Welcome to Part II of Book Country’s “Ask an Agent” blog series! Literary agent Melissa Sarver White of Folio Literary Management answers your questions about the art of the verbal pitch, the etiquette of querying, and how to query when you’ve already self-published one book. Read “Ask an Agent” Part I.
1. What would an agent want to hear in a five-minute verbal pitch? – kjmiller
The purpose of a verbal pitch or query is simply to entice the agent as you would entice a potential reader (like with cover flap copy). It is not to tell me everything that happens in the book or give a synopsis. It’s a 2-3 sentence logline that should display tone, writing style, main character and major conflict – I should feel interesting, dramatic and full of energy (even if you aren’t writing a dystopian thriller!). Honestly, if you can’t pitch your book in 2-3 sentences, you don’t know well enough what you are writing.
2. I’m writing a series. Should I query book two if I’ve self-published book one? – Andrea Murray
No, if you’re looking for a traditional publisher and an agent for the entire series, you should query book one and be honest and clear about the history of the first book. An agent won’t be interested in taking on subsequent books in a series, only the full series or a new project. He or she will want to know why you self-published, how much success you’ve had over how long a period, and why you are now choosing to query agents for this book/series.
3. I am using QueryTracker.net to research agents and what they are currently accepting. I noticed some agents are members of AAR; others are not. How beneficial to the writer is an agent’s affiliation with AAR? – D.J. Lutz
The AAR is an important organization that looks after authors’ rights and are a very good resource for agents. However, I don’t think an author should cross an agent off his/her list because she isn’t a member. If an agency has multiple agents, it’s typical not all are members but that all receive the information from the member through the events, meetings and email updates the member receives.
4. I have never queried. What is the etiquette? (Simultaneous approaches, waiting periods, etc.) – Mimi Speike
You can absolutely approach multiple agents simultaneously so long as they aren’t at the same agency. An agent might request to read your manuscript exclusively, which is fine but make sure they aren’t asking for too long a period, say more than a week or two. When you receive an offer of representation from an agent, it is polite and professional to let all the agents you queried know (even if they haven’t yet responded to request your manuscript). The offering agent should give you at least a few days (if not a week or more) to make a decision and shouldn’t pressure you to do so sooner. That would raise a red flag in my opinion. Let the other agents you queried know you’ll be making your decision by a certain date and you’d still be happy to share your manuscript with her/him. Depending on the agent, a non-response to a query is a no. While it would be great if we could respond to everyone personally, the volume of queries we receive thanks to email makes it prohibitive in most cases. Be assured we do read your queries, though, and are always on the lookout for exciting new material!
About Melissa Sarver White
Melissa joined Folio Literary Management in 2012. She previously worked at the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency. She has also worked on the editorial teams of national magazines.