Query.Sign.Submit. with Peter Knapp

Peter-Knapp_literary agent

Pete represents middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as suspense and thrillers for all ages.

He tries to respond to all queries within 8 weeks, if not sooner. 

To connect with and learn more about Pete . . .

Park Literary

literary agent and author

Now for Pete’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!


What WOWs you in a query?

I am always deeply impressed by queries that catch me off guard—that manage to tap into some emotional place in the space of a few short sentences. These queries are winning, usually, because they manage to capture the mood and voice of the novel they’re pitching.

Do you always read a query all the way through? If not, what would make you stop reading?

In most cases, yes. I stop only if it’s a genre I do not represent, if something in the query deeply offends me, or if the query doesn’t follow some basic etiquette—ie, the author addresses his or her letter to someone else, has copied a whole group of agents, that type of thing.

What is your process for reading a query and sample pages?

I go through and read the query letters first, flagging those stories that are of interest to me. Then, I copy the query and sample pages of each flagged query, and paste each one into its own word document so that I can send them to my e-reader and read them there, usually at home. I like reading sample pages on my e-reader—I hate reading on my computer screen, it always hurts my eyes. Once I’ve read all the sample pages, I go back to work with a list of queries I need to decline for whatever reason, and a list of queries for which I’d like to see the full manuscript. Hopefully, among all those fulls is a project that is right for my list!

Do you ever offer a Revise & Resubmit? When would you do so?

Yes. Increasingly, I am offering revise and resubmits when I love a project but I feel there’s a moderate to significant amount of work to be done. The reason for this is simple: It is better for both the agent and author if they confirm they’re on the same page, editorially speaking, before committing to one another. That said, if after a call with an author it is very clear we’re on the same page, I will offer straightaway. 

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

Heart wrenching contemporary YA, especially stories in which the main character or characters are struggling through issues of identity and grappling with increasingly complicated philosophical and religious outlooks on life. Right now, I want stories that make you stop, think, and revisit. I love stories with an undercurrent of magic as well!


Do you sign a client as a career agent or on a book-by-book basis?

Ideally, I want to represent clients as a career agent. While their first book may be an entry point into a growing body of work, I am interested in growing clients’ careers from one book to the next, and in seeing how their different texts speak to one another.

Once a writer has signed with you, what’s the next step?

The next step, after all paperwork is finalized, is that I return an edit letter outlining my thoughts on the manuscript: what I love, what I think it’s achieving and trying to achieve, how I think it might do this better. I try to ask questions, and I try to give some specifics while leaving ample room for the author to outsmart me and surprise me in revisions. Inevitably, they do.

How do you get to know editors and what they’re looking for?

I enjoy getting together with editors and just talking books, reading the books they’ve edited, and trying to get a sense of what makes them fall in love with books. Listening to someone talk about books is a good way to get to know someone, editor or not.

Should a writer share previous contact with editors with you? For example, from conferences or workshops.

Absolutely. There should be total transparency between an agent and client.


Can a client make suggestions or share a wish list when it comes to editors/imprints to submit to?

Except under extenuating circumstances—ie, an established, real relationship with an editor, or if an editor has read it through a conference—I prefer not to get a “wish list”, as these are often built on incomplete information. There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes in publishing, and ultimately it is an agent’s job to know which editors will be most receptive to any given manuscript, and how best to sell it.

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

This depends on the specific client. Some clients prefer a biweekly update, so that they aren’t waiting around anxiously for a blow-by-blow report. Other clients want information as it comes in, and they want specifics. I’m happy to adapt this part of the communication to fit a client’s needs.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

It may make sense to do further revisions if the pattern of editor feedback suggests some overlooked issue in the manuscript. 

What do you suggest a writer does while out on submission?

Stay quiet, drink lots of herbal tea, and start working on the next book. Never talk about being on submission—online, or at conferences—as it’s best to hold your cards close to your vest. You don’t want, for example, an editor getting the manuscript late in the process to feel like they’re being handed something stale.

Thanks so much, Pete!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Find out about agent-judged contests

Posted November, 2013 – Always check for current info and guidelines.


  1. Love this. So very helpful. Thanks.

  2. Dee, I always love these, and for some reason this is my favorite so far. :) Thank you both.

  3. Wonderful interview, Dee! I have to say, I love Pete's feedback on my work. He's really sharp and helps me find the weaknesses in my work.


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