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Happy Thanksgiving to all NaNoWriMo. We just want to tell you how grateful we are to have such an awesome community of writers this year. So a big thank you to all!

This the final interview in our expert series, but we think you'll find it useful and extremely informative, especially if you're on the hunt for a lit agent.


As an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Caryn Wiseman has sold more than 125 books. She handles young adult fiction and children's books and represents New York Times bestselling authors, award-winning authors as well as debut authors.

I got in touch with Caryn, who graciously shared her insights and advice on finding an agent. If you are seeking literary representation, this is the must-read interview for you.


What qualities do you look for in an author before deciding to represent them?

It's first and foremost about the writing, of course, but these days, it's a bonus if the author is social media and marketing savvy; someone that I can tell will really be able to get out there and promote their book. I look for someone who is willing to revise, who
isn't defensive, and who is willing to think long and hard about their revision; not turn around in a day with a minimally revised manuscript. I also look for someone with whom I "hit it off."

The agent/author relationship can be an intense one, and it makes things easier if we get along well. I look for an author who is excited about their book and about the writing process; who is eager to learn, but not impatient. I look for an author who is in it for the long haul; who understands that they shouldn't quit their day job yet, but
who wants to make writing their career.

What is the biggest mistake that you see authors make in their pitch, cover letter, manuscript, etc.?

The biggest mistakes in the cover letter are the cosmetic ones, because that shows a lack of professionalism and a lack of care about what they do. Spell my name right, don't write in Twitter-speak, watch grammatical errors. Present yourself as polished and professional. Check out our website before submitting. There's a lot of information about our agency and the submission process there.

Know your genre, and what the appropriate comparisons are, but don't tell me that you've written the next HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT. Set expectations appropriately. The same thing goes for manuscripts - make sure that it's polished; if I am distracted by grammatical
errors, I'm going to stop reading. Of course, it goes without saying that the manuscript needs to grab me right from the start.

What can writers do to stand out in the submission process? What should they avoid?

To stand out in the submissions process, writers should write the best book that they can and present it in a polished, professional way. Their title should be catchy and interesting. Make the query interesting enough that I want to read the initial pages. Hook me immediately in those initial pages. Follow the submission guidelines
of the agency. Personalize your query as much as possible.

Avoid sending gifts (although that's a lot less prevalent now that we only accept e-queries)!

How should writers find agents to submit to? How many should they submit to?

Writers need to do their homework in order to find agents. There are plenty of guides and online listings available. Go to the agencies' websites and make surer that it's a good fit. Look at the Acknowledgments pages of books that are similar to yours; oftentimes
the author will thank his or her agent. Word of mouth is an excellent resource. Go to writers' conferences and workshops, where you will hear agents speak and have the chance to meet them. There is no limit on the number of agents that you can query, but be judicious. Do your research and query only those agents who represent work in your genre.

I get many queries for adult projects, but I don't handle adult books at all. Anyone who has done his or her homework would know that. There is no point in wasting my time or yours. Never simultaneously query more than one agent at the same agency.

Lastly, what advice do you have for those looking to get published?

Make sure that you do a lot of reading in your genre. Particularly in children's books, it's important to know what your category is, who your audience is, and what the parameters are for that target group. Don't try to write to trends - by the time you've finished you're manuscript, the trend will have passed. As a caveat to that, however, in these times, it's more difficult to get a quieter, mid-list book published, so if you can make it a bit more commercial, do so.

Put a unique twist on your book that will make it stand out from the crowd. Join a critique group and learn to take criticism and grow from it. Make sure that your manuscript is in the best possible shape before you submit it to an agent or editor.

For more information about Caryn, click here.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
faedreamer
Nov. 23rd, 2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
Thank you for this. This is the kind of advice new authors need. I hope they're all paying attention right now. :)
marsuk
Nov. 23rd, 2011 09:04 pm (UTC)
Thank You for sharing
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )