Today I’d like to introduce all of you to my wonderful agent, Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency. Melissa has a unique perspective in the publishing world – that of both agent and editor. Before joining The Knight Agency in 2008, she enjoyed a successful 17 year career with Harlequin.
So, without further ado – Welcome to Lady Scribes, Melissa! Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your knowledge.
Over the years, I’ve listened to a number of agent panels at various conferences and read a lot of agent interviews, and it seems everyone always wants to know, “What are you looking for?” I would imagine since you are the submissions coordinator at TKA, you get asked that a lot. So I don’t want to ask you that per se. But rather – since you see countless query letters, what advice would you offer writers who are submitting? Are there any common mistakes you notice that are easily fixed? And would one of those mistakes prevent you from asking for more information from the writer in question?
Lydia, thanks so much for the invite. I appreciate the opportunity to put in my two cents. Yes, as submissions coordinator for TKA I read about fifty query letter per DAY. And I see the same openings over and over. The writer starts out by asking me a question instead of just giving me information that’s compelling. I suggest trying to be less chatty and more upfront. I want to see a brief synopsis, details about the genre and word count and information about the author. Truthfully, I almost always say no to queries that start with a question or series of questions...unless the plot really captures my attention.
Aspiring authors slave over their first fifty pages, polishing them for submission. As agency slush piles can be endless, how much leeway do you give a submission? If they lose you somewhere on page two, do you stop right there? Or do you give them a little time to grab your interest? And if so, how much time do you give them?
I’m going to sound tough, I know it. But I usually know within the first three pages if a project is right for me or not. The author’s voice should really come through from the first sentence. The first line should capture my interest and the first few paragraphs should set the stage for the drama that is about to unfold. So, yes, if a project loses me in those first few pages, I will turn it down. But, that’s only if there’s nothing there to compell me forward. It may not have the best opening line but if the writing is intriguing, I may give it a chance through the first chapter. I’ve sometimes noticed that a manuscript doesn’t need it’s first chapter at all. Often, it is composed of set up and explanation that can easily be included in other chapters.
The other ladies on this blog knew you were coming today and were anxious to hear what you had to say. I was even asked to ask you some specific questions. I wheedled them down. Here’s what’s left:
What do you wish writers knew about the publishing industry?
It’s a tough world out there and publishers are being extra selective about which projects they take on. I know it’s hard to keep in mind, but you can’t take rejections personally. Publishers are less and less likely to take on anything risky, even if they love your writing. So remember, it’s not always about your project, but it’s always about the market.
If a manuscript is rejected and then revised, how much time should pass before a writer should re-submit? Or should they even do so?
A writer should feel free to resubmit their revised project as soon as they want—but only if revisions were requested. If a request was not sent along with the initial rejection, query again, letting the agent know you’ve done extensive revisions, even giving a brief outline about what you’ve done. If they decline to see the revisions, it may be that your writing and or project just wasn’t right for them and may never be right.
What do you think makes for an unforgettable character?
An unforgettable character is one I can really relate to and commiserate with. They don’t have to be the heroine or my age or contemporary. They just have to feel real to me both in actions and words.
Have you ever offered representation to someone from a contest final?
No. Not yet. :)
Well, thank you so much for answering these questions for us today, Melissa. Your insight is much appreicated!