What are the elements of a perfect submission for you? What can a writer do to make sure they haven’t wasted their opportunity to query a project?
With an increasing number of authors turning to indie publishing, do you see agents approaching self-published authors if they like the author's work? Does it sway an agent's decision when they see an author has taken on the commitment to craft, professionally edit, design, and publish their own work?
What are you looking for in MG these days?
With the sweet spot for picture books being 400 words or less are publishers buying more easy readers and chapter books? If so, can you share word count targets and desired topics?
If an agent has requested material in the past, is it helpful to mention that if we query them later with a new project?
[SB]: Sure, if you can turn a weakness into a strength. You’re reminding someone of a pass when you do that. But maybe you can do it in a funny, charming way, or maybe that past project truly was a close call for the agent. I think query letters can generally just be clear, concise, and professional, but I have no hard and fast rules for these things. Lauren Oliver came up to me in a bar one night and said, “I’m going to send you a novel called BEFORE I FALL and I’ve decided you’re going to be my agent.” That would be the wrong approach for 99% of writers, but it worked for her. Me, too, I guess. Everyone figures out what works for them.
"Stephen Barbara has been a literary agent since 2006, representing authors of books for young readers as well as select adult fiction and nonfiction. His list of critically acclaimed and bestselling authors includes Lauren Oliver, Laura Amy Schlitz, Lisa Graff, Leila Sales, Sam Munson, Paul Tremblay, Lynne Jonell, Todd Strasser, and Jack D. Ferraiolo, as well as the companies Paper Lantern Lit and The Story Pirates. Prior to joining InkWell in 2015, Stephen spent six years as an agent with Foundry Literary + Media, and before that was Contracts Director of the Donald Maass Agency for three years, both in New York City. He is originally from New Haven, CT, graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002, and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife and son."
You can find Mr. Barbara at the InkWell Management website and his Twitter @Stephen_Barbara. Check out his Agent Spotlight for more interviews and information.
Stephen, thank you for your time and expertise. It is so very appreciated.