Q&A with Agents of Query Roulette 2017 (Part One)

At Query Roulette a writer’s rough query letter can be fixed and turned into a gateway towards a successful book deal! Attendees have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with several agents in one night and get advice on their query letter and current writing project. This year, twelve amazing literary agents have donated their time and expertise to advise writers that night.

To give attendees a sneak peak at whom they’ll be meeting with, here are brief Q&A with some of this year’s participating agents:


AIMEE ASHCRAFT (Brower Literary & Management)

Aimee works with Upmarket and Literary Fiction (specifically historical), Women’s Fiction, YA (all genres). Aimee seeks out stories that feature all-encompassing worlds and compelling female characters. Authors include novelists Meghan Quinn (Dear Life), and Kennedy Ryan (Soul Series).


You like compelling female characters. What are some of your favorites in literature? And which ones (if any) do think too many writers have tried to emulate?

There are so many that I love—Jane Eyre, Jo March, Kathy H. from Never Let Me Go, and Esch from Salvage the Bones are the first to come to mind. I love any heroine who in some way subverts what society expects from her, who directs her own narrative and grows in unexpected ways. As for over-emulation, I have seen a lot of Lizzie Bennets [Pride and Prejudice] popping up, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! (I loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s Eligible after all.) I’d say there’s no character that is necessarily off limits at this point. Emulation can work as long as a writer brings a fresh perspective to a classic heroine.


When a writer has a project that could fit into multiple categories, how do you suggest they describe it to agents?

I’d suggest the writer, above all, remain faithful to his or her own vision for the project. The best agent for them will not only connect with that vision, but will also help the writer develop a vision for the project’s future. Whether the writer wants to embrace those multiple categories or focus on just one, the decision is ultimately up to them. If they stay true to what they the see for their project, the best agent for them will see it too.


You represent Kennedy Ryan, a popular contemporary romance writer.  What key sales and marketing activities are Ryan and her team is doing to help sell books and make a name for her?

Kennedy uses social media (specifically Facebook and Twitter) really well, not only to let her readers know about her latest releases, but also to personally connect with them. She goes out of her way to respond to comments and questions and really shows that she appreciates the support she gets from each reader. She’s also takes opportunities to get her name out there through other media and news platforms, and this is proving to be an effective strategy. An interview about her latest novel, Grip, was recently featured in the Huffington Post.


Aimee will be a participating agent at the Maryland Writers Association Annual Conference in Annapolis, MD later this month. Follow Aimee @AimeeAshcraft


Agents of Query Roulette 2017

ERIC MYERS (Dystel, Goderich, & Bourrer LLC

Eric works with YA and Middle Grade fiction, Adult Non-Fiction (History, Biography, Psychology, Health, Mind/Body/Spirit, and Pop Culture), and Adult Thrillers. Authors include Chris Grabenstein (Tilt A Whirl; The Island of Dr. Libris) and Seth Rudetsky (The Rise and Fall of a Theater Geek).


What do you NOT like to see in a Query Letter—particularly for Non-Fiction projects?

In the Subject line of an email, I prefer that the project be described as Memoir if it’s a memoir, rather than “Non-fiction.” Memoir is more specific and tells me what I need to know. If I see “Non-fiction,” I think of that as applying to a much broader realm; a much bigger picture. If it’s a memoir, call it one, not “non-fiction.”


You’re on the lookout for Medical Thrillers. I love the ones that have a horror element, like Coma and Brain by Robin Cook. They make you never want to visit the hospital or have surgery. Are you looking for old school, or a thriller with more bio-tech and dystopia elements?

Any of the above! They’re all equally creepy and disturbing. There’s never going to be anything pleasant about being in a hospital, so let’s play it for all it’s worth!


What are a few tips for those writing a thriller for MG and YA readers?

Keep things moving a bit faster than you would an adult thriller.


Anything you would like to let QR attendees know beforehand that’s outside your bio?

Try to relax; we want to encourage you. And if I turn down your pitch, it doesn’t mean I don’t like it—it means that I don’t feel I’d be the right fit as agent, and that another agent might know better how to embrace your idea and run with it.


Eric will be a participating agent this spring at 30th Annual Pennwriters Conference in Pittsburgh PA, and this summer at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference, ThrillerFest XII in NYC, and The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference in WA. Follow Eric @Ericmyersagent


JESS DALLOW (Brower Literary Management

Jess worked in the entertainment industry for eight years before returning to her home state of NY where she eventually joined the agency. Jess is interested in Adult and YA Commercial Fiction, with a focus on Romance, Family, Thrillers, and Women’s Fiction. Jess especially likes books that feature well-developed, strong female characters. Authors include Nina Bocci (Roman Crazy)


What do you NOT like to see in a query letter?

I do not like the author writing in first person as their character. It tends to be confusing and I’m not quite getting a real picture of what your story is, more what your character thinks the story is. If you can be creative, great, but don’t be creative because it’s what you think agents want to see. All we really want from the query is a clear picture of what your plot is and a little information about you. I’m also not a huge fan of when query letters start with a question. 


You have qualified experience with entertainment writing and screenplays. What advice do you have—both query letter and format—for someone who is trying to sell a screenplay? 

For the most part, query letters are the same, regardless of if it’s a screenplay or a manuscript. There’s something known as a three-act structure when it comes to film and for a query letter, each plot point in your film should be touched upon. What is your protagonist’s journey? I like knowing that in manuscript queries, as well. Aside from what it’s about, tell me about yourself. Yes, if you have experience I want to know about it, but if you don’t, that’s fine. The best query I got was when the author told me six fun facts about herself. It made me feel like I knew her and therefore I wanted to read her manuscript.

When it comes to screenplay format (if you mean the actual script format), the best suggestion would be to use Final Draft. It guides you along in the format and it’s great. It’s what I used during all four years of college and the few years after when I was still working on screenplays.


Anything you would like to let QR attendees know beforehand that’s outside your bio?

While I generally don’t represent middle grade or sci-fi fantasy, it doesn’t mean I’m opposed to it. If the writing is strong and you have a character I can fall in love with and a voice that makes me feel as if I’m in the story, then I want to see it. I love writers who play with formats (I was having a discussion earlier that having a novel written like a reality show – i.e. having a character talking to the reader honestly about that moment – would be so great. Or something along the lines of how Jane the Virgin is done). Mostly, I just want to find something I can’t stop thinking about.


Jess will be a participating agent this summer at The Philadelphia Writer’s Conference in Philadelphia, PA, the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam in NYC, and ThrillerFest XII in NYC. Follow Jess @JLDallow


LEIGH EISENMAN (Hannigan, Salky, Getzler Agency)

Leigh joined the publishing industry after 10 years of practicing law. She is seeking to build her list in Adult Fiction, Cookbooks, Food Writing, Health & Fitness, and select Narrative Non-Fiction. Leigh combines her legal background with her love of books as both an agent and an attorney advising authors and other publishing professionals.


What do you LOVE to see in a query letter?

A really intriguing opening sentence that makes me wants to start reading the novel immediately!


At what point did you decide to give up law and become an agent?

Probably sometime around when I kept taking online writing classes while working as a lawyer, staying late in my office to write after I’d put aside my legal work, and reading the Books section of The New York Times far more regularly than the securities law updates I received every day! But I’m actually still practicing – doing mostly publishing-related legal work, and the combination of agenting and providing counsel to authors, agents and other creative professionals is a wonderfully satisfying combination.


Any projects you’ve recently acquired / have coming out soon that you’re excited about? If so, what’s the genre?

The book won’t be out until Fall of 2018, but I sold my first cookbook this past Fall. I absolutely adore the authors and how they write and photograph their recipes—in a way that a novice cook like me can actually replicate. While we wait for the publication of their cookbook. I highly recommend their website, HusbandsThatCook.com.

Leigh and memoirist Rob Spillman (All Tomorrow’s Parties) talk with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett about the art and craft of writing memoir. Find the audio at: barbarademarcobarrett.com.


*There is still time to attend to Query Roulette 2017, go to the Registration Page today. Then get your query letters ready by March 14!* 

Our thanks to the Association of American Publishers , for their sponsorship of this event!

About Rachel Feldman

Rachel Feldman is the Membership Chairperson for the WNBA-NYC Chapter. She is also the spearhead of the annual Query Roulette fundraiser. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelWF

One Comment

  1. Great, pithy comments from the agents that writers can put to use before attending Query Roulette. Thanks, Rachel and team!

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