Authors, if you’re like me, you have tons of questions when it comes to querying agents. Sometimes, you just wish you could sit down with one for a few minutes and ask them everything. Well, we can’t cover everything, but today, I sat down with my agent, Jana Hanson of Metamorphosis Literary Agency. Most agent interviews I’ve found online talk more about how agents work with clients after they offer to represent them, so today, I’m going to ask Jana some questions that I think a lot of authors are curious about.
Let’s talk about how to write a proper query that agents will not only notice, but be intrigued enough by them to request to read more.
What is one common thread you see in the queries that make you shout “yes!” and reply with a request?
Honestly, the sample pages have to be really compelling, well-written. A great query helps, but the bulk of the work should be in the manuscript.
What’s the most common thing writers do in queries that make you sigh heavily and reject?
No information about the book in the query is frustrating. When not much more is revealed in the synopsis, that is doubly disappointing. A query should be at least 2 paragraphs about what happens in the manuscript, like the back cover copy of a published book.
How important is it for authors to have prior publishing experience and/or a “platform” when making a decision on whether to request or reject?
I don’t think that is important necessarily. Publishing credentials don’t make or break an author in my opinion; their writing does. If all the author’s titles have been self-published, I would want to know why they were searching for an agent at this time.
How much does the format, length, and style of a query influence your decision to request? Or are the concept and writing more important?
I think writing and concept are more important. I have seen several queries which are very interesting or intriguing, then the writing isn’t up to par with the query.
What should authors avoid in their sample pages if they want to stay out of the slush pile?
Backstory may or may not be necessary for a character’s interest. Personally, I like to get inside a character’s mind or situation immediately. I do not like deaths of unnamed women in the first chapter, so I will usually pass on requesting manuscripts which feature this plot device.
What’s the best book you’ve read lately (non-client) and what about it made you fall in love?
Um … I’ve only read 4 published books this year! I would have to say I enjoyed Busy Philipps’s This Will Only Hurt a Little very much.
I want to thank Jana for taking the time to talk to us all today. It’s always helpful to hear this information directly from the source.
Jana is currently closed to queries but will reopen in January 2020. I highly recommend you add her to your to-query list, as she’s extremely responsive, kind, and knowledgeable, and she has a discerning eye for great books.