Agent Advice: John Ware of John A. Ware Literary Agency

UPDATE: John Ware passed away in 2013. Do not query him.


“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent John Ware of John A. Ware Literary Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features literary agent John Ware of John A. Ware Literary in Manhattan. He has an AB in philosophy from Cornell, and did some graduate work in English and American Literature at Northwestern, Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course. John was an editor at Doubleday for eight years, (during which time he taught the industry-wide editorial course at NYU), then spent a year as an agent with James Brown Associates/Curtis Brown, Ltd.

How to contact & submissions: To query him, send a snail mail query with a SASE to 392 Central Park W., New York, NY 10025. Fiction wants: detective, police, crime, mystery, suspense and thriller. Nonfiction wants: biography, current affairs, health, history, language, music, nature, pop culture, psychology, science, sports, true crime, women’s and investigative journalism.


GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?

JW: Some of my recent sales include Jon Krakauer’s Untitled on Afghanistan to Doubleday, and Jennifer Niven’s High School to Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

GLA: You represent a lot of nonfiction, which means you look for authors with platforms. Let’s say a university professor queries you, and this professor is an acknowledged expert in his field. However, he doesn’t speak at conferences or have media contacts. Is his expertise enough? Or does he need a bigger platform before you consider him?

JW: I would take this professor on in a minute. If he’s the acknowledged authority on his subject, the publisher’s publicity aces can “build” him a platform.

GLA: What is the most common mistake you see in a nonfiction book proposal?

JW: I guess the most common mistake would be authors repeating material in the sample chapter pages already covered (sometimes verbatim) in the proposal’s overview or chapter summaries.

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GLA: Your fiction interests lean toward genres such as crime, suspense and thriller. What separates a good manuscript in these subjects from the many bad ones? What, for you, helps a query or story stand out?

JW: A “good” one would be so identified by my not being able to stop turning the pages! And, sure, it’s the writing itself that makes any query or story stand out.

GLA: If you read a fiction manuscript that contains brilliant writing, but is very similar in premise and plot to something else big on the market, would you take it on?

JW: Probably not, if it were that similar, but I sure would be tempted by the quality of the writing.

GLA: What’s your best piece of advice?

JW: My best piece of advice would be this: Work hard at your craft to make your work just as good as it can be. Then, with, the comfort that you’ve done this, you can approach agents with real confidence.

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