week I'm going to be sharing some interviews with agents. These agents
graciously agreed to answer my questions, and I can't tell you how much I
appreciate their participation. I really enjoyed corresponding with
them, and I enjoyed the answers they shared. I hope you'll enjoy them as
much as I did!
Michael Carr ~ Veritas Literary
Associate Michael Carr is a literary agent with a background in editing and writing, working from a home base in the Northeast. He works carefully with clients to produce the cleanest, most professional manuscripts and enjoys teaching at workshops and conferences to help develop emerging writers. Michael speaks Spanish and conversational French and before joining Veritas had professions as diverse as programming simulators for nuclear submarines and owning an inn in Vermont.
1. What do you represent?
I represent a lot of historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and women’s fiction. I’m also interested in seeing YA with a genre angle and non-fiction.
2. What made you decide to become an agent?
I was doing some freelance editing and kind of fell into agenting after coming across some promising prospective manuscripts. Agenting was a natural fit for me, given my background in writing and editing, as well as having been a voracious reader all my life.
3. Why did you choose to work with your current agency?
Literary is the only agency I’ve worked with. I started working with
Katherine Boyle about six years ago when I was helping her with a
client’s manuscript and came across some promising manuscripts that I
thought she should take a look at. One thing led to another, and soon I
was signing my own clients.
4. What is your favorite part of the job, and what is your least favorite part?
really love making that call offering representation, and it’s even
sweeter when I can tell a new author that she has her first book
contract. That will never get old.
I really struggle sometimes with the constant rejection. Sending back
queries and rejecting promising requested manuscripts is a big part of
my day, and sometimes it’s just too much. I know each of these
rejections causes a little bit of pain. It’s also unpleasant when a
manuscript has gone out on submission to publishing houses but doesn’t
sell. An author has come so close, only to realize she has to start over
with a new book.
Sometimes authors develop misconceptions about agents or the
publishing industry as a whole. What is one misconception you feel is
common, and what would you say to dispel it? What is something you want
authors to know about agents in general, or about you in particular?
There are quite a few misconceptions. Most are pretty harmless. Because querying is so difficult and time consuming for authors, they live in terror of being dumped by their agent, or of offending an an agent who offers representation by asking for a week or two to make a decision. If an agent offers, do some research, ask questions, and take a little time to make a decision. You may have a relationship with this person that will last years or even decades.
6. What makes you connect with a character?
I connect with characters who have a strong will, who are not passive, but try to solve their problems. A character that comes to life on the page is one of the keys to great fiction.
7. Most authors have "Dream Agents". Do agents have "Dream Authors"? How would you describe your "Dream Author"?
I have a couple of dream authors already. They are warm and responsive, they work hard and take pride in their work without becoming difficult when the time comes to work on a manuscript.
I’ll call out my writer, Ellen Marie Wiseman, author of The Plum Tree, What She Left Behind, and Coal River. She’s just as easy to work with now as she was five years ago when she was a debut author and we were just starting to work together.
8. What makes a query letter stand out for you in such a way that you HAVE to request more pages?
It’s not the query letter itself, but a compelling opening. Make me want to keep reading, and I will.
9. Is there anything that will make you automatically reject a query letter?
I get a lot of stuff that’s just not what I represent. It gets rejected right away.
10. What are some common problems you see in queries or manuscripts?
Resist the urge to explain! So many authors give a nice hook, and then stop the narrative dead to explain all the back story or do world building. We don’t need to know what or why—in fact, the not knowing drives interest—we only need current events to be clear.
11. What words of wisdom would you like to share with an aspiring author?
You’re probably not writing enough. Don’t compare your output to other aspiring authors, compare it to people making a living, and try to match. Work hard and be persistent, and you’re ahead of 95% of the competition.
12. The dreaded synopsis. How do you feel about it?
I don’t like them, and I never read them until forced to do so. That usually comes when an editor asks for a synopsis. Until then, a hook in a query is good enough, and then I’ll let the book speak for itself.
A special thank you to Michael Carr for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions!