I just got word that agent Chris Morehouse of Dunham Literary has stopped agenting. I am going to pull Chris's interview with me off the blog so readers don't query Chris by mistake.
But that said, I wanted to post a few of the Q&A's from that interview that I thought would help writers. Read on for tips on queries, nonfiction and kids writing.
GLA: What are the most common problems you see in queries?
CM: A non-professional
looking letter. An author trying to be “funny.” Forgetting to include a
SASE. What I do like to see in a query letter is genre and, for
juvenile fiction, what age the book targets and word count right up
front. A brief synopsis in the writer’s voice (but not from one of the
main character’s point of view!) and any type of writing experience and
education related to writing. For nonfiction, I recommend that an
author have a proposal ready to be sent because it shows that person
has researched how the business works. I can always help with an
already written proposal but if the author doesn’t know what a proposal
is, then he/she hasn’t done their homework.
nonfiction, you say you're seeking health, parenting and relationships,
among other subjects. There's been a lot of books written in these
categories over the years. How can a writer break through with a new
title? Is it as simple as a fresh spin on an old idea?
CM: Wow, very tough question!
course, the first thing I look for in this type of book is a national
platform for the author or, someone who is working very hard to achieve
that platform. Right now I have three nonfiction authors who are doing
just that through different avenues. One runs a popular parenting
website and she works hard every day to continue to make contacts to
increase her notoriety. Another is working on obtaining an endorsement
for her psychology book from a major name brand and the third, an
author of a sports training book, has gained status as a regular
columnist in a newspaper with good circulation numbers.
important thing for nonfiction authors in these categories to ask
themselves is: Can this information be found in magazine articles and
on the Internet? If the answer is yes, then there probably isn’t a book
juvenile fiction, what are you looking for right now and not getting?
What do you pray for when talking the slush pile?
CM: When I take a chance on a
query and request the first few chapters of a children’s book (MG or
YA), the most common reason that I then reject the ms is it is clear
that the author did not grasp the need for action in this genre.
Combining a distinct writer’s voice with movement that a particular age
group can relate to is the diamond in the slush pile that I am looking
for. Oh, and appropriate word count helps, A LOT!
Want more on this topic?
- Query Letter Tips, by agent Michelle Andelman (Franklin & Siegal).
- 10 Query Letter Tips.
- Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
- Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
- Want the most complete database of agents and what genres they're looking for? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!