Literary Agent Interview: Claire Draper, InkWell Management

Claire Draper is a new literary agent at InkWell Management. She’s studied Queer Diversity in Children’s Literature at New York University. Before becoming an agent, she interned at Rare Bird Lit, InkWell Management and the Children’s Book Council. This Southern California native now lives in Brooklyn. She enjoys young adult fiction, graphic novels and the latest collection of feminist essays. She is seeking diverse novels with strong LGBTQIA representation.

How did you become an agent?

I’ve wanted to be a part of books for years, so my intention with going to college was to eventually be a part of publishing. I interned at InkWell Management while studying Diversity in Children’s Literature at NYU, and ended up loving InkWell so much that when it was time join publishing long term, I came back to the place that had taught me so much. Then, I signed my first client a little over a year later from a #PitMad entry, and officially became an agent.

What’s something you’ve sold that comes out now/soon that you’re excited about?

Being as new to agent-ing as I am, I haven’t sold anything yet, but my clients have some projects in the pipeline that I can’t wait for the world to see.

Are you open for submissions? If so help writers understand what kind of fiction and nonfiction projects you take queries for.

I am open to submissions! Ultimately, I am really looking for authors who are diverse with stories that are as dynamic as the world we live in. No matter the genre (sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, romance), we need more YA and graphic novels that tell stories we haven’t heard with voices that have been pushed aside. I want more stories where a main character is coping with their mental health and in addition to having an adventurous storyline. Just tell me a story I haven’t heard before from a point-of-view I haven’t heard it from. On the nonfiction side, the same thing goes, but I am more specifically looking for feminist memoirs/essay collections. And I am also a sucker for poetry.

Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting?

I always have more interest when it’s a good opening. Tell me you’ve done your research by opening with how you found me and why I stuck out to you as someone worth querying. And ultimately, I am looking for more queer stories and more mental health stories. Those to me are a big part of my life, and I really want to read more manuscripts with characters that have these as a part of their story.

What are you tired of seeing?

I am not quite a fan of stories where the diversity is all in the background or existing in secondary characters. Of course, it needs to be in those places, but I really want to see it in the main character and their story line.

What makes a manuscript stand out on a first read?

Tugging on my heart strings always stands out to me over anything else. If it’s not making me sob or want to throw the book, it’s not pulling at my emotions enough.

What do many emerging novelists often get wrong and how can they correct it?

Revising. As has been said before by many greater than myself, writing is mostly revising. You’re going to have to do a lot of revising in the editorial process both with your agent and your editor, so get comfortable doing it on your own first. The draft you send out to agents should be your best foot forward and much like writing an essay for a teacher, reading, rereading, and writing multiple drafts is incredibly important to creating your best work.

Do you have any tips for querying authors? 

Do your research. There’s nothing more flattering than someone who took the time to find out that their writing and my taste really align. And proofread! If your query letter isn’t beautifully written, I can’t be sure that your manuscript will be either.

What things should writers avoid when sending you submissions?

In the same way you wouldn’t want a form rejection, don’t send a form query. Some of the details can be the same (bio, summary of the manuscript) but catering your letter to each agent will go a long way towards getting your query read. You’ve spent a lot of time on your manuscript; spend a lot of time on your query letter, as it is a representation of you and your work.

What genres or types of novels are selling the most?

Contemporary stories dealing with activism in some way and dark fantasy with strong female protagonists are doing really well in terms of what people are reading.

What markets do you believe are oversaturated or are not selling as well?

I think we’re stepping away from the dystopian stories, just because it’s already been done so well.

What misconceptions do you think people have about agents?

I think people tend not to realize how important an agent is to your writing career. Agents want you to succeed and are going to their best to get you there. Once the book is sold to an editor, there’s still tons of work to be done, even long after the book is published.

What questions should an author ask an agent when they call to offer representation?

How do they envision pitching your book? What imprints do they have in mind for submitting your book? What revisions do they want you to make to your book before it goes to editors? They should have a vision for your book and your career if they’re serious about taking you on as a client.

Do you have a dream client?

My dream client (though I already have two dream clients) would be one where their work accomplishes more than just creating entertainment for the reader, but also changes the world, if even just a little bit.

Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

I’ll be at the Writer’s Digest Conference here in NYC this August, but am open to doing other conferences this year.

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Is there something personal about you writers would be surprised to know?

I’m pretty much an open book, but most people are interested to hear that I love crafting in my free time. If there’s a how-to article on Pinterest, I’ve already read it and made it.

And finally, any last piece of advice for writers seeking an agent?

I can’t say this enough but do your research and proofread are the big ones. But also try to get your work published in magazines or other small publications. Agents want to know that your work has been read and received well by other people. It bodes well for trying to get an editor to love your work as much as they do, if another publication liked your work. Try getting short stories published elsewhere in the process of trying to find an agent would be my last bit of advice.

How to Submit:

In the body of your email, please include a query letter and a short writing sample (1-2 chapters). Emails with large attachments will be discarded. We currently accept submissions in all genres except screenplays. Due to the volume of queries we receive, we may not be able to respond to your query. If we are interested in reading more, we will respond within two months.

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