beyond the work and the beyond your credentials, what kind of a person are you?). Again, these are not items to be explicitly stated in the query, but there are ways to demonstrate (i.e. show don’t tell!).
The personal approach to querying is always the best. A lot of agents don’t honestly have time to read every letter, but believe me, they will find it very difficult NOT to if you approach them with knowledge of who their clients are, what elements you’ve seen them respond to in the books they represent, and any other tidbits you can weave into your introduction of the project!