Thursday, May 14, 2015

0 International Agent, Julia Weber Discusses Query Dont's and What She Really Wants

Julia is a cardigan-wearing literary agent with a –sometimes unhealthy– love for books, sports, coffee, cake, romance, and eye candy. She hates the sound a pencil makes on paper, always (ALWAYS) has random numbers flying around her head, and her favourite pizza toppings are a combo of pineapple and black olives… just in case you were wondering.

While based in Germany Julia’s open to international submissions and is looking for MG, YA, NA, Women’s Fiction, Romance, and Thrillers. Julia is always on the look-out for new clients, but is also extremely picky, so make sure your query and manuscript are the best they can be before querying.
Julia can be found on her website and on Twitter.

1.)   What is it about a manuscript that excites you? 

Voice. Great writing and a strong voice can even make the most boring plot stand out, but even the best plot can’t overcome poor writing.

2.)   What is on your wish list? 

Unputdownable manuscripts. Obviously. J I’m generally interested in MG, YA, NA, Romance, psychological thrillers, and Women’s Fiction. I’m more of a commercial of a contemporary, realistic kind of girl, and if there’s a whole lot of humour, even better.

As for YA, I’m always looking for sports/ boarding school/ summer camp themes, realistic (and humorous) stories, and swoonworthy romance. I’d also love to find amazingly original contemporary retellings of classics that haven’t been retold yet. I’m a huge sucker for village/ farm/ small town settings. I’d love to see contemporary and modern takes on films like She’s All That, Clueless, Pleasantville, and manuscripts in the vein of Dawson’s Creek (more Pacey, less Dawson), One Tree Hill, Sliding Doors, Center Stage, etc.  All in all, I’m not the right fit for high fantasy or sci-fi. I’m happy to look at Paranormal, but it’s not necessarily my favourite genre, so it’ll be really hard to win me over with that.

I’m STILL looking for that awesome stalker thriller that makes me want to look over my shoulder and hide under the duvet. A thriller that digs deep, and really shows the psychological aspects of stalking, and being stalked. What makes the stalker tick? Bonus points if the stalker is somebody the victim thinks they can trust.

If you’re interested in following my wish list, all my #MSWL tweets show up here:

I’m sure there are so many things I don’t even know I’m looking for, so just surprise me. J

3.)   Character, world, or plot? 

A little of all of the above. I tend to only go for stories that are set in our world, so “world” doesn’t apply to me as much as the others. That said, I still want to get a strong sense of the setting – no matter where/when the story is set.

The plot is important, no doubt, but the character makes or breaks the story for me. A character that isn’t believable annoys me. I need to connect with a character on at least some level to get drawn into the story, to care about the character’s journey and fate. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the character has to be likeable – I’ve seen a lot of discussions about this – but the character needs to at least intrigue me. If you can’t get me invested in the character, I’ll lose probably interest in reading hundreds of pages about that character.

4.)   What are some of the worst things you've seen in a query?

Where to start, where to start? I’ve seen so many queries that had me shake my head (and possibly my fist). Here some of my “favourites”:

Query emails with nothing but a link to a website or Amazon page. Chapters 1, 7, and 14 instead of the first three chapters I ask for in my submission guidelines. Queries for unfinished manuscripts or manuscripts the writers haven’t even STARTED writing. Inappropriate or borderline creepy comments about me. A query that had an audio file of the author reading his manuscript instead of sample chapters. Queries that read “I know you don’t handle/like this kind of story, BUT…”. A 200-word rant about literary agents and the entire publishing industry. “There’s not much to say about me”… in the query for a 90,000-word memoir.

5.)   Are you an editorial agent?

Yes, very.

6.)   What do you like to do for fun?

I’m a huge sports fan. I love playing field hockey and golf, and I enjoy watching all kinds of sports, which is probably why I’m such a sucker for good sports-themed fiction. Enjoying a glass of wine or G&T with friends is also one of my favourite pastime activities.

7.)   What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you? 

First of all, have a finished and polished manuscript to query. Don't approach agents with the first rough draft of your manuscript. Of course, writers are excited about their work, and they want to submit it as soon as possible. The problem: a work in progress is a huge turnoff. And a first draft is still a work in progress. Before querying, you should proofread, revise, tweak, address possible plot and character changes, etc. If you query before your manuscript is really ready, you're bound to collect needless rejections. Do your homework before querying. Research. Find out who represents your genre, and only query those agents who handle the type of book you have written. If they don’t represent your genre, don’t waste your time by querying them. Genre specializations exist for a reason, and agents will not change them just for you. Check the submission guidelines on the agency website. They ask for the first three chapters? Great, send them your first three chapters. Do not send chapters 3, 7, and 15 – or your entire 1,400-page manuscript. Another great source is Twitter. Not only do many agents share fantastic query, writing, and general publishing tips, quite a few also tweet what they’re hoping to find in their inbox. Check hash tags like #agentwishlist or #MSWL (manuscript wish list). Also: subject lines! Some queries I receive have some really weird subject lines, from no subject at all to “Knock, knock”. The format “Query: TITLE” makes my life so much easier. Once you’ve hit the “send” button, be patient. You may hear back within a day, you may have to wait a few weeks, depending on the agent’s current client workload and the number of other queries in their inbox. The agency website often states when you can expect to hear back. In the meantime… patience. It’ll be a great practice for your later publishing journey.

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