Ah, querying. That dubious part in the writing process when you check your email as often as you use the restroom—perhaps you’ve started checking your email while using the restroom—and wonder if the literary agent has read your query… and if a form rejection is in your near future. Again.
Followed on the heels of a well-earned victory dance for completing and polishing your manuscript, such a time of uncertainty often leaves writers wondering if this is the field for them after all.
Yet, many push through those moments of doubt, propelled by the aid of Mr. Daniels or another friendly face in the wine cabinet, and find themselves with that long-desired email: “Could you please send more pages of your manuscript?”
But how do writers get to that point? What do literary agents see that propels them to ask writers to send additional pages (or the entire manuscript)? How do the first several pages of a manuscript bring out the excited reader (and inner book nerd) in these agents?
Several members of the Corvisiero Literary Agency team have answered this very question:
What makes you ask for more pages?
“I suppose what really drives me to ask for more pages is how engaging the sample pages are in the query. Sometimes the query is outstanding and the synopsis is interesting but the pages fall flat because it’s all exposition or info-dumping and by the time I get to the real action of the story, I’ve lost all interest. It’s like going to see a film whose movie trailers have been phenomenal only to find out that the trailer scenes were the best in the entire film. You feel cheated.
“Pages that are engaging to me start with a memorable first line or immediate action with very little to no passive voice. They’re introducing me to the main character in a way that make me want to get to know them better and go on this journey with them, or they’re welcoming me into a world of pure imagination, thank you Mr. Wonka.”
Manuscript Wish List (MSWL):
Saritza is currently looking for more character-driven romance stories in both the adult and young adult market with particular attention to those written by marginalized or #OwnVoices authors. To view Saritza’s full MSWL, click here.
“What really makes me request more pages is a fantastic voice. The craft of storytelling is flawless and effortless. I forget what I’m doing and before I know it I’m at the end of the sample and have to read the rest. Generally, the first page starts with a killer first line. It gives me a sense of the promise of the premise and I get a good idea of the main character and why I should root for them and want to keep reading their journey.”
Cate seeks unique stories with well-crafted plots and unforgettable characters with a strong voice. In adult fiction, she is actively looking for romantic suspense, historical romance set in the Gilded Age, contemporary fantasy, and magical realism. She is also open to adult and children nonfiction as well as middle grade. To view Cate’s full MSWL, click here.
“For me, opening pages are all about clarity and consistency of voice. If I feel like I can ‘hear’ the character’s voice in my head as I’m reading, I automatically want to relate to that person more. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, it doesn’t matter. Voice tells me who you are, where you’ve been, how you feel about the subject matter, and—ideally—the tone of the first few pages should also establish what the narrator’s relationship is with me, the reader. Are we best friends? Does this person trust me? Can I trust them? Why do I care about what will happen to them?
“Another thing that makes me delve into a sample at high speeds is platform. If I’ve been following you on Twitter already, or you have a blog that I read on a regular basis, or a huge following on Instagram, or really strong ties in the writing community, a history of advocacy… You get it, right? That makes it harder for me to pass on a query even if I’m not one hundred percent convinced about the story yet. Because I know that you’ve put in the work and will likely continue to evolve throughout your writing career.”
Veronica is accepting middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult. For nonfiction, she prefers humorous and those centered upon current events and controversial issues. To view Veronica’s full MSWL, click here.
“I love, love, LOVE a query and first pages that can incorporate an intriguing voice. If I enjoy the way you write your character’s voice, there’s a good chance that I will enjoy your character’s journey as well. Your characters become the readers’ best friends throughout the course of your novel, so If I can’t get along with them in your first few pages, there’s a good chance I can’t deal with them for the rest of your manuscript. It’s a long-term relationship! Give me a reason to stay with them.”
*Kelly is closed to unsolicited queries until further notice.
“What makes a submission stand out to me and ask for more pages when there’s a strong voice and intriguing premise is if an author’s query is written with courtesy and humility. I am always moved to respond thoughtfully to such a person, encouraging them in their work even if it doesn’t fit my list. And those attributes need to be present for me to offer representation, since the author-agent relationship is such a professionally intimate one.”
Doreen is open to any genre, fiction and nonfiction, but especially enjoys mysteries and thrillers, biographies and memoirs, fantasy and the paranormal, and American history 1770-1800. To view Doreen’s full MSWL, click here.
“I like action in my first pages, whether running for your life, walking into an alien ambush, or internally freaking out because you slipped in front of your crush. Don’t give me backstory (that should flow through the story naturally) and don’t give me exaggerated description of character or setting. Make me feel engaged in the reading, and I will definitely turn the page for more.”
Kaitlyn’s main interests are in young adult, new adult, and adult—specifically, she is seeking fantasy, time travel, (select) dystopian, romance, historical, contemporary, and LGBT. To view Kaitlyn’s full MSWL, click here.
“Following submission guidelines is an important part of getting an agent’s attention, but there is a lot more to it than that. If you want an agent to request more, you need to show that you have researched exactly what the agent is looking for. You also want to make sure that your query and sample pages are as polished as possible.”
Justin is currently seeking middle grade, young adult, new adult, and adult fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, and historical fiction (as well as several others). To view his full MSWL, click here.