10 Query Tips from a Literary Assistant — Week of 10/03/2014

I’m a literary assistant at The Seymour Agency. Our agents, Mary Sue Seymour and Nicole Resciniti represent a range of genre: Christian/Inspirational, Fantasy/Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Women’s Lit, Romance.
As usual, this week’s tips come from my Twitter feed (@LaneHeymont). Enjoy!


1) Character arcs aren’t just ascents. They are bumpy roads with a lot of valleys.


2) Make your pitch as concise as possible. A lot can be said with few words.


3) Know your grammar. Study if you have to. Don’t have a copy Strunk’s Elements of Style? You shouldn’t be writing anything yet. Otherwise, you won’t know your shit from you’re shit.


4) Spamming agents, editors, & reviewers on Twitter is a big no-no. People might snicker at you. Not to mention it’s unprofessional.


5) My super agent Nicole Resciniti has a great tip here:


6) If I receive a query with an AWESOME writing sample, I will pass it on to one of our agents. Some writing NEEDS to be read.


7) Follow submission guidelines. Saying, “I know these violate your guidelines, but..” isn’t the way to hook an agent.


8) Do not tell us the meaning and moral of your story in your query. We don’t care yet. The moral/message has nothing to do with plot, character, and conflict. The moral should be buried beneath heavy layers of subtext. The morality of Aesthetics was not once mentioned in Frankenstein, but it was a huge theme/moral to the story. Get it?


9) Kids and young adults are preached to every day. They tend not to like it. I hated being preached at as a child/teenager, even when I agreed with the sermon. Do not write kid lit as an adult passing down stories to enlighten the youth with what you’ve learned from YOUR life. Your life is not theirs. Write as a young adult. As much as we may have been concerned with things that now seem trivial we were also concerned with national/global issues. We had adult thoughts, but saw them from a place with less clarity due to having less experience.

Unsure how to write for young adults? Read YA fiction (which if you’re writing YA, you should be doing anyway!), watch YA movies, while you’re out make sure to note any passing conversations between young adults — without being creepy.

Here is a great Q&A from Nicole Resciniti about YA and how intelligent (subtext) it can and should be.


10) Don’t query every agent on your list at the same time. Send out a few queries each week, wait and see what responses you receive to said query, and adjust accordingly. What works? Are you getting a lot of responses? No responses? Edit your query as you would a manuscript.


Well, that’s it for this week’s query and writing tips. Thanks for joining in, and remember to check back next week!