In our Agent Advice feature, some of the best literary agents in the country answer the questions most frequently asked by writers about how to get published.
For an unpublished writer, does it cost more to seek a literary agent abroad or would it be safer to self-publish first in the home country before seeking an agent in another country?
I’m not sure about the words cost and safer that you have chosen to use here. Do you mean them literally, or metaphorically? If you have e-mail, it shouldn’t cost...read more
What is the best advice you can give young writers who are applying to MFA programs?
My advice is to understand that you don’t need an MFA to be a great writer. That said, getting an MFA is a wonderful thing! If you decide to pursue an MFA, you’ll get an...read more
Do agents really read synopses? Isn’t a ten-page sample more useful?
For me, fiction synopses that detail every step of the plot are hard to read and fairly useless. The same description might yield work that’s boring, amazing, or ridiculous; it...read more
I write literary fiction and have completed four novels and one hundred pages of a memoir with a proposal. I’ve published extensively in literary journals and anthologies—stories excerpted from the novels, in addition to others—and several have won prizes. When I approach an agent about one manuscript, should I cite the breadth of completed work?
Certainly mention publications and prizes, but I wouldn’t mention the earlier works upon first approach. The fact that you have five unpublished projects could be daunting in...read more
How is social media impacting the role of the literary agent?
Social media gives writers a means to connect directly to readers in a way that has never existed before. Using social media is not for everyone, but a smart agent will learn...read more
What are you looking to see in a writing sample, specifically in the first five pages?
I want to see that it works: characters, narrative voice, the opening strokes of plot—all grooving in unison like the opening to a great song, no matter what genre (though...read more
Is it typical to give a publisher rights for all media? Is there a standard practice regarding adaptation rights into other media and/or translation rights when initially signing a contract?
I’ve seen contracts that grant the publisher all rights to the book, including all media. Most frequently such contracts are used when there is no agent involved. Sometimes the...read more
Why won’t most publishing companies even consider unagented submissions?
When most people think of an editor at a publishing house, they think of a person in a quiet, comfortable office with appealingly soft lighting, reclining in a comfortable...read more
What do you look for in a query letter? How much do you need to know about plot versus potential marketing tactics in order to make the decision to request a partial manuscript?
Here are the things I look for in a query letter: a distinct pitch, a short tease of the plot (set up the story and make me want to read more), and a comprehensive...read more
I’m a self-published author who just completed his second novel. An agent once told me I shouldn’t state that I’m a self-published author in my query letter because it shows that no one has taken an interest in my writing and therefore I had to publish my own books. Apart from being rather insulting, does this agent have a point?
Yes, it’s a little slighting. Am I guilty of countless acts of the same? Um, yes. This may change as the definition of self-publishing evolves, but we’re not all the way there...read more