Query.Sign.Submit. with Katie Grimm

Katie Grimm agent

Katie represents middle grade, young adult, and adult, fiction and nonfiction.

She responds to all queries, and you can follow up if you haven’t heard back in 4-6 weeks.

 

To connect with and learn more about Katie . . .

Don Congdon Associates

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

QUERY

What advice would you give to querying writers?

Have patience – not just when it comes to the process, but don’t forget to be patient with yourself and your own writing. It’s a personal business, and it’s hard not to get frustrated when a project or query just isn’t clicking or you compare yourself to other authors. Remember you’re the only one that can create your success so try to channel your efforts productively and take breaks if you have to. It’s also easy to dash off a query letter before a manuscript is ready just to get it off your plate, but it wastes my time and yours for me to respond to your manuscript with exactly what you already knew wasn’t working. Every successful writer has had a different path to publication; don’t be afraid to allow yourself to have that freedom too!

What WOWs you in a query?

When I’m reading through my inbox, it can feel like treasure hunting. I’m looking for that “aha!” moment where I think, “How has this not been done before?!” or “Who is this author and why aren’t we already best friends?” I can turn into a bit of a Gollum – “This is amazing! I must have it all for myself! It’s MINE.” It’s hard to sum up in one line, but I’m looking for smart authors who present stellar ideas with professionalism and respect – show me you’ve taken the time to research and craft your ideas, regardless of the genre or topic.

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

I won’t read the sample chapters if the concept in the query isn’t something I’m excited about or comfortable pitching to editors (because it’s boring or I don’t know anything about it) or if the letter itself is poorly written (because I doubt your ability to write an entire manuscript). I also often jump around the letter – sometimes authors have a tendency to give me too much summary, so I’ll skip down to the author credentials, and if they have appropriate credits for their topic, I’ll go back to the top. If the idea is so out-there I can’t imagine what the first chapter will be like, I’ll jump down to the sample pages right away, but that’s not always a good thing! It’s rare that turn into a Gollum and I request a manuscript as soon as I read the query, but it does happen. More likely though, I’ll read the query and the chapter once or twice and request if it’s stayed with me a few days later.

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

I try to read in order, but I don’t always respond in order. I’ll often whittle down the 300 queries in my inbox to 50 maybes in one afternoon, and then I’ll request the 10 that are still working for me a few days later. I do this because sometimes I know my head isn’t always in a place to be open to reading 20 (or 100) sample chapters at once, so I’m trying to give the writer my best mind-frame. There’s probably a more efficient way of doing this though, and that’s why I ask for patience from writers! In any case, we always respond to queries we get, so feel free to follow up if you haven’t heard from us in about 4-6 weeks.

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

Always. I am never annoyed about nudges within reason (I’ll probably rue the day I said this, but I said within reason!). If it’s too soon, I’ll respond when I was intending to originally, but I’ve been nudged by authors when I’ve never actually gotten their manuscript…6 to 9 months later! There’s never a reason to wait that long to find your manuscript was lost to an email glitch.

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

I offer R&Rs when a manuscript is far enough away from line edits or when there are a lot of directions the manuscript can go in and I want the author to decide what’s best for him/her. If I know the one fix for the book I’ll probably take it on, but I’m not so cocky that I think I’m always right. The most important part is that the author and I are on the same general page editorially and if he/she is willing and capable of editing.

What does it take for you to offer representation?

If I’m still gnashing my teeth in the middle of the night muttering, “my precioussss,” I’m going to email that author the next morning to set up a call. But it’s not always that immediate. Sometimes I read a project and think, we need a few more edits, and a week or two later I think, “Eureka! I know how to fix this!” Or I float a few ideas to an author and they come back to me with something much cleverer, and I think, “Eureka! This author is a genius!”

What would you love to find in the slush pile?

The beauty of the slush pile is that I don’t always know what I’m looking for until I find it. That said, I am always looking for MG and YA projects that read like an instant classic – give it to a boy or girl 10 years ago or from now and it would still have a hook that makes sense to them and an emotional punch that will resonate. This also means that I like my fantasy that’s rooted in history and sci-fi that is less focused on the gadgets and more on moral quandaries. I also represent literary fiction, which I realize casts a wide net. I’ve been telling people lately that I’m looking for something for my book club – we’re more WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN than EAT, PRAY, LOVE though. The idea behind this is I want there to be enough plotting and momentum that 5-10 busy women will be able to get through it in three weeks AND the character development or dilemmas are complicated enough that we could talk about it for an hour. In fiction and non-fiction though, I’d say my tastes can run a bit dark – I’m interested in shining a light on the darker parts of human history and nature.

SIGN

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

They call them agent beauty contests for a reason – you primp and prepare for the call, trot out your best editorial ideas and you try to sound intelligent when you get to the Q&A. It can be pretty nerve-wracking! In the end though, it’s up to the judges…I mean the author…to choose the best agent for him/her.

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

I am a career agent through and through. I look to the relationship Don Congdon had with Ray Bradbury, and I’d be thrilled to grow my career with my authors for a lifetime too! It helps that I represent a wide range of projects so I can hopefully accommodate an author who wants to write in several genres or age groups. However, it’s something to discuss with an author before we sign as there are areas I’m not familiar with, and I don’t want to hinder an author who wants to go in that direction.

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

Depending on where the manuscript is, I’ll provide a general editorial letter and/or specific line edits and notes in track changes on the manuscript itself. I often ask for more outlining or plot or character studies. We’ve probably already discussed it a bit before we sign, but I also ask a lot of personal questions about the author themselves – I want to know where the author is in terms of craft and eventual marketing so we can identify strengths and areas of improvement early on.

How editorial are you?

Very. To the point of driving my authors crazy, I’m sure. I hate the mentality, “But isn’t it good enough?” Would you really go up to a child and hand them your book and say, “Here, this book is… good enough”? No! I try to set a realistically high bar – while the editor I place it with will take it from there, it will only benefit all of us to get as far as we can beforehand.

SUBMIT

Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Most of my authors do want to see editor feedback, but I ask a new client first before sending. I don’t want my authors to get discouraged, but sometimes (not always) the responses can be instructive.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

Related to the above, if you’re getting a general consensus about a certain element of the submission, it might be worth revising between rounds. After we get the 10 or so responses from the first round, we’ll have a call on how to problem solve what everyone else is seeing. We might get totally different comments though (one editor loves the world building, the other editors hate it), so we ultimately choose what to filter out and what to follow. Again, you have to be patient about this part of the process – I’ve certainly sold projects on second rounds if we did revisions or not, so best not be discouraged.

What kind of feedback or response do you hope for after sending a manuscript to an editor? A book deal, of course, but what kind of feedback is a good sign?

When the editor does not respond with an offer for many millions? I suppose I’m looking for responses or passes that have helpful suggestions. I do this when I reject manuscripts, so I favor editors that take the time to respond to me in a thoughtful way that’s instructive about their tastes and the manuscript’s weaknesses.

What is the next step if an editor shows interest?

I’ll inform the other editors who have the project that I have interest. If multiple editors are interested, I’ll decide how to set up an auction and arrange calls with editors, depending on the situation. Sometimes only one editor bites, but he/she is the perfect one for the book!

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

Same as what they do when they’re not on submission – read everything they can get their hands on and write when they’re not reading (sleeping and eating is okay too, I suppose). Whether this book sells or not you’ll need to be writing another, so might as well get started.

Thank you, Katie!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
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Find out about agent-judged contests

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

2 comments:

  1. This was one of the best interviews of an agent I have ever read. Thanks so much! I'm going to query her right now. Wish me luck!

    ReplyDelete