Query.Sign.Submit. with Susan Hawk

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Susan represents picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult in both fiction and non-fiction.

The Bent Agency’s goal is to respond to every query. Resend your query if you don't receive a response within a month and indicate that you're sending it again.

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literary agent and authorNow for Susan’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission!

QUERY

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

I go in order and read the oldest queries first. Queries come automatically to a separate email file. So, most of what comes into my regular inbox during the course of the day isn’t a query, but communication from editors, clients, colleagues etc. I set aside regular times every week to be in the query file, so that I can really concentrate on them and read without interruption.

Is it okay for a writer to nudge concerning queries or partial/full requests?

Yes. I ask that writers give me a month; if you haven’t heard after that time, writers can re-send their query, or check in on the status of their full.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

Two things: I need to fall in love with the project, and feel that editors will fall in love with too! Luckily, it’s rare that I fall in love and think editors won’t too.

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

MG and YA are my focus for 2014, so I’ll start with that.

I’m open to all kinds of genres, though right now I don’t want to see dystopian YA. The kind of book I like is sharply written, with a fabulous voice and rich, real characters. Voice and character are key. And then I want big stakes – I want something exciting, or scary, or hysterically funny, or just something wonderful to happen to those characters.

My taste runs literary and quirky, I want books with lots of heart, I love when a project makes me laugh, and I’m a sucker for bittersweet.

Right now I’d love to find a book that has to do with cults, the Tudor period in England, a YA romance layered with big stakes (and something in addition to romance), opera, a fresh time-travel story, a gothic tale, boarding school secret societies, fairy tale re-tellings, a novel in verse, a futuristic story in which machines have taken over. I like mash-ups. If you’re writing Tana French or Agatha Christie for teens/kids, or if your work shares anything with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (or other Joan Aiken books), send it to me!

I am also considering author-illustrators. Recent picture books I love include: The Dark by Lemony Snickett & Jon Klassen; Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell; A Home for Bird by Philip Stead; Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein and The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood & Renata Liwska.

And I’m also open to chapter books, as well as non-fiction for kids.

SIGN

How editorial are you?

It depends on the book of course, as each needs something different, but submissions need to be crackerjack before they can go out. It’s increasingly rare that editors can take something on without getting buy-in from their team, which includes their publisher, sales and marketing, at least. And I want the editor and house to get behind my client’s books. Best way to do that is with a very strong, polished project. We revise to get to that point.

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

I fall in love with the book that I’ve read, but my intent is always to work together to build the writer’s career over time. This is where my background in children’s book marketing comes in – I worked with quite a few debut authors in marketing, and love the process of building an author’s identity in the marketplace.

How do you put together a list of editors to send to?

It starts with getting to know lots of editors. That takes place in various ways – lunches, phone conversations, conferences we’ve both attended etc. While I was in marketing I worked closely with a number of editors, who have now spread out to many houses, so I know folks from my “previous life” as well. I ask editors specific questions about what they’re looking for, but also try to get a more general gauge for who they are as readers. So, when it comes time to put together a list, I’m thinking about which editor has asked for this kind of book, whose taste is just right, and the general publishing program of the house. An editor can fall in love with something, but if it’s not a fit for the house, they won’t be able to take it on. I also check with my client to see if there’s anyone they have in mind. We can’t always include a client’s suggestion, but I’m happy to discuss any ideas.

At what point would a client share new story ideas with you?

Any point! I’m always delighted to hear a new story idea.

SUBMIT

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Most times, yes. I think it’s valuable for us both to see the responses. But if a client has another preference, we can do something else – send a summary of responses, a monthly recap, whatever works.

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

Write the next book! Being on sub is hard. It helps to know, I think, that whatever happens, you are a writer regardless and the best way to make that true is to write. I also believe that it helps to be out and about. Have you ever noticed that even a short walk can clear your head? Walks, gardening, dancing – whatever your poison, it helps to be out and about.

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?

Assuming that we haven’t made another plan (see above), I update as responses come in. And most likely, we’ll be in touch about the new project they’re writing too (if they’ve taken my advice ;)), so there’s lots of back and forth.

Is it okay for a client to check in if there hasn’t been any news in a while?

Absolutely. Always glad to hear from my clients!

Thank you, Susan!

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

Posted January 2014– Always check for current info and guidelines.

4 comments:

  1. This was very helpful. I think I've found an agent I'd be interested in contacting...

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  2. Great interview. It's always great to know what agents are looking for.

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  3. She's on my query list for my WIP cuz it has an aspiring opera singer in it.

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  4. Excellent interview - such great advice. Thanks for this post!

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