Thursday, June 19, 2014

3 Agent Interview: Denise Barone

Lisa here with the second in our Agent Interview Series. I'm happy to introduce you all to Denise Barone of the Barone Literary Agency!

Let's jump right in, shall we?

What is it about a manuscript that excites you?

Good, clean writing that has been well edited.

What are some things you love to see in a query?

If I know you’ve been published elsewhere—it can be anything, a university press, a small e-press, a magazine article, etc.—it helps me a lot, because it tells me you’re serious and that you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, I may still end up having to turn you down, but I will hold onto your query long after I’ve told others no, to give your query more consideration, and to possibly change my mind and say yes.

What are some of the worst things you’ve seen in a query?

I don’t need to hear about your platform, what a wonderful film/TV series/Miniseries/sitcom/dotcom/romcom/dopecom your story will, make; I don’t need you to tell me the relentless efforts you will undergo to make sure you flog every person you meet into making them buy your book—I don’t want to read any of that nonsense, although in a way it does help me, because it tells me you do NOT know what you’re doing. All I care about is the writing. If you can’t write, you can flog away, but nobody’s going to buy your book.

Are you an editorial agent? 

Yes, most certainly, I am an editorial agent. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about writing and editing in the years that I’ve also been writing, and I like to share my knowledge with my writers. I wish I had more time to edit their work, but I will take a client’s story to a certain point, and then tell the writer to go and edit some more along the lines I’ve pointed out to her. If a writer is making a certain kind of editing/writing mistake on page 10, she’s still making it on page 100, and it isn’t a good use of my time to edit all the way to page 100, because my writers are smart and can edit themselves. For every minute that I work on a client’s manuscript, I expect that client will end up working an hour on edits. If I spend an hour with your manuscript, it’s going to take you at least ten hours to do a thorough pass-through, taking your time and fixing the story and making it good.

Really good info! Thank you, Denise.

You can stalk find Denise on

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  1. Thanks for the interview, Denise (and for hosting it, Lisa). I am perplexed by the emphasis some publishing professionals put on platform, especially with a new novelist. It's as if that may overcome bad writing. I'm glad to see a few putting the emphasis on quality writing first, which would be putting the horse before the cart. Thanks again!

  2. I agree with pointing out what the author is doing wrong in one place then having the author go through the rest of the manuscript to fix it. Not only does it give the author a chance to make the book better on her own but saves the agent a heck of a lot of time fixing the problem over and over throughout the book. Nice interview.

  3. Very helpful reminders here. Thanks for the post.


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