Julia responds to all queries within six weeks.
To connect with and learn more about Julia . . .
What advice would you give to querying writers?
Don't approach agents with the first rough draft of your manuscript. I understand writers are excited about their work, and they want to share it as soon as humanly possible. The problem: a work in progress is a huge turnoff. And a first draft is still a WIP. To make it the best manuscript it can be before querying, make sure to proofread, revise, tweak, address possible plot and character changes, etc. If you query before your manuscript is really ready, you're bound to collect needless rejections.
Do your homework before querying. Research. Find out who represents your genre, and only query those agents who handle the type of book you have written. If they don’t represent your genre, don’t waste your time by querying them. Genre specializations exist for a reason and agents will not change them just for you.
Check the submission guidelines on the agency website. They ask for the first three chapters? Great, send them the first three chapters. Do not send chapters 3, 7, and 15 – or your entire 1,400-page manuscript.
Another great source is Twitter. Not only do many agents share fantastic query, writing, and general publishing tips, quite a few also tweet what they’re hoping to find in their inbox. Check hash tags like #agentwishlist or #MSWL (manuscript wish list).
Also: subject lines! Some queries I receive have some really weird subject lines, from no subject at all to “Knock, knock”. The format “Query: TITLE” makes my life so much easier.
Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?
I always read the query letter all the way through, but not necessarily the reading sample. If it’s a genre I don’t represent, there’s no point in looking at the sample chapters. I’m already out of the race. If the query is for a genre I do handle, I check out the chapters, and read as long as the pages hook me. Some times I lose interest after a couple of pages, other times I read it all. That’s really down to the quality of the manuscript – and my personal interest, of course.
What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?
I read the query letter, then the sample pages. I also ask for a short full-plot synopsis, but only read it if the query letter and chapters confuse me. Or if I’m not sure whether to request the full.
How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?
Client work comes first, but when I look at submissions, it’s generally “first come, first served”. I log every single incoming query, and if my database tells me that I’ve seen that particular manuscript before, I check whether the writer mentions revisions. If not, I reject it straight away since I already know that I won’t be interested. (So if you do resubmit a manuscript, make sure to mention your revisions.) I do occasionally jump around my inbox. Mainly because querying writers have notified me of an offer of representation/publication, and have given me a deadline. There are other times when a query catches my eye, and I decide to take a quick look. If it doesn’t hook me straight away, I go back to the oldest submission, and come back later. If it does hook me, I read the material and might request the full within minutes. I once requested a full 12 minutes after receiving the query. I think that’s the one to beat.
What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?
I already mentioned quite a few. There’s one thing I’d like to add though. Check your sources. Some writers rely on interviews or blog posts from five years ago, or third party websites that haven’t been updated in a while. Always check the agency website for the most up-to-date information.
Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?
In short: yes. BUT: most agents state in their submission guidelines (or in an auto-response) when you can expect to hear back from them. Waiting times of 6 weeks to 3 months are standard, and some agents have the notorious “no response = no” policy.
I respond to every query (unless it’s a “I’ve-written-a-book-so-email-me-if-you-want-to-see-it-query”), and I always try to get back to authors as soon as I possibly can. But client work comes first, and then there are super busy times (around book fairs, for example) when I just don’t have much time to wade through submissions. But if you feel like I’m taking too long, and my stated six weeks are up, nudge me. I also try to update where I am with queries (and requested fulls) on Twitter as often as possible (read: as often as I remember). Perhaps I should do that more often. Remind me!
What would you love to find in the slush pile?
I’m always interested in seeing great YA and MG, but what I’m really, REALLY keen to find in my inbox at the moment is commercial Women’s Fiction and Romance. I’m more of a contemporary, realistic kind of girl. In YA, I’m happy to give Fantasy/Paranormal a shot, but it should be based in the real world. When it comes to adult fiction, I only want realistic stories at this point.
I love sports/boarding school/summer camp themes, humorous MG, psychological thrillers with a stalker theme. I’d love to find YA à la Pleasantville, Friday Night Lights, Sliding Doors, or Center Stage. I’m also dying to find some awesome NA – preferably something that’s not your average "love at first sight with the hot, mysterious guy at college" romance. YA, NA, or adult that’s set at a farm or ranch (is there a difference?). Amazingly original contemporary retellings of classics.
There are so many things I want to see, but I probably won’t even realise till I see it. So, don’t be shy, just hit me with your queries.
Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?
Ideally as a career agent. I want to represent the author, not just projects, so I’m looking for long-term relationships with authors. Should a writer decide to pursue a genre I don’t handle (and have no knowledge of/experience in), it might be a good idea to get a second agent on board. But that’s something I’d always discuss with the author.
How editorial are you?
Should a writer share previous contact with editors with you? For example, from conferences or workshops.
At what point would a client share new story ideas with you?
I’m not sure how other agents handle this, but I’m pretty easy when it comes to these things. Some of my clients send me pitches for 5 different new story ideas, and ask which one I like best.
Do you want to see sample chapters as a client writes or do you prefer to wait until the manuscript is finished? Or is it up to the client?
Again, I’m easy. Whenever the author feels ready to share their writing with me. I’m happy to look over the first chapters, and/or discuss plot/characters. But if the author prefers to finish and polish first, then I can live with that, too. It’s always helpful to know where they’re at though. But thanks to Twitter (meltdowns), I usually don’t even have to ask what they’re up to. ;)
Can a client make suggestions or share a wish list when it comes to editors/imprints to submit to?
If there is an editor they have an editor crush on, I’m happy to listen. But I’ll only submit to that editor if I think it could be a good fit. I don’t mind if a client makes suggestions, but it’s a fine line. I don’t want them to do my job for me, and if I feel like they don’t really trust me/my decisions, then that’s a problem. So, telling me they’d love a particular editor to see their MS is fine, not trusting my knowledge or strategy? Not so much.
Do you forward editor feedback to writers?
Yes, unless the client doesn’t want me to. I share as much information with my clients as they want. Some want to know all the details, some try to stay as oblivious to the whole submission process as they possibly can. It’s totally up to them. I’m happy either way.
What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?
Stay busy. Write, read, eat cake… and don’t take rejections personally. I know it’s tough. Nobody likes a rejection, but driving yourself insane over the submission process doesn’t help.
How much contact do you have with a client when he/she is out on submission? Do you send weekly updates or update as responses come in?
I get in touch when I have something to report – a pass, a full request, an upcoming acquisitions meeting, or, if it’s been long enough, that I’ve sent an email to check in with the editor.
Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?
It’s always okay for a client to check in with me, but no news from me usually means there really is no news.
Thank you, Julia!
Posted September, 2013 – Always check for current info and guidelines.