Agents at a Conference Talk Queries, Short Stories, the State of the Industry & More

In 2009, I presented at Muse & the Marketplace, which is a writers' conference held in downtown Boston. The event seemed to be a big success and I gave two presentations—one on query letters to agents, and another on nonfiction book proposals. This is a "Blast From the Past" post. To celebrate the GLA Blog's 2nd birthday, I am re-posting some of the best "older" content that writers likely missed.
Author:
Publish date:

This is a "Blast From the

Past" post. To celebrate the

GLA Blog's 2nd birthday, I am

re-posting some of the best

"older" content that writers

likely missed.

------

In 2009, I presented at Muse & the Marketplace, which is a writers' conference held in downtown Boston. The event seemed to be a big success and I gave two presentations—one on query letters to agents, and another on nonfiction book proposals.

Also—I sat in on an agent panel and listened to four agents share all kinds of good tips and secrets. The four reps were:

1. Mollie Glick of Foundry Literary + Media
2. Rob McQuilkin of Lippencott Massie McQuilkin
3. Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary
4. Lane Zachary of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:

---------------------------------

Here is what they shared. Everything
below is paraphrased. 


ON SUBMISSIONS AND QUERIES:

MG: When you contact an agent with a query, if you can mention other books that the agent has repped (for example, because you repped X, I think you will like my Y).

LZ: Mentioning that you have an MFA is impressive and can help, but doesn’t make too much of a difference in the long run, because it’s all a matter of whether the writer can write.

MG: When looking at a query, agents are looking for something that helps them pull your letter out of the pile and say “This person has some legitimacy.”

LZ: The query letter is “a couple of sparkling paragraphs about what you’re writing.” She often sees query letters with superfluous detail in them—namely about the author’s life (“I ski … I hunt.”) If she sees superfluous detail in the letter, she assumes that the manuscript will have too much fat on it, as well.

RM: Simultaneous submissions are normal and assumed. In other words, it is safe and healthy to submit your work to several agents at once.

MG: Submitting to agents and editors at the same time is counter productive because if you were to get an agent, she won’t know who you’ve submitted to and received rejections from. This makes her job harder.

LZ: If she passes on an idea but thinks another agent at the agency will find it interesting, she will always pass it on.

ON SHORT STORIES:

RM: One of the best and most common ways to sell a collection of short stories is to repurpose them into a novel, or sell the collection as one part of a two-part deal, with the second book being an actual novel.

LZ: Short story collections do sell, but they do so very rarely.

ON CHOOSING AN AGENT:

RM: There are distinct benefits to working with a young & hungry agent. Namely, they will be able to spend more time helping you polish your work before it gets sent out. A younger agent may have more time to help you.

EW: It makes no difference whether you go with a big or small agency. She’s worked at both, and finds very little difference. It's all about the agent's ability, not the size of the agency.

ON OTHER TOPICS:

MG: The state of the publishing industry has meant that the market is surprising. By that, she means that she will have an expectation regarding what a publisher will pay for a book, but the publisher is usually not offering the expected number. They’re either offering higher or lowering than first expected. In other words, the down economy is throwing things into a shift, but it's not always bad.

LZ: Agents are always on the hunt for new great writers and they read lots of publications. They read literary journals to find amazing talent. But they also ready magazines. She recently took on an author after reading a piece by the writer in Backpacker Magazine. The lesson here is that building credits is a good idea.

MG: She handles more clients than people may think. It’s because fiction takes so long to write and polish that it’s often 2-3 years between projects. It’s her job to keep track of what’s in progress, what needs a little more work before making the editor rounds, and what is good to go out right now.

MG: Finding an agent is like looking for a job. Writers should be professional. Both sides should ask questions of one another before contracts are signed.

Editor's Note: The agents were asked if they read Scribd, a site where people can post their writing. (Questions about these sites can up now and again at conferences.) All four agents said no, and then seemed to have somewhat negative opinions of posting stuff online. Rob said he doesn’t want to find secondhand material. Mollie said she is wary of anyone who has posted too much of the work online.

Image placeholder title

Me teaching at the conference. I gave
two presentations
one on queries to
agents, and another on nonfiction
book proposals.


Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_talking_about_the_work_in_progress_robert_lee_brewer

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.

capital_vs_capitol_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Dulan_1:14

On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.