Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV

Question from Renee:
I sent a query letter into an agent that looked fine on my screen but when I looked to see what it looked like it was all scrunched together. Are agents forgiving of computer glitches?

Subjective question, but in all honesty these are things you should be checking before you send them to agents. You should email your query to yourself, your partner, your friends–whoever will look at it!–to see how it looks in email format. To me, format does make an impression, but it’s not the end of the world.

Question from Jackie:
Why do so many publishers ask for SASE’s? It seems like a waste of money and time…wouldn’t they just recycle manuscripts they aren’t interested in?

Good question–seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? (FYI to those that don’t know: SASE’s are self addressed stamped envelopes for paper submissions to agents.) P.S. Literary does not accept paper submissions. However, when I worked at an agency that did accept paper queries and sample material I really appreciated it when at the bottom of the query the author said: ‘If this isn’t for you, please recycle.’ Because, I was the one putting them back in the envelopes and walking to the post office to mail them back to people.

It’s essentially an antiquated practice out of respect to the author. But feel free to place at note at the bottom as I mentioned.

Question from Bec:
Hi Carly, Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. May I ask two questions?
  1. What do you cringe at and what do you get excited at when seeing queries?
  2. What features of a manuscript make you decide to take on a manuscript?

Firstly, pick up Writer’s Digest this month to see my answers to these query questions–I cover them in detail.

Secondly, the features that draw me to offer on a manuscript:

  • Compelling voice
  • Well paced story
  • Characters that I am sincerely invested in
  • A book I think I can sell
  • An author I want to work with for a long time
  • A talent that I want to nurture and promote
Question from Susie:
I received a very complimentary rejection from a publisher who said they loved my work but had decided to focus on only their established authors. Would it be a good idea to quote some of their comments in submission letters to other publishers?

This is an excellent question. Here is my opinion: do not shroud yourself in negativity. Quoting from a rejection letter is painting yourself in a negative light before you’ve even made your new impression. I know it can seem like progress, that you’ve been querying well, but no bites yet; however, agents want to think they have a hot project on their hands that no one has seen yet (myself included). So, why tell us that it’s been around the block already? We want to be your first pick to the dance.

Thanks for your fantastic questions and letting me share them on my blog. Let’s do it again soon.

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.

8 thoughts on “Ask the Agent: Your Questions Answered! Part IV

  1. HI Carly! I opened my copy of Writer’s Digest this month to see your article and was so excited for you! Congrats!

    These Q&A posts are wonderful – I still haven’t queried yet, but your tips are making me feel much better about the process :) Thanks!


    1. Hi Carrie. Thanks! I’ve been getting great submissions from the article so that’s great.

      Good luck in the future with your submissions. I know you’re active online and have a lot of research saved up. :)


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