Query.Sign.Submit. with Lucy Carson

Lucy represents Literary & Commercial Adult Fiction, Young Adult and Middle Grade, Narrative Non-Fiction, and Suspense fiction.

To connect with and learn more about Lucy . . .

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


What are some important things for querying writers to consider when researching agents?

It’s a tougher process than it would at first seem, because we agents tend to have healthy variation in terms of our submission requirements, let alone personal taste! And believe it or not, we feel strongly about those requirements, especially when we take the time to post submission guidelines in detail for writers to access easily. Before you even get to submission guidelines though, ask yourself if your book belongs, in theory, on that agent’s list. It’s not a good use of your time or the agent’s time to submit a query for a category that they blatantly do not represent. I would add that another important thing to research, if you can, is not just the number of deals that the agency has reported (many agencies claim to have the most deals on Publisher’s Marketplace, etc) but rather the quality of the deals that the agent is negotiating. In a given year, an agent who does 10 deals that are all with digital publishers and likely don’t have aggressive advances is quite different from an agent who did 3 deals with major print publishers. You’re making a long-term decision (one hopes) so that distinction is key. 

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

I wish I could say that I read every query all the way through, but while I certainly give each query my individual attention, I will stop reading if there’s a bad attitude, or if the attempt to “stand out” strays too far. An example of bad attitude could be excessive sarcasm, or a tone that’s meant to be comical but is instead derogatory. If you are asking yourself “is my tone derogatory?” then it probably is close enough to warrant a second look from you. An example of when “standing out” goes too far could be an author who sends their query in the format of something completely different, which confuses agents enough to piss them off. That’s the wrong kind of attention—annoyance! If you insist on submitting the query in the form of a letter from your character or something of that ilk, at least put “query” in the subject line so the agent understands the conceit as soon as they open.  

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

Sort of! I don’t like to call them that because each scenario is fairly unique. Basically, there are three responses you might get from me if I request and read your manuscript. Besides a firm (but hopefully polite) pass, the other two possibilities are that I will offer you representation on the project and give you my best possible pitch for why you should accept, or that I will write you a long and detailed letter with my thoughts about what areas concern me editorially, and an invitation to discuss those editorial ideas further, together. There are certain kinds of editorial notes that are fairly straightforward and don’t affect the integrity of the book, but there are others that I might suggest which would require a real re-thinking on the author’s part. I only want a resubmitted manuscript if the author is truly game to tackle these ideas—I don’t ever assume that you will be, because each writer feels differently about editorial feedback. That said, even the authors for whom I am offering concrete representation are most likely getting an editorial letter to guide them through the next draft… but it’s clear in those cases that the work I envision is well within the author’s ability and willingness.


How long do you prefer an author take to get back to you once you’ve offered? 

I’m always happy with an immediate yes! But I do understand that if other agents have requested reading materials, it’s courteous to give them a heads up about my offer. I think one week is sufficient to give an agent time to respond—this is assuming they already HAD the manuscript and simply haven’t gotten to it. Once they know of an offer, it’s their job to move quickly or stand aside if they are too busy to give it priority. There is no obligation (and I would argue that it’s unfair to the agent who has made an offer) to let agents know of the offer if they have not already requested reading materials. That becomes a scramble to request the manuscript only based on another person’s good taste and hard work! It’s not necessary to give all submissions a chance to read in that one week window, or before whatever deadline has been set. A simple withdrawal of the query letter will do, so that those agents can remove the query from any pending files. 

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

I can’t remember a book that I’ve taken on without doing editorial work pre-submission, so I’m pretty sure it’s never happened. A writer can expect to be in close touch with me about my editorial concerns and ideas well before representation moves forward—it’s very important to me that we be on the same page. The extent of the editorial work and the number of drafts is completely dependent on the project in question, but it’s essential that we work together to make your book the best it can possibly be before I send it out into the world. When we’ve got a killer manuscript in hand, I put together a strategy and a submission list that I then present to the author and explain at length. If the author has any special relationships I need to know about, or history with another book/editor that I should factor in, this is where that discussion happens and we incorporate that feedback as needed. 

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

This depends on whether the new story ideas are intended for (and contractually tied to) their option publisher. If my client is writing something new that is completely different from the work that is under contract and wouldn’t qualify as an option book (i.e. a children’s book when their current contract is with an adult publisher) then we can discuss the new idea at any time, and develop it together if needed. If we are between contracts and there are multiple ideas to consider before presenting to the editor, I love to have the chance to weigh in about what I think is best for my client’s career, prior to editorial presentation. We want your editor to see your best work and hear your best ideas, so I try to provide that early feedback in order to get the new ideas that much cleaner and more appealing before an editor joins the conversation. 


Do you forward editor feedback to writers?

Before I send the book anywhere, I ask my client to let me know what feedback they want to see if any. Some want ALL feedback, every last detail—which is fine! Others want to know if there’s a pass, but they don’t want or need the reasoning, it’s the bottom line that’s important to them. (I follow the same process for reviews, which not every writer wants to see.) Once we establish how the client wants to hear from me along the way, I respect it and keep it consistent unless otherwise requested. 

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

Anything and everything to keep your mind and body occupied while at the same time staying within close reach of a phone so that I can get you at a moment’s notice if I need to. Waiting sucks and I hate it almost as much as my clients do! But while I’m doing my submission work and the follow-up that it often entails, a writer is best served to stay busy as it will help to pass the time. As long as I can reach you easily, let me be the interruption and not the boiling kettle. I do need clients to stay “reachable” (meaning, please don’t keep busy by leaving for a remote island vacation) so that if an editor loves the book and wants to discuss with the author directly, there’s immediate access. In the happy event that we go to auction, I ask clients to be available to me by phone and email throughout the day or two days, whatever it takes to conclude. There are MANY points during an auction when I will need to update a client or get their emotional feedback on a decision—money is only one of many concerns in that scenario.

What is it like to tell a client there’s an offer on the book? :)

It is the absolute best conversation in the world. Closely followed by my phone call to offer them representation, but that’s sometimes tainted with my own nervousness! News of an offer, a real home for their work, is a pure and unadulterated pleasure. I can ride high on that phone call for weeks—it’s one of many reasons why I love my job! And feel privileged to be doing it. 

Thank you, Lucy!

See other Query. Sign. Submit. interviews
Read inspiring stories of writers getting agents
Learn about Tools for Writers- like Scrivener

Posted October 2015– Always check for current info and guidelines.

Now for Michelle’s insight on querying, signing with an agent, and going on submission! - See more at: http://www.writeforapples.com/2015/04/querysignsubmit-with-michelle-richter.html#sthash.gEzZAp7B.dpuf


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