Today’s interview features Vickie Motter, the newest agent at Andrea Hurst Literary Management. Ms. Motter blogs at Navigating the Slush Pile, which is a wonderful resource for writers. I especially like her “Wednesday Reads” series, a collection of in-depth book reviews that always end with a quick note about whether she’d be interested in representing something similar. Check out the interview, then check out her blog.
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?
VM: I keep track of that, because I knew someone would ask eventually. I request pages from 30 to 40% of queries. I request the full manuscript from less than 5% of those.
KV: What are you looking for in a requested manuscript?
VM: Originality, pacing, and good writing of course. But a strong voice always captures my attention.
KV: What are some of the most common problems you see in the manuscripts you request?
VM: A lot of times the manuscript doesn't start in the right place, or with the right setting, emotion, sentence. I'm always looking at pacing, but I love strong characters, so I notice right away when characterization and voice aren't developed enough. But one of the easiest ways to tell if a manuscript isn't ready is dialogue, which can be so tricky to get right and takes practice, practice, practice.
KV: When you come across a manuscript you really like/love, how do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?
VM: Sometimes a manuscript just isn't quite at the level needed to pitch to publishers--commercial quality--and if the writer has little experience, we'll ask for revisions on an exclusive basis. There seems to be a stigma out there that this is a bad thing, but it isn't. It proves to us that the writer is able to meet deadlines, is easy to work with, and willing to learn (plus it's free editing for the writer). It helps make the "gamble" easier.
I offer representation right away if I know the manuscript is close to being polished, the topic is timely, the writer has history and credentials, or if I know I might lose it and the thought keeps me awake at night (that's when I know I'm truly passionate about it).
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?
VM: "What's next?" is a good one, either in terms of signing the contract, revisions, timelines, or how the agent goes about submitting to publishers. Many writers stop at the query process and don't know what happens once they submit their final materials. They should educate themselves, and finding out their agent's process is a great way to learn.
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?
VM: I have several projects I'm very excited about, but the one coming out soonest isn't even my project but Andrea Hurst's. I got to watch it from revising to pitching to revising and soon to submitting to the editor. It's Terri Crisp's SPCA book about animal/military rescues in the Middle East. Each chapter has me near to tears. The entire agency is very excited about it.
I'm drawn to writers who demonstrate their dedication to writing, those who have pursued writing through conferences, classes, and workshops, but also who always want to keep learning. I'm drawn to varieties of projects, some happy, some sad, some about the end of the world, but they are all original and tell a great story, no matter what it consists of.
KV: Is there something you haven’t been seeing lately in the slush pile that you wish you were?
VM: Non-fiction. I get very little Non-fiction in my e-mails, and am always looking for new talent. Anything from current events to humorous memoir, to cookbooks (with a strong platform).
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
VM: By e-mail, email@example.com. Send a query letter, with "Query" somewhere in the subject line. More information can be found at andreahurst.com and my blog, navigatingtheslushpile.blogspot.com.
KV: How do you feel about a writer's including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?
VM: I find it more assertive than obnoxious (as long as the agent doesn't specifically specify), but more helpful than anything. It is very helpful to agents since we can judge writing skills on a short sample. Recently, I was unsure whether to request sample pages based on the query, but five attached pages convinced me, and I moved it to the top of my pile. When I reach the end of a few pages and want to read more, I know I'm hooked.
KV: Finally, Andrea Hurst offers a wide range of literary services to a wide range of writers, from literary management for their established clientele to editorial and marketing assistance for unpublished and self-published authors. What would you say to the querying writer concerned about a potential conflict of interest?
VM: Literary services and editorial services are separate at our agency, so there is never a conflict of interest. On the literary side, we strive to maintain most of the "old school" literary agency traits. We are passionate about our authors' projects and maintain professional, close relationships with them that last their whole careers. On the editorial side, we provide writers seeking growth with the highest quality consulting and evaluating with a large range of services that appeal to beginners and experienced writers alike.
Thank you, Ms. Motter, for these detailed responses. Lots of great information here. I’m sure a bunch of people just added another agent to their lists:)
Happy Thursday, everyone! And as always, thanks for reading!