by Jofie Ferrari-Adler
This very lengthy Publishers Weekly article is an interview with young New York agents Julie Barer, Jeff Kleinman, Renee Zuckerbrot, and Daniel Lazar. You can read the whole thing online, but here's my favorite little section.
Tell me ten things in the query process that can make you want to reject something immediately.
ZUCKERBROT: When I get an e-mail that says, "Dear Agent..." and I can see that I'm one of seventy agents who got it.
KLEINMAN: Bad punctuation, bad spelling, and passive voice.
BARER: Is it wrong of me to say that handwritten letters make me uncomfortable? Does that make me ageist?
LAZAR: Writers who will have a lawyer send you something "on their behalf." It's ridiculous, and you also can't get a sense of the author's voice, which is what the letter's all about.
ZUCKERBROT: When people talk about whom they would cast in the movie version of the book. I received three of those this week!
BARER: Anything that says something like, "This is going to be an enormous best-seller, and Oprah's going to love it, and it will make you millions of dollars."
KLEINMAN: Desperation is always good. "I've been living in a garage for the past sixty years. Nobody will publish my book. You have to help me."
BARER: I love it when they tell me why nobody else has taken it on—when they tell me why it's been so unsuccessful.
ZUCKERBROT: Or they've come close and they will include an explanation of who else has rejected it and why. "Julie Barer and Jeff Kleinman said..."
LAZAR: If they're writing a children's book, they'll often say, "My children love this book."
BARER: Right! I don't care if your children, your mother, or your spouse love it. All of that means nothing to me.
KLEINMAN: When it's totally the wrong genre. When they send me a mystery or a western or poetry or a screenplay.