Today I welcome a friend from Writer’s Digest Books, Chuck Sambuchino, to TKZ. Chuck edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. His latest humor book, WHEN CLOWNS ATTACK: A SURVIVAL GUIDE, will protect people everywhere from the malicious bozos and jokers who haunt our lives. His books have been mentioned in Reader’s Digest, USA Today, the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Variety, New York Magazine, and more. You can follow Chuck on Twitter: @chucksambuchino.
Welcome, Chuck. Has the role of a literary agent changed much over the last few years?
It depends on which agent you ask, but I expect every agent will tell you this: Every year, it gets a tiny bit more difficult to sell a book (especially by a new author), so nowadays there is massive pressure to turn in only the best, polished work to editors with a submission. That means a lot of agents are being pickier, and also being more editorial. It’s all about trying to send the best of the best work along.
Has the way a writer should approach an agent changed in any significant way?
Not really. The basic principles are still the same in terms of queries and submissions and manuscripts. In the nonfiction realm, the pressure of platform and marketing on the author’s shoulders increases year by year, but luckily that trend has not really gotten bad at all in the fiction world. Harking back to Question #1 again, I would say the only thing that’s different from 10 years ago is the pressure to turn in extremely polished work, so befriend some talented writing peers and be a ruthless self-editor.
What tips can you offer writers on the query process?
Here you go:
- Don’t say it’s your first novel, even if it is.
- Do not query more than one novel at a time.
- Don’t say family or friends or your dog liked the book.
- When you compose your novel pitch, remember to be specific and avoid vague language.
- Keep your query letter one page, single-spaced.
- Remember that if you have nothing to write in your bio, that’s okay. Just sign off by thanking the agent for their time.
- Never send an attachment unless an agent says to.
- If you’re not sure what to put in the subject line of your e-query, “Query: [title]” is a safe bet.
- Follow exactly the guidelines set by the particular agent.
What’s your take on the thriller and mystery markets?
These seem to be evergreen markets in the publishing world. People will always love thrillers and mysteries, so no matter what comes and goes (chick lit, new adult, etc.), a good heart-pounding book will always be attractive to agents, editors, and readers.
Can you recommend some agents currently looking for thrillers?
Sure. Here are 8 mini-profiles of agents seeking thriller submissions now. Every agent on this list has confirmed to me personally that as of October 2015, they are indeed open to subs. Query away, and good luck!
How to contact: E-query email@example.com with “Query for Eric” in the subject line. “Do not send attachments. Always let us know if your manuscript/proposal is currently under consideration by other agents/publishers. If you don’t receive a response to your query within 4-6 weeks it means a no from the agency.”
Rees Literary Agency
How to contact: E-query Agent10702@aol.com and include your first chapter within the body of the email. Attachments and links will not be opened.
How to contact: E-query firstname.lastname@example.org. Place the following information in the email’s subject line: “Query” followed by story title, genre and the name of the agent that you are querying. Paste a 1- or 2-page synopsis below the query letter. Paste the first 10 pages of your double-spaced manuscript below the synopsis. No attachments.
Waxman Leavell Literary Agency
How to contact: E-query email@example.com. You may include 5-10 pages of your manuscript in the body of your email.
How to contact: Send the first 10 pages of your manuscript, along with your query letter, to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Query for Alec Shane: [TITLE]” as your subject heading – no attachments.
Mallory C. Brown
How to contact: E-query Mallory@triadaus.com. When querying, please include the first ten ms pages in the body of the e-mail after your query. “”I love a good sociopath and have yet to find one that is believable and not completely horrifying. I want my sociopath to be like Sherlock Holmes from BBC Sherlock, sociopathic but not inhuman, or Dexter, one with a code despite it not being societally correct.”
(For more agents, see a complete database in the 2016 Guide to Literary Agents.)
[NOTE FROM JSB: I’m traveling today from Bouchercon. Anyone reading this post with answers to specific comments/questions, feel free to chime in!]