NOTES FROM UNDER A DESK

March 24, 2014 | Written by admin

By guest writer HOLLY LORINCZ

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Holly Lorincz is the newest agent at MacGregor Literary; she was mentored by president Chip MacGregor for a year before her promotion, while also maintaining an editing and publishing consultation business, Lorincz Literary Services (http://literaryconsulting.com).

NOTES FROM UNDER A DESK

I admit it. I’m under my desk. Hiding.

No, there is not a knife-heavy serial killer lurking behind my door.
No, my boss is not on the rampage (today).
No, my mom is not at the door with a list of potential husbands.

 

I’m hiding because Chuck at Writer’s Digest did me a solid and featured my New Literary Agent Bio on his blog — a blog that has been reposted by seemingly hundreds of other bloggers. Of course, as a new agent, I need the exposure, and I’m relieved people in the industry know I’m alive. I’m not being flippant when I say I’m hugely grateful for the support and excited to continue building my client list.

 

So why hide? Because. I. Have. 497. Queries. In. My. Inbox.

I’ve created a response system . . . but it’s become more like bloody triage at the scene of a train wreck. I know, I shouldn’t complain. And I am happy to wade my way through the proposals, as long as I’m given the time to do it. Unfortunately, now I’m starting to get the second wave of letters from the first responders. Statements ranging from “I wrote to you five weeks ago and have yet to hear back” to “If you’re not interested, it’s still polite to write back” to “I sent you my query because Writer’s Digest said you were accepting queries; do you ignore everyone?” to “Hey, maybe you should give a crap about someone else other than yourself.”

I have to be careful because my first reaction to the squirrely ones is to immediately hit send on a one-sentence rejection letter. But that’s not right, and it’s not how I want to deal with queries. I’ve gone through the same gauntlet as these authors when I was looking for an agent for my first book — I understand the anxiety and vulnerability involved, and that many of these authors are trying to make a living with their writing. This is not a joke to them or something to be taken lightly. I get that, and I empathize.

So, in that vein, I’m going to offer advice — advice I wish I’d had when I was querying. And, not to say I’m the end-all-be-all of agenting advice, but I have gone on the agent-seeking journey, and I have spent quality time being the minion for the best agent in the US, and, finally, I have had to screen through (again) 497 queries in the past fourteen days. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the very, very, oh my god horrifiyingly ugly.

The following querying tips are not the same tips another agent would give you. Ha ha. Good luck with that. Read through the lens of your own common sense.

HOW HOLLY LORINCZ THINKS YOU SHOULD QUERY:

1. BE NICE
Or at least professional.
2. DON’T BE CRAZY
Just give it to me – BAM – but keep it tidy and circumspect.
Don’t bother with word play or tricks in your query letter (i.e. “please be careful with what I’m about to tell you —my family is in danger“). I don’t have the time for anything but the facts. If even your subject line is wordy (or especially if your subject line is wordy), I’m not taking the time to read further. Did I mention the other 496 queries I need to read? Think: hook, comparables, word count, and previous publications.
3. ACTUALLY READ THE MLA STYLEGUIDE
Indenting and extra lines between paragraphs? Why?!
4. DON’T READ MY FACEBOOK PAGE
If I find out from you I forgot to change the privacy setting on my son’s birthday party pictures from two years ago, well, that just makes me want to invest in a Panic Room— but not read your manuscript, you stalker.
5. READ MY AGENCY BIO, ESPECIALLY WHAT GENRES I WILL ACCEPT
A little stalking is okay. Reading my public blog posts and interviews is also acceptable , unless you’ve gone creepy and start referencing something I published in my high school literary magazine 20 – I mean, 10 – years ago.
6. BECOME CLOSE FRIENDS WITH SPELLCHECK
Submision. You’v. Defiantly versus definitely. It hurts.
7. DON’T GIVE IN TO HOMOPHONERY
Horse whisper? Of coarse? Their walking down the street?
I know perfection is impossible in a manuscript (believe me, I know) but give it your best shot in the one page query letter, the synopsis and the first five pages of your manuscript.
8. A SYNOPSIS IS A SYNOPSIS
Tell me, in 1- 2 pages, that first this happens, and then this, and then this, and this is how it ends. I don’t need philosophical or sociological or theological arguments expounded on for paragraphs at a time. And I definitely don’t need ten pages of it. I need the gist, not the bible.
9. I DON’T CARE WHAT YEAR YOU WERE BORN
Your writing background is very important to editors, and to me, but leave your life story for when we become friends.
10. EMAIL YOUR QUERY WITH YOUR MANUSCRIPT ATTACHED
Notice I said EMAIL. Not mail. I lose paper. Have you seen my desk?! (A handful of you super stalkers have probably already Google-Earthed it.) I know some agents still want a simple query with nothing attached but I don’t have time for that. I’d prefer not to go back and ask for 50 pages, and then the full manuscript. If the query letter in the body of the email piques my interest, I want to go directly to the manuscript to assess the writing style, storyline and craft. This is how I decide if I want to help a writer to publish — why prolong the process when it’s so easy to include and read/ignore an attachment?

I’m not being snarky. Well, okay, maybe a little snarky. But my goal, by telling you how I narrow the playing field, is to help you get your query on the radar. I love words, I love books, and I find it infinitely fulfilling to work with an author to get his or her words on a bookstore shelf. Unfortunately, I can only take on a finite amount of clients, thanks to that whole sleep thing, so I have to be tightly selective when I scan manuscripts. If I take on a new client, then I’m taking less time with my other clients. It has to be worth it.

In all seriousness, I wish you the very best of luck. You’re in the midst of a difficult, time consuming, soul killing process but you can make it a skosh easier on yourself if you pay attention to the little details.

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Posted in Agents, Quick Tips

  • Cindy Thomson

    Oh no. So sorry, Holly, but well stated.

    • Holly Lorincz

      Thanks, Cindy :)

  • Elizabeth Ludwig

    YIKES! Good luck climbing out from under that pile of email, Holly.

  • Ane Mulligan

    Oh, Holly! You poor thing! LOL I’m sorry for laughing, but I know exactly what you’re facing … except I can use my delete key and you really can’t. Praying fortitude and strength for you!

    I’ll bet about now your mom showing up with that potential hubs doesn’t look as bad. LOL

    • Holly Lorincz

      Hi Ane. I really shouldn’t complain, considering this is my job. I just didn’t know I was going to start under a surging ocean of hungry writers.

  • Rajdeep Paulus

    You crack me up! Number 7 was my favorite. Four sure! ;)

  • Ellen Gee

    Thanks for the laugh Holly.

  • http://www.johnrobinsonbooks.com John Robinson

    Grate stuf, Hollie (did I spel that rite?). You defiantely have a way with words, and Im sur you will get many mor than 497 querries Now! (Yes, you can tell Chip to kick my arse for being a weisenheimer; he knows where I live!) :D

    • Holly Lorincz

      Ha ha, nicely played, John.

  • Robin Patchen

    Wow, that’s a lot of queries. I’m impressed you had the time to write this blog, but I’m glad you did. I know it’s not nice to laugh at someone else’s misery. I know it, but I did it, anyway.

    • Holly Lorincz

      I wrote this at 11:30 Saturday night, between queries :)

      • Robin Patchen

        Oh my. How awful.

  • Holly Lorincz

    As of 20 minutes ago, I hit the 600 mark. Wow (she says, hoping her computer battery dies, just for a little while).

  • Jackie Layton

    600 queries, wow! You were nice responding to me. I hope you find some gems in all those queries.

  • http://rmabry.com Richard Mabry

    Holly, when I stopped laughing and read your point-by-point explanation of how you want the query process to proceed, I had to agree with every point. Makes sense to me. And if you’re a little snarky (although I don’t think you were), you can blame it on being trained by Chip. We blame him for lots of things already.

  • Jennifer Dyer

    You crack me up, but I would be hiding under the bed if I had 600+ emails waiting to be answered. Hang in there!