Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part II

Question from Loralie:
Thank you for taking the time to do this! I have a question that’s been gnawing at me a little bit, and I haven’t been able to find many opinions on it. Say an agent requested material, either from a query, a conference pitch session, or an online contest, but ultimately passed on the novel with a form letter (the standard, polite, this just wasn’t for me).
If a writer queries that same agent again with a different project, is it appropriate to mention that first interaction? “I queried you six months ago with Fiction Novel 52B, which you ultimately passed on.” Or is it better to just leave the mention out?

Firstly, there is no such thing as a fiction novel. A novel is inherently fiction. Sorry, had to get that off my chest.

And now to your question…It is okay to re-query an agent; however, you must make sure you have either incorporated the feedback that the agent gave you or have drastically revised your book. There is no point in wasting anyone’s time–yours for querying an agent that is very unlikely to request more or offer representation and the agent’s for looking at something they’ve already seen.

And yes, mention that you’ve already submitted to them especially if they already requested material because it will jog their memory. A few of you asked this question so I can tell it is weighing on your minds. If you have more questions ask them in the comments below.

Question from Maribeth:
I have heard that an agent, editor or publisher can tell if a book is going to be a success by the first five pages and the last five pages. What do you think of this concept?

That’s an interesting field test, but not one that I practice. I think you can tell the quality of writing and feel whether the hair on your arms starts to rise as you read in the first five pages, but there are so many variables to making a book successful. The book might fall apart after five pages. No matter how good of a writer you are (and I know many) there are so many things that come into making a book 1) get a publishing deal and 2) become a ‘success’ in the eyes of the publisher and public: timing, subject matter, marketing, publicity, editing, writing quality and so much more! I wish it were that easy, but everyone involved puts in so much more work that can be evaluated on 10 pages.

Question from Stacey:
When you are reading a query letter, what are you looking for? In other words, what MUST the writer accomplish in that query letter to hook you?

Good question Stacey, but this one is super subjective. Here are my ‘musts’:

  • Great premise
  • A genre I represent and a word count to reflect that
  • Tight hook that leaves me wanting more
  • A main character I think I might want to learn more about
  • A high stakes storyline
  • A quirky author bio

Come back tomorrow for Part III of Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered!

Published by Carly Watters

Carly Watters is a SVP, senior literary agent and director of literary branding with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent that develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career. Never without a book on hand she reads across categories which is reflected in the genres she represents and is actively seeking new authors in including women’s fiction, commercial and upmarket fiction, select literary fiction, platform-driven non fiction and select memoir. She occasionally represents children's book projects. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives, with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

12 thoughts on “Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part II

  1. I can’t believe I put ‘fiction novel’ in my question, I know better than that :-) Thanks for answering my question. I did mean on a brand new project, not something they’ve already passed on, and you’ve answered my question. Thank you so much!


  2. Do you think any of your clients would be willing to let you post the query they used to snag you? I have seen a few other agents do this(sometimes they even add their own comments) and thought it might be nice since so many of us ask you about your preferences.

    Also, I see on your agency is based out of Toronto, but you have several US clients. Does this pose any issues for you or the writers, or is location unimportant?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions!


    1. Hi Traci! You know, I’ve been thinking about doing posting a client query so maybe I will do that in the near future.

      As for US clients with a Canadian agent, there are no issues. Our agency considers North America as a whole our domestic market and make a trip to New York at least once a year to expand the contacts we build throughout the year with submissions etc. In this day and age so much work, for all agents, is done online that it doesn’t matter where your agent is. See my post about this here:

      Thanks for stopping by!


  3. Hi Carly,
    So if you have revised your book so heavily (say, cutting & re-writing more than half) and have also changed your title to reflect the new direction, it’s still important to say: “Dear Agent, in November 2011, I queried you with my project A and you requested the first three chapters. Since then, I have drastically revised my project, now titled B. Below, my updated query.” ?

    Thank you, again for taking the time to answer our questions!


  4. Another very helpful post!

    I did have a question about synopses–I’ve heard conflicting information. Some say that the ending should be revealed in the synopsis, and others say that it shouldn’t. What is your take on this?

    Thank you!


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