Thursday, June 16, 2016

4 Agent Q&A, Red Light/Green Light Contest Guidelines

NEXT WEEK our Red Light/Green Light contest is opening. This means you have seven more days to polish those first lines and first chapters for a chance to win a full request with notes from agent Kelly Peterson! Last Thursday we hosted a Twitter chat with Kelly, where she gave some great professional advice to all those with questions. I'm going to repost some highlights here for those who weren't able to participate, but first, here's everything you need to know if you're planning to enter Red Light/Green Light on the 23rd.

Red Light/Green Light Contest Schedule

June 23rd--Contest opens!

June 30th--50 first round participants announced, first sentences posted here on the AYAP blog

July 7th--25 second round participants announced, first and second sentences posted

July 14th--10 third round participants announced, first pages posted

July 21st--5 fourth round participants announced, 3 paragraph pitches posted

July 28th--Prize winner announced, along with a few words from Kelly on why she chose that entry.

On June 23rd, contest submissions will be accepted during two time windows: the first will open at Noon EST/9am Pacific, and the second will open at 3pm EST/Noon Pacific. The first 25 entries during Window One will be accepted into RL/GL, and the first 25 from Window Two. We anticipate slots will fill up quickly, so get those entries in as soon as you can!

Please return to the AYAP site on June 23rd for complete submission instructions, including the submission email address. 

Twitter Q&A Recap with Kelly Peterson

Last week's Twitter chat with Kelly was very well-attended, and we had some great questions asked. As such, we're going to cancel tonight's Facebook chat and instead, I'll post some of Twitter Q&A here. 

Q: Is the maximum word count for YA increasing? It seems more YA falls in the 110k+ range now, as opposed to under 100k. 

A: Yes, it definitely is. Most recent debuts have ranged from 85-105k, even in YA contemporary.

Q: What are your thoughts on querying a YA fantasy that's nearing 120k? Would you advise cutting the word count down? 

A: Yes, my first thought is usually to cut words and focus in more on plot. Narrow down to the essentials.

Q: How many clients does the average agent represent at one time? How many do you feel comfortable with? 

A: Some agents are more comfortable with large amounts, some with smaller. It depends on the agent. I know I will end up in a medium-smaller range. I'm a heavy editor and work closely with my clients. 

Q: What are some common mistakes you see querying writers make? 

A: Not following directions, not reading what I represent, offending women, degrading a particular genre.

Q: If you reject a manuscript, does that change how you view a writer if they query again with a different MS? 

A: No, it does not. I always tell writers to KEEP TRYING. Just don't send me another MS instantly. 

Q: How do you work with existing clients as new ideas come up? I'm curious to know if agents look at summaries/first drafts/works in progress. 

A: I have a small enough client base that I can actually work as a confidante to bounce ideas off of. If an idea isn't going to sell, or just doesn't sound like something that would be worth writing, I'll tell you first. 

Q: What do you see/feel the trend is in terms of small presses or self-publishing taking over? 

A: I'm noticing that small presses and self-publishing are starting to take a larger part in the market, but the Big Five are just as confident and strong as ever. They have a lot of influence with buyers and that won't break anytime soon. E-books have increased the market for small press and self-published authors to be more successful, though. 

Q: If an author is previously published, how much of an agent's decision is based on that author's existing work? 

A: I highly doubt an agent will read your previously published work, but we'll look into your professionalism in selling your books, how well they did, your social media influence because of them, etc. We like to see initiative. 

Q: What are your thoughts on authors who write across multiple genres? Should they stick to one? 

A: Writers should go where the inspiration takes them! I do encourage pen names for different age groups though. 

Q: How big of an impact does manuscript marketability have on your decision to offer representation? 

A: A large impact. As an agent, you need to know that you're representing a saleable book. We don't make money if you don't make money, so we have to be able to do our job. 

Q: What elements make voice compelling for you? 

A: This is such a tough one, but I'd go with wit, humor, third person perfect POV, and an innate ability for an author to really know and "be" their character. It's something that has to be built and worked at constantly. It takes a long time for authors to find their own voice and style!

Q: Working so closely with clients, I'd imagine compatibility is key. What do you look for in a writer? 

A: Strength, perseverance, patience, a sense of humor. I meet many in person, so nerves are always there, but people who have a good head on their shoulders and who prove to be thinking on the same wavelength as me. 

Q: How involved are agents in helping writers build their brand or careers? 

A: Extremely involved. We encourage you to do most of it on your own, but at Corvisiero Literary, we do consultations and help build your social media platform that way. We also help to guide writers through the publishing business of what sells and what doesn't sell while still encouraging inspiration and freedom. I've even created individual PR plans for my clients to maximize their brand and social media presence. 

Q: Are comp titles important to you? Can I query without them? 

A: You can query without them, but they do catch your eye if you use the right ones. Never choose extremely famous comp titles, keep them recent, and never reference classics or educational novels. 

Q: What's the first thing you look for when you open a query/MS? 

A: Word count! I scan for it immediately--I've received some YA that are 30-35k. 

Q: What books about writing would you recommend to writers?
Q: What would cause you to give an author a Revise & Resubmit? 

A: If I REALLY like the book/premise and the characters stuck with me for days after, I'd R&R. 

Q: What's most important to you when deciding to request from a query? What if there's one element you don't like, but you like everything else? 

A: It depends on what it is I don't like. Usually, however, if there's one thing I really don't like within the query and first 5 pages, it'll be a rejection. I wish I could read and edit everything, but unfortunately I just don't have the time. I do sometimes tell a writer that if they find their voice in a month or two, to query again. 

Q: What are some trends in fantasy that you'll automatically pass on? 

A: I'm sorry for this one! But werewolves, vampires, usually princesses, and the "chosen one." 
Q: What is the #1 piece of writing advice you'd give to writers in their publishing journey? 

A: To keep going and be patient. Find your grit and stick with it. 

And that's all, folks. A big thank you to Kelly and to all who participated in our Twitter chat last week. Get those openings ready, and we hope to see them all next Thursday!

Happy writing!


  1. Since I haven't participated in this contest before, it's not clear to me how we submit our first sentences. Is more information forthcoming?

    1. So sorry for the confusion! The complete submission protocol can be found here:

  2. Is the contest for YA only?

    1. It's open to YA, MG, and NA manuscripts. The complete submission protocol is here:


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