Lauren: Hi Wendy! I’m so excited to talk to you about how we started working together, and the role Manuscript Wishlist played in your publishing journey. First, can you tell me a bit about how you first went about querying, and what you were looking for in an agent?
Wendy: Hi Lauren! I’m more excited! I feel like I found the best, shiniest, solid-gold needle in the world’s biggest haystack!
I started querying seriously about six years ago. I began by sending queries blindly through sites like agentquery.com and moved on to looking through agency websites, where I’d pore through agent bios searching for a genre match. I was looking for an agent who was editorial, hands-on, and (I barely dared to dream) excited about the types of projects I liked to work on. It seemed like a lot to ask for, and there were definitely moments of despair when I thought I’d settle for a Golden Retriever with a Blackberry and a monocle.
Actually, that’d be really cute. Can Triada look into that?
Lauren: I’ll get on that right away. ::adds to To Do list:: In the meantime, I’d love to hear more about how you eventually found me, and the kind of research you did before or after you queried. Did you already know I was an editorial agent, or was that something you figured you’d find out if I offered to represent you?
Wendy: I’m very excited about the new mascot idea.
Through Twitter and writing contests, I found my way to ManuscriptWishList.com, where I found a handful of agents looking for psychological thrillers, one of them being…you. On your ManuscriptWishList.com bio, you stated that you were looking for “twisted, female-driven psychological thrillers in the vein of Lauren Beukes and Gillian Flynn.” Now, as you well know, HUNTING ANNABELLE is…it’s…well…it has some pretty dark moments, and I thought you’d be an agent who could hang on through them.
After stalking you online, I saw that you write YA and are active in that community. I thought that would help my chances, as my books tend to skew young for the genre. HUNTING ANNABELLE’s characters are college age, which was something I worried about with agents used to more domestic GONE GIRL/THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN style thrillers.
Through Twitter, I knew you used to do editing, and I had participated in a first page/query swap organized by you a year or two prior, so I hoped you’d be an editorial agent, but it was our first conversation that really clued me into your process. I don’t know if you remember, but we were at least a half hour deep into plans to completely rewrite the third act from a different POV before I realized you were offering to represent the book. I thought you were just seeing if I was willing to do a rewrite, which would lead to an R&R, which has historically led to rejection/despair/Pinot Noir/long diary entries/shaving strange parts of my head. So before I even knew you wanted to represent me, I knew you’d be very hands-on. Which I love.
Lauren: I’m so glad! Okay, one last question: what advice would you give to querying authors? Is there anything you’d recommend they consider, or ask on The Call?
Wendy: Ooh, this is a good question. Here are the big ticket items toward which I’d steer a querying writer, keeping in mind that I am no more an expert than anyone else, and my advice is surely incomplete:
1. Communication: Agents, being human, are very diverse. To the writer I’d say, make sure you can agree on norms of email response time, timelines for partial and full manuscript reviews, revision expectations and style, and the like.
2. They need to be a fan of their clients’ work. It shouldn’t be lukewarm.
3. Do they have a coherent, organized plan for selling the book? Do they have a mental list of editors they’re excited to pitch it to?
4. Do they have a history of positive and professional industry relationships? Do their clients seem happy with them?
5. Do they push their clients to do better? This person should feel like a coach, both tough and their clients’ biggest fan.
6. This one is kind of a “duh,” but…do they know how to sell books? Lauren, you were pretty new to agenting when we signed, but you had worked in the industry for a good amount of time and had a lot to say about the process of submission. You knew editors. You had a great, successful agency team. You were clearly already highly skilled in your field, and I never worried you didn’t know how to do your job.
I feel like we should all take a moment to show our undying thankfulness to the agents who work so hard for our projects, pitching them until their iPhones have to be surgically extracted from their fists. I believe I got my Call from you when you were on a family vacation, and we’ve had many a weekend chat/evening email session. I am grateful every single day for you, Lauren, and all the work you put into my book.
I feel the same way, and that is absolutely fabulous advice! Thank you for sharing your story!
Lauren Spieller is an Assistant Literary Agent with TriadaUS Literary Agency. When she isn’t reading, she can be found drinking lattes, pining for every dog she sees, or visiting her native California. Lauren is also the author of Your Destination is on the Left, which is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in June 2018. Follow her on Twitter @laurenspieller.
Wendy Heard is a Los Angeles-based novelist writing psychological thrillers for an adult audience. Her debut thriller, HUNTING ANNABELLE, is forthcoming from Mira in 2019. She enjoys adventures both real and imagined, preferably involving the ocean and the woods, concurrently if possible. Her natural dislikes as a native Angeleno include traffic and people who commit traffic-related driving infractions.