Last night I attended An Evening with Literary Agents, part of Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s Pen on Fire Speaker Series held at the Scape Gallery in Corona del Mar. The sold-out event was an intimate gathering of Orange County writers and literary agents Jamie Weiss Chilton (fiction for children and young adults), Sally van Haitsma (commercial and literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, pop culture, education, business, and current affairs), and Jill Marr (women’s, multi-cultural, and historic fiction; mysteries; thrillers; and nonfiction).
Attendees had the opportunity to submit a one-page query letter for a book project or the first page from their novel or memoir in advance of the event. Twelve submissions were selected randomly for the agents to read and provide the audience with their initial reactions. I took copious notes, with special attention given to Ms. Chilton’s recommendations and advice for young adult query letters and novels. Some of the query guidelines shared below are widely known; however, hearing how an agent interprets and processes a letter from the onset of reading it was fascinating.
~ Address agent by name in the query letter and know his or her market.
~ Be detailed with the story idea. Do not be vague or coy about the hook; reveal it in the letter.
~ Know what you are pitching and into what genre it fits.
~ Demonstrate knowledge of and proficiency in the craft of writing.
~ Include biographical information about yourself as the author and your writing life; list all relevant education and recognition for previous work, even finalist recognition.
~ Do not solicit an agent if you are still revising the project; they are not interested in drafts.
~ While details about the story idea and pay-off are crucial to getting an agent’s attention, too many facts and details about the story are unnecessary.
~ Don’t feel the need to state that you are querying the agent exclusively. It’s neither practical nor expected.
~ Indicate in the letter that you have done your research and read all the books available that are similar to yours. Explain how yours compares with what has already been written on the same subject.
For more information about query letters, visit www.queryshark.blogspot.com or click on the link under Resources for Writers in the Archetype sidebar. The July/August edition of Poets & Writers also includes an exceptional article on the role of the literary agent. To read it, click on the link below.
Jamie Weiss Chilton
Read Full Post »