Hold on to your hats!
Today I’m super-thrilled to have the wonderful Rebecca Angus @ from Golden Wheat Literary agency dropping by. She’s agreed to take some time out of her ridiculously busy schedule to give us her thoughts on the upcoming #p2p16 contest – from an agent’s perspective.
Full disclosure here: Rebecca is my agent and she always makes time for her clients (including me). But this goes above and beyond and I really can’t thank her enough for agreeing to give us a view of the contest from the other side. She participated in last summer’s P2P and I think getting her take on #p2p16 as an agent is invaluable.
So, without further delay…on to the questions!
Thanks so much for dropping by today. Your thoughts on the upcoming #p2p16 contest couldn’t come at a better time. The fun starts on Saturday March 5th at Noon EST (about 1 week away). Writers entering contests always love to hear what agents are looking for – especially if those agents have selected clients from past finalists.
Note from your humble blog host: please keep in mind that Rebecca is an agent and would be participating in the “Agent Round” of #p2p16. That comes a month after the initial “Editor Round.” If you’re interested in thoughts from a P2P editor: Interview with a #p2p16 editor
So Rebecca, I’ve put together a few questions that I’m sure readers would love to hear your take on.
Question 1: As an agent, what benefits do you see in picking potential clients from a pool of contest finalists (like #p2p16)?
RA: As an Agent I see too many submissions from authors [in my slush pile] with queries that aren’t quite there yet. The query might be missing the hook, or it might not be engaging in a way that makes me want to request more. Contest finalists have done their homework, polished their queries, and perfected their pitch so that agents get a clear picture of what their manuscript has to offer. In a way, contests highlight the strongest queries, and as an Agent I appreciate being able to read through the submission pool and easily find things I’m interested in. Although, a pool of fantastic queries makes it extremely difficult to only request a few in the company of many.
Question 2: You’ll be browsing through entries from 20 or 25 finalists. Will you approach it any differently than your regular slush pile?
RA: With my general slush pile, I usually know pretty quickly if I’m going to request additional material. With contests, the entries are much more competitive so I tend to rely on the manuscript sample a bit more heavily. I prefer contests that include a sample (250- 500 words etc) with the query opposed to those that only offer the query. Even from the very first words of your manuscript, you should be able to engage me in the same way your query does. The quickest way for me to pass over a query and move to the next one is if your manuscript sample doesn’t support the strength of your query. My slush pile tends to lean more heavily in the direction of query strength, but manuscripts that make it to the final group of competition contestants need to have an equally as strong sample as they do query for me to request more material.
Question 3: What catches your eye more – a great query or a great first five pages? (no fair saying both.)
RA: I know you don’t want me to say both, but….my answer would have to be both. With regards to general slush, you need to have a great query and hook to motivate me to keep reading onto the sample. The voice of your manuscript is something that takes longer than five pages to develop, but that doesn’t mean that five pages aren’t enough for me to feel connected or disconnected to your manuscript/characters. Agents all have different things they are drawn to when it comes to voice, and in those first few sample pages we hope to find what we are looking for (or the possibility of it developing father along into the story). A great query and strong first five pages really go hand in hand for me.
Note from your humble blog host: Ok, so I knew Rebecca was going to say “both” query and sample pages (even though I told her not to). But I think what’s really interesting about her response is she mentions “voice” as one of the big things that draws an agent in whether it’s the query or the sample pages. A good lesson to take to heart.
Question 4: In football terms, what’s your draft strategy? Are you looking to fill “a need” in your client lineup or are you simply looking for “the best” story regardless of what genre it falls into.
RA: I usually have very particular types of manuscripts I’m looking for. For my middle grade spots last year, I really wanted to find a strong fantasy, historical, contemporary, and a magical realism. I ended up signing a futuristic magical realism, a historical, a historical fantasy, a humorous fantasy, and a survival story. My strategy is to figure out where I would like to see my list going, and then look for manuscripts that would fall into those categories. As you can see from the MG authors I signed last year, their manuscripts fell in line relatively closely with what I was looking for. This year I’m really looking for contemporary in MG and YA, and YA (not fantasy) romance. Both contemporary and romance are pretty broad categories so I’m excited to see what submissions come way.
Question 5: What’s the single best piece of advice you could give writers when they enter a contest like #p2p16?
RA: Do your query homework. There are so many great resources to help authors polish and perfect their queries. The competition in these contests is tuff, and you want to make sure that your query stands out while also spotlighting your manuscript. Most importantly, make sure your query and sample page(s) balance each other. The quickest way for me to pass over a submission and move to the next one is if the sample doesn’t match the query. If your query describes a humorous picture book and yet your sample feels doom and gloom, your query and manuscript are out of balance. I want to see the humor in your sample because you’ve set up the platform for a humorous picture book in your query.
Question 6: You’ve been through P2P once already – any improvements you might suggest to make the contest even better during the agent round?
RA: I would really like to see the age genres separated from each other. If I recall correctly, last P2P submissions were listed together (adult, children’s, literary etc). As an Agent who only represents children’s literature/juvenile fiction, I would’ve liked to see all of the Kid Lit grouped together.
Question 7: What would be the perfect manuscript find in #p2p16? What would be an automatic pass?
RA: I would absolutely love to find an emotionally driven contemporary middle grade with a query that grabs my attention, and a strong voice that shows from the very first page. For me to automatically pass would mean that the query lacks a strong hook and/or the query isn’t representative of the sample pages.
Question 8: Quick, pick one: You can either be a heroine as Dr. Who’s assistant in the season finale or a villain as Loki’s side-kick in the next Avengers movie?
RA: Can I amend this a bit and propose that I can be the Doctor instead? I mean I’d love to be Dr. Who’s companion in the season finale or Christmas episode, but I’d much rather be the Doctor so I can have my very own Tardis and sonic screwdriver. I’m not a big Avenger’s fan, but I am a diehard Whovian as shown by the window sticker on my SUV and my Tardis phone cover. But I guess if I had to pick from one of your two options, I would choose to be Dr. Who’s companion in a Christmas Special Episode (but only if the Doctor was still played by David Tennant or Matt Smith and not Peter Capaldi).
Note from humble blog author: See, now this is why agents are such interesting creatures. Given a choice of two options…she cleverly devises a “third option” to insure she winds up with her very own sonic screwdriver. So sneaky. (But then again, that cleverness really comes in handy when she’s pitching your book to publishers!)
Thanks again for stopping by Rebecca! Great stuff!
- Related post: Looking for tips on preparing for #p2p16?
- Related post: Interested in what it’s like once you send in your entry?
- Related post: Interview with a p2p editor.
Wishing everyone the best of luck in #p2p16!