Agent Elaine Spencer Talks Queries

Agent Elaine Spencer of The Knight Agency talked queries at the 2009 South Carolina Writers Workshop. Here is what she had to say:


  • She likes you to explain the resolution of the story in the query – meaning you say how the story ends. (This is not typical, but important if you are contacting her.)
  • In queries, skip jargon that will confuse. For example, when writing a fantasy or sci-fi story, lay off species and world-building.
  • Avoid cast lists in queries.
  • Specifically, with the “historical romance” she seeks, she is looking for more good work – particularly Victorian era stuff, Edwardian era stuff and Regency.

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  • Give the title, genre and word count upfront.
  • If you have a reason you chose her (e.g., you met her at a conference or read an interview with her), say so.
  • When you pitch, get to your protagonist as quickly as possible, and tell us what makes them special or different.
  • After introducing the protagonist, introduce the conflict or complication or trouble (the “hook”).
  • In the last paragraph, feel free to mention awards or organizations or blogs. This info will not hurt you; it may or may help you.


  • Her agency receives 50,000 queries a year and 80 percent are not appropriate submissions for their agency.
  • Make sure you are querying an agent who reps what you write. 
  • Read cover copy of similar books in the bookstore to help shape your pitch.
  • Don’t write to her after a rejection and tell her she’s an idiot and will be sorry when you’re a famous writer.
  • Network at conferences!

Elaine Spencer joined The Knight Agency in September, 2005. Elaine belongs to the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). She is actively building her client list, and is currently accepting submissions of the following types of books: commercial literary fiction, women’s fiction, contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, high-concept paranormal fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, and select pop-cultural nonfiction.


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One thought on “Agent Elaine Spencer Talks Queries

  1. Anne

    I was also at this lecture and found her cautions about electronic submissions, which she prefers, helpful. She said to do a "test run" with your submission before sending it out. E-mail it to yourself or a friend and make sure that it comes across looking like you meant it to look with no strange characters or errors. Then, reply to that e-mail and make sure it comes back to your original account. Also, put all the agents and editors you are querying in your address book so that they don’t get blocked by your spam blocker, which happens frequently.

    Thanks, Chuck, for putting up this information. If I get some of my notes from the other sessions typed up and you are interested I may send them to you.


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