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Monday, July 18, 2011

What Agents Want

Here is a re-post of an interview with Kathleen Ortiz, Subrights Director and agent with the Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation company and Lois Winston of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency which was published in the Midwest Writer's Workshop E-Pistle.

I hope the insights here are helpful!

Kathleen Ortiz
Q:  If participants made an appointment with you, how should they prepare for their pitch session? 

ALWAYS come prepared with a 2-3 sentence pitch and a hard copy of the query. I stress that the pitch is ONLY 2-3 sentences and the query is the actual query they would send. Since the MWW pitch sessions are ten minutes, the first 5 pages are handy, as well. Come prepared with questions in case the project isn't for me - I'm happy to spend the rest of the appointment giving advice/resources on how to pitch, send queries, do research, etc.

Q:  What are you looking for?
I'm only looking for YA or paranormal/urban fantasy romance at this time. No women's fiction or other adult genres outside of romance. I like all YA, though the darker the better. I'd really like a YA horror, thriller, suspense, cyberpunk or intense mystery.

Q: What do you wish more writers knew?
Top three mistakes I see:
1.       Reading the entire query to me (it's a pitch - 2-3 sentences)
2.       Arguing with me if I kindly state it's not for me. You want someone who will be an advocate of your work - if it's not for me, respect my decision and use the extra time to ask questions about the industry. Someone else WILL be an advocate for your work.
3.       Giving me a business card. I don't keep them. If I ask for pages, it's the author's job to contact me not the other way around.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I prefer someone pitches me if the manuscript is completed.  

Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 
If I'm pitched a Middle Grade, I will certainly refer it if it has potential. Otherwise, I prefer not to be pitched if it's not something I rep.


Lois Winston

Q: What should participants bring to their pitch sessions with you? 
One page query letter and the first 2 pages (double-spaced) of their manuscript.

Q: What are you looking for? 
The Ashley Grayson Literary Agency was established in 1976 and handles both literary and commercial fiction, children's fiction, and some nonfiction. I currently represent authors who write romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, women's fiction, mystery, young adult, and horror, but voice is more important to me than genre, and I love books that make me laugh out loud. I'm not interested in category romance, erotica, regencies, inspirationals, westerns, or paranormal books that feature vampires and shape-shifters.

Q: What mistakes do most writers make when approaching agents?
Three top mistakes I see:
1.       Many writers query too soon. Polish your work until it's the best it can be before you submit, and you'll receive fewer rejections.
2.       Know correct grammar and punctuation usage. Too many writers don't know the most basic of grammar and punctuation rules (and no, that's not what an editor is for.)
3.       Don't take rejection personally. This is a business. If your work isn't right for me, it may be perfect for someone else. Or you may need to reread mistakes #2 and #3.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
I would prefer to see authors with completed manuscripts. 

Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what participants write but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 
Yes, I do pass along manuscripts to our other agents if the manuscript is not right for me but might work for someone else at our agency.

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