For many authors querying is hard. If you’re shy like me, talking to an agent or an editor seems almost impossible. Your palms get sweaty. Your brain turns to mush and your tongue forgets how to form words. To make pitching or simple conversation easier, it’s good to remember agents and editors are people. One way to do that is to learn a little about them and what they’re looking for before trying to sell our stories.
At a recent Wisconsin Romance Writer meeting, I had the good fortune to meet Laura Zats from Red Sofa Literary. I threw a lot of questions at her, which she graciously answered in hopes of helping me and other writers.
MJC: What has been the highlight of your career?
LZ: Every time I sign an author or sell a book, it’s just as awesome as the first time. I can’t choose! It’s great having someone agree to put their career in your hands, or having an editor confirm you do actually have good taste in books.
MJC: What’s your advice to an aspiring author?
LZ: Wait until you’re ready. Use your resources to learn as much as you can about writing and the business, and don’t go into it unprepared!
MJC: What is on your manuscript wish list?
LZ: Specific requests are tagged on twitter as #MSWL, but my biggest requests are feminist and diverse books.
MJC: What do you like best about being an agent?
LZ: Honestly, I like everything except for saying no to people–the reading, the editing, the contracts!
MJC: What percentage of new clients you sign in are debut authors?
LZ: Probably 80-90%
MJC: What are the qualities of your ideal client?
LZ: That they’re a team player–they thrive on feedback (both good and bad) and want to be as helpful and as knowledgeable as possible.
MJC: What are your top three favorite books?
LZ: Oh, I definitely can’t answer that! I have no idea!
MJC: What are you currently reading?
LZ: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
MJC: If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
LZ: When I was a kid, I would have said flight, but I’d like to stop time so I can get all my work done and perhaps a few naps as well.
MJC: How many submissions do you typically receive in a week?
LZ: Anywhere between 100-200 queries.
MJC: What questions do you wish authors would ask before considering a match with an agent?
LZ: There’s no one specific question, but I’d love it if authors asked agents about their long-term career trajectories. It’s important that authors sign with someone they think will take them where they want to go!
MJC: What is most common plotting error you see in submissions?
LZ: Most of the errors I see don’t quite make it to the plot, but for fulls I stop reading, the most common reason is that it lags in the middle–the pressure of the climax needs to feed the book all the way through!
MJC: What trends are you seeing over and over again in your slush pile?
LZ: Angels, demons, shifters, vampires, superheroes, empaths, bucket lists.
MJC: Do you evaluate submissions with the Mako Mori test? Why or Why not?
LZ: I actually have the Bechdel and Mako Mori tests as requirements on my submissions list!
MJC: Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent?
LZ: Definitely! I love getting in there and discovering plot holes and brainstorming with my authors.
Favorites Flash Round:
Martial arts move:
I plead the fifth. Don’t want to make the other boyfriends sad.
That’s what she said
The Princess Bride
MJC: Mine, too.
Old school Sonic
Fluevog knee-high boots
MJC: They look awesome.
Mac n cheese