Query.Sign.Submit. with Lara Perkins

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Lara represents children’s books, Picture book through Young Adult.

From the agency website, “Lara is a fan of smart and raw young adult fiction, character-driven middle grade fiction with a totally original, hilarious voice, and so-adorable-she-can't-stand-it picture books, preferably with some age-appropriate emotional heft. She's a sucker for a great mystery and is passionate about stories that teach her new things or open up new worlds. More than anything, she has a soft spot for the wonderfully weird, the idiosyncratic, and the entirely unexpected.”

From Lara, “Our agency policy is that six weeks with no response is a pass for the agency. Although I’m unfortunately not able to respond to all queries, I do read and consider each query carefully, and I personally respond to any author from whom I’ve requested material.”

To connect with and learn more about Lara . . .

Andrea Brown Literary Agency

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

QUERY

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

My first step is to settle in with a cup of coffee! It sounds silly but it’s a small ritual that helps me approach each submission as an open-minded reader.

For each submission, I start with the query, which hopefully will engage me and make me eager to read the sample pages. If the query doesn’t grab me, then I might skip down to the pages to see if the sample engages me more, but I have to admit that I’ll be less enthusiastic after an unexciting pitch. It does happen sometimes that the pages are so strong I immediately become enthusiastic again, but building excitement and expectation for your writing sample is one of the reasons a strong query is so helpful.

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

I first scan to make sure there’s nothing urgent—a competitive situation or something else that needs a quick reply. Then I look at any requested materials. Otherwise, I read in the order received, at least for the first look. I usually do a first pass where I whittle down to queries that are a “yes” or “maybe.” Then I revisit as I make my decisions about what to request, with the order determined by my level of interest.

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

If a writer has motion on his or her work elsewhere, I’m grateful for a nudge and appreciate being kept in the loop. If there’s no motion elsewhere but I am considering a partial or full manuscript, then please feel free to check in after a few weeks if you haven’t heard from me. I will always send a personal reply to anything I’ve requested. For queries with no motion elsewhere and no materials requested, I (or one of my colleagues) will be in touch within six weeks if our agency is interested. If an author hasn’t heard from us in that time, please assume that the project is not right for us.

To that last point, I wish more than anything that I could send a personal reply to everyone who queries me. When I first started out, I did reply to each submission, but unless you send a form letter, this can be very time-consuming, and I’m afraid it became logistically impossible. I also came to feel that, in the long term, this policy would not be in my clients’ best interests, so I now try to abide by my agency’s submission policy. Of course, I still read and consider every query I receive very carefully; I’m actively building my list, so I’m always eager to find new, exciting work!

What does it take for you to offer representation?

Most importantly, I need to love the work, completely, totally, down to the bone. That kind of love is a rare thing, which is why a project may be strong and well written but still not be the right fit for me. Loving a project this way doesn’t mean the work is perfect, but it does mean that something about it really resonates for me and I think will really resonate for editors and readers as well.

I also always have a phone call before offering representation to make sure that my editorial vision for the project is in sync with the author’s, that we have good professional chemistry, and that the author is informed, realistic, and has a good sense of the industry.

SIGN

Are there any specific questions you’d recommend that a writer ask when talking with offering agents?

This is a terrific question. This may be somewhat subjective, but I would recommend finding out (kindly, professionally) about the agent’s typical submission strategy (small round, big round, etc.) and the type of submission strategy he or she might use for your work; his or her editorial vision for your work and what level of revision he or she thinks is needed before going out on submission to editors; his or her preferred modes of communication and how often you’ll be in touch when on submission and when not on submission; his or her negotiation style (if you feel comfortable asking about it and it makes sense in context); how subrights are handled at the agency; and whether you can see the agency agreement before making your decision (you’ll want to pay attention to things like term, commission structure, termination language). I also always like to be asked what I love most about my job because it gives me an opportunity to let the author see how passionate I am about what I do and what makes me tick as an agent.

What is it like waiting to hear back from a writer you’ve offered representation?

It’s torture! No, I’m just kidding. I’m usually hopeful and excited, like a kid the night before a trip to Disneyland. I try to do what I always recommend writers do while their work is out on submission and work on something else, but I usually can’t resist starting to put together submission lists and editorial letters. The downside, of course, is that I do get my hopes up, but the upside is that the author and I can hit the ground running if it’s a match.

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

I sign clients as a career agent. When I offer representation, I hope that the author and I will be partners in bringing their work to publication for a long time to come. For that reason, before offering representation, the author and I always discuss his or her other works-in-progress or ideas, and the kind of career he or she hopes to have in children’s literature.

How editorial are you?

I’m very hands-on editorially, as my clients can attest! I love working with authors and illustrators, and I believe it is to everyone’s benefit for each project to be as strong as possible before submitting to editors.

SUBMIT

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

If we’re getting consistent feedback from editors, and if that feedback resonates with both my take and the author’s take, then I will recommend additional revision.

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

Work on another project! It’s a productive distraction and helps keep this one manuscript and this one submission round in perspective. When you’re moving forward on something new and exciting, you hopefully won’t feel like all your eggs are in one basket.

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?

Before going out on submission, I usually fill my clients in on my “checking in” strategy so they know how often I’ll be checking in with editors. Then I update as responses come in. My clients are usually very good about immediately moving on the next project while on submission, so usually we’re in pretty regular contact about other projects anyway.

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

Absolutely. If there hasn’t been news in a while, then we’ll usually have a strategy chat to discuss our next steps.

Thank you for the terrific questions, Dee!

And a big thanks to you, Lara!

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

1 comment:

  1. This article is extremely helpful. As an aspiring author, Lara's honest answers make the query process seem a little less intimidating. Thank you for the post.

    ReplyDelete