Lisa here with another AMAZING agent for you to get to know! So please welcome Melissa Edwards from the Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency.
Melissa L. Edwards is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School. She is a member in good standing of the New York State bar. While Melissa began her career as a commercial litigation attorney, she always maintained aspirations to work in publishing. At present, Melissa handles foreign rights for Aaron Priest and she is actively reading to develop her own list. Melissa's taste ranges in genre from classic Victorian literature to hard-boiled crime dramas. She is interested in reading international thrillers with likeable and arresting protagonists, light-hearted women's fiction and YA, female-driven (possibly small-town) suspense, and completely immersive fantasy. Ultimately, Melissa is looking for a book that will keep her glued to the couch all day and night, and continue to occupy her thoughts for weeks later.
Melissa, What are some things you love to see in a query?
I love when a query is well- organized. This is not the time for stream of consciousness. I want to be introduced to the writer. Who is she? Where does she live? What does she do? Why is she writing this book now? Then I like to see an introduction the material at hand—a pitch, a hook. I am less interested in a synopsis because I want to be surprised by the plot as I am reading the manuscript. Then I almost always want to see a sample of the manuscript itself. Ten pages or so is the perfect amount. Just enough to whet my appetite to ask for more. A query should feel a little bit like cocktail hour—short, potentially exciting, and just tantalizing enough to prep for dinner.
Character, world, or plot?
I am going to be the worst and say all three. I think we are all aware that publishing is an extremely subjective and competitive business. Putting a manuscript out on submission is a huge amount of work (to say nothing of the amount of work that went into writing the book.) I want to do the work for a manuscript that I love wholeheartedly. A manuscript that creates a fully developed, palpable world with charismatic, believable characters and an exciting, mind-gripping plot is the ultimate want. I think the three elements interplay with another to seamlessly create a book that becomes un-put-down-able. (I create words—probably why I am not the writer in this relationship!)
Why did you become an agent?
I became an agent because I wanted to pursue a career that combined my skills and my interests. I went to law school after college and, among other topics, I studied Intellectual Property and Copyright Law. I learned how to interpret contracts and advocate for clients. However, I found the actual practice of law less than stimulating. I’ve always been a passionate reader. Like so many, I found solace in literature from a young age. (YA literature was so important to my development as a young person—I think is why I am so driven to find and support the publication of great YA titles.) In law school, I could often be found eschewing my casebooks and instead reading a novel. At some point, I realized being an agent would allow me to read books for a living, while also making good use of my (very expensive) legal education. When conceiving of this dream job, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy both the selection and advocacy elements of being an agent. There is something extremely fulfilling about reading through the slush pile to unearth and nurture a debut author. Negotiating publishing contracts has also proved to be more satisfying than the law student in me could have imagined. Further, I feel very fortunate to be working at the Aaron Priest Agency, which has a long history of success for authors. There is so much to learn and thankfully the Aaron Priest Agency allows for a fully immersive education.