Howdy, all! Today's installment of "Interview with an Agent" features Mandy Hubbard of D4EO Literary Agency. Ms. Hubbard writes a fantastic blog full of information about her agenting philosophy and querying tastes, so this interview focuses on several issues beyond the query. Hope you enjoy!
KV: How often does a query intrigue you enough to look at the included pages? And how often do those pages intrigue you enough to request the manuscript?
MH: I would say I read the included sample pages about half the time. I get a lot of queries for genres I don't even represent (adult fiction, for instance), queries that are just too much of a mess, and queries for a book with something I'm not interested in (such as talking animals). In those cases I just don't need to read the pages.
I request a full manuscript for about 7% of my queries. From there, oddly, I have about a 7% rate for offering representation. (I guess 7 is my lucky number!)
KV: What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?
MH: A voice that hooks me, tension, and characters that leap off the page.
KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?
MH: Characters that fall flat, or plot lines that seem to meander rather than build. When a story arc builds like it is supposed to, it's a beautiful thing. :-)
KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?
MH: Well, if I "really like" it, chances are I won't offer. I may ask for revisions. But in truth, if I don't fall totally, hopelessly in love with it, I'm not going to be your best advocate. I see plenty of stuff that will probably sell, and I know that even when I'm rejecting them. And a number of authors I've rejected went on to sign with other great agents.
Now, if I love it, whether or not I offer first or ask for revisions first (becuase even if I do offer, we'll probably do revisions after I sign you...) depends upon the size and nature of the revisions. If we're talking about cleaning up some plots points with the ending, I can discuss those ideas with you on the phone, and if you're on board, I'll probably offer. But if we're talking about a flawed character arc or bigger issues, I will have to ask that you fix those first.
The smaller the revisions, the more likely I'll offer and revise with you as my client.
KV: When you do make that Call, you’re probably going to ask the writer if she has any questions. What sorts of questions should she ask?
MH: It's important to know what an agent's vision is for your novel--what kind of revisions she will want. So make sure you have a clear understanding of how she sees your novel and what she might want changed.
Beyond that, there are many sites that provide lists of questions (try agentquery.com or querytracker.net). The main ones are: how often does the agent communicate? How long does it take the agent to read your partials/fulls? How does she handle submissions? Is there anywhere specific she has in mind for your project? What commission does she charge? Does her contract require a 1-2 year commitment, or a simple 30-60 day notice to part ways? How does she handle subsidiary rights? What are her sales/clients?
KV: And now for a few quick questions from the normal interview. What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
MH: My first agented book hits shelves Fall, 2011. It's called VIRTUOSITY, is written by a debut author, Jessica Martinez, and published by Simon Pulse.
KV: Now I can't ask about your clients' work without asking about yours:) Tell us a little about your latest release, YOU WISH.
MH: YOU WISH officially hits shelves on August 5, though it's shipping a little early from B&N.com. It's about a cynical teen who gets all of her childhood birthday wishes, one every day, starting with a life-sized My Little Pony.
KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?
MH: Contemporary/Realistic YA romance. Dying for a really well executed one! Would also love a great YA thriller/suspense. And some more great middle grade--adventure, humor, or just a cool girl friendship/coming of age MG (but with a hook!).
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
MH: Query letter plus five page sample, e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again, Ms. Hubbard, for all this great information. I'll be checking out YOU WISH shortly, and I'm sure I'll give VIRTUOSITY a read, too, once it comes out next year.
Best of luck to all you queriers. I'm out!