Query.Sign.Submit. with Patricia Nelson

Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. Agency policy is to respond to all queries. If you haven’t heard from her within four weeks of sending a query, your email might have gotten caught by the spam filter - please resend!

To connect with and learn more about Patricia . . .

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

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


What advice would you give to querying writers?

Definitely make sure that your query is polished, but I do think that it’s possible for a writer to focus too much attention on the query letter. Remember that a query is necessary to catch an agent’s attention, but it is not the end product in and of itself – the book is. I think sometimes writers make the mistake of endlessly revising their query and first 10 pages at the expense of polishing the full manuscript, perhaps because it (understandably) seems like a more manageable project to tackle. Don’t let revising your query letter bring the rest of your writing to a halt – you can write the most perfect query, but the book itself still needs to live up to that promise.

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

In general, I make it a point to read a query all the way through. However, there are certain kinds of stories that I’m not looking for right now – for example, it’s unlikely that I would be drawn to represent a YA novel about vampires at this particular moment, given the current market – and other storylines that I know that I’m just not the right agent for in general – e.g. plots that center on sexual violence tend not to be for me. (I would have missed out on GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for sure!) Usually I can tell if a query is pitching one of these “not right for me at this time” stories fairly early on. I also might stop reading a query before the end if the writing itself is extremely clunky: poorly constructed sentences, multiple misused words, etc.

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

Yes, I have replied with a Revise & Resubmit in instances where I loved both the hook and the writing, but felt that something wasn’t quite clicking with the story – usually these are cases where the plot or pacing isn’t quite tight enough yet. When I do offer an R&R, I’ll usually send substantial notes for the author to work from… and I am always really hoping that the revisions will pan out and that when the next draft turns up in my inbox I’ll fall in love! That doesn’t always happen, but if I respond with an R&R, it means that I genuinely believe that the book could get to a point where I would want to offer representation.


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

Waiting is always nerve wracking! If I’ve offered representation, it means that I’ve really connected to a book, and I want the chance to be a part of that writer’s journey to publication. Just imagine the butterflies that you feel when you’ve just sent off a query to your first choice agent – waiting to hear back after offering representation, the tables have turned, and I’m feeling that exact same feeling.

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

When I offer representation, my hope is always that we are beginning a relationship that will last for the duration of the author’s career. It typically makes sense for an author to start working on a new book while the first is out on submission (keeping busy can keep you from going crazy over what can be a long process!), so it’s likely that we would start discussing a next project before the book that I offered on has even sold.

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

I’m a fairly editorial agent, so once I’ve signed an author the first thing I’ll do is carefully reread the manuscript, making comments in-text and then writing up an editorial letter suggesting revisions. Depending on how much work a novel needs to get in the absolute best shape possible, we might go back and forth on a couple rounds of revisions, or we might move on right away to prepping the submission.


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

This is up to the writers – some people like to see all correspondence from editors, and others would find this experience discouraging or even demoralizing. I’ll tend to explicitly ask what the author prefers before we even go out on submission.

At what point might you suggest making more revisions?

If the feedback from editors is all skewing in the same direction and it’s looking like we’ll need to go out on a second round, I’ll likely have a conversation with the author about whether the passes from editors collectively point to something that we feel could and should be shifted, or whether we just haven’t yet found the right home for the book.

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

It’s always okay to check in! I believe that if you don’t feel comfortable checking in with your agent (and confident that you’ll get a quick response), the relationship isn’t working as it should be.

Thanks, Patricia!

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Posted October, 2014 – Always check for current info and guidelines.


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