Agent Q&A - Michael Carr, Veritas Literary

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

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KingM

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I've received a few questions lately from AW writers with answers that might help the general community. Feel free to add any questions to the thread and I'll be happy to answer them.

As background, I am the newest agent with Veritas Literary. My background is as both a writer and several years as a freelance editor/book doctor. I have been working with our head agent, Katie Boyle on existing clients and gradually transitioning to co-agenting and am now actively building my list.

Q: Your web site doesn't list list YA, but you indicated interest on a thread. Can I query you with my YA?


A: Our web site is out of date and meant for the general agency rather than individual agents. We have a number of YA authors, including one that was recently signed based on a writer I met on AW. I am open to most anything except romance and erotica, largely because I don't know anything about those genres.

Q: Do you troll (in the fishing sense) AW for new writers?

A: Yes, regularly. We signed the aforementioned AW writer based on a query I saw on SYW. The novel came, it was wonderful, we offered and the book will go on submission in January. I have made several other requests based on queries I've seen on AW and just offered to my second AW writer. She's waiting to hear back on a couple of fulls, but I'm optimistic based on our conversation.

Q: Is there anything you'd particularly like to see?


A: More non-fiction. In fiction, I'd love to have a commercial, upmarket writer like Alan Furst who writes in some other historical setting. If you have a real vampire novel (you know, the deadly blood-sucking kind who need to be staked), please query. I'm always looking for lucid writing and good old fashioned storytelling.

Q: Query or query + pages? Synopsis?

A: Query + first five pages. No synopsis. They make me break out in hives.

One other thing. Don't email asking if you can query with this or that. Just query. If it's not what I'm looking for I'll reject it, but I don't have a lot of time for back and forth about specific projects. Until I'm interested. And then I have lots of time.
 

KingM

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Not a question, but something I posted elsewhere about the quality of writers I've met on AW that is worth repeating and explains one of the reasons I spend time here.

Just FYI, I have yet to receive a terrible submission from someone who contacts me as a result of AW. Seriously, not one. Every single AW query would have been in the top 10% of what we get via agentquery, etc.

There are still several hurdles after this point, including escaping from the mediocre pile, which is big enough in and of itself, but when someone contacts me through AW, I pay attention because while it might not be for me, it isn't going to waste my time.
 

KingM

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Q: Are there things you don't like to see?

A: I generally don't like stories with a message. I feel this way even if it's something I agree with passionately in the real world: racism is bad, the environment should be protected, etc. I want stories where the characters are nuanced and are people, not types. Even if I'm reading about a Nazi, I want him to be an interesting Nazi, not a stereotype of evil. The best villains have great justification for their evil, at least in their own minds.
 

brainstorm77

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In your opinion, what's hot right now?
 

thelastwordsmith

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Questions:

Did you send out any rejections today?:D

And what's the average length of queries you recieve? Your Preference?
 

amyashley

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Michael, thanks for posting!

This clarifies some things. Veritas website doesn't list paranormal or urban fantasy. I'll be adding you to my list now! Your presence has been a welcome addition lately.


1)How hands-on are you as an agent? I know that many agents come from editing backgrounds. Some like to get very involved with authors before submitting books. Some prefer to offer minimal advice.

2)Are you looking for clients to stay with you for their entire writing career, or do you see yourself working on one book at a time?

3)How involved in guiding a client about marketing and career decisions (changing genre, etc) do you see yourself being? Every agency and agent is different.

4)Do you still pursue your own writing, or do you prefer this area of the industry?

5)What aspects of fiction clutch your interest and don't let it free? What keeps you reading, both for pleasure and for business?
 

KingM

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In your opinion, what's hot right now?

YA is still hot. One reason is that the age of readership is everything from 12 on up, which makes the potential market huge. There's a lot getting placed though, so there's a risk of saturation.
 

KingM

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Are there any advantages or disadvantages to working with an agency that's not in NYC?

We're not based in NYC. In this day and age, it's quite easy to communicate with NYC, so I don't see it as a big disadvantage. I can't think of any disadvantages to being in NY, however. Maybe a slightly myopic view about the rest of the country?
 

KingM

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Questions:

Did you send out any rejections today?:D

And what's the average length of queries you receive? Your Preference?

Yes, I sent rejections today. I read subs every day, but there are worse things to do for work than read novels. Reading queries, partials, and full submissions is a big part of my job and I do some every day. I don't think I've ever held a query or even a full longer than three weeks except when I've passed it on to another agent at the office.

This does happen a fair bit at Veritas. I've currently got two novels that I've decided probably aren't for me but are interesting enough that I've forwarded them to other agents in the office to see if they are interested. They might be a little slower than I am.

The average length of queries, or of complete mss? I like queries to be a single page with sample pages from the book. I'm open to all lengths for the actual books, depending on the genre.
 
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KingM

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Michael, thanks for posting!

This clarifies some things. Veritas website doesn't list paranormal or urban fantasy.

I absolutely consider those.

1)How hands-on are you as an agent? I know that many agents come from editing backgrounds. Some like to get very involved with authors before submitting books. Some prefer to offer minimal advice.
Very hands on. This is my strength. I come from a writing/workshop/editing background and I believe I know what works and what doesn't. I'll take a risk on a great book that needs some work. Of course, it is ultimately the writer's job to produce a great novel, not mine.

2)Are you looking for clients to stay with you for their entire writing career, or do you see yourself working on one book at a time?

I want a writer long term. I'm also not one of those agents who will give your novel a shot and then drop you like a stone if, god forbid, we can't place your novel. If I sign a writer, I like her writing and believe I'll like her next novel, too.

Having said that, we're probably going to sign a gentleman who is 86 who has a wonderful book that I loved. Given his age he's obviously not going to be writing books in 20 years.

3)How involved in guiding a client about marketing and career decisions (changing genre, etc) do you see yourself being? Every agency and agent is different.
I hate to see a writer pinned down in one series forever because the books are selling well and nobody wants to see her try something different. What fun is it being a writer if you aren't allowed to branch out every now and then? Of course I have more contact with the market than most writers, so I will offer advice if asked.

4)Do you still pursue your own writing, or do you prefer this area of the industry?
I'm focused on agenting at the moment, but I won't abandon writing. I have over a hundred publications in everything from small newspapers up to The Atlantic, and this is a big part of who I am. I would like to write a book about writing some day.

5)What aspects of fiction clutch your interest and don't let it free? What keeps you reading, both for pleasure and for business?
Skillful, transparent writing, characters, and plot. If the writing is top notch, I'll read anything. I'll confess there are certain bestselling novels (you know who I'm talking about) that sell a zillion copies but with atrocious writing and I simply can't read them. I know they must be doing something right or they wouldn't be connecting with so many people, but this isn't for me.

This isn't, by the way, J.K. Rowling, who I think is a fine writer who deserves all of her success, especially in her later books.
 
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Droemar

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Thank you so much for taking the time to post answers like this. I will be querying you soon, sir!
 

amyashley

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Thanks for the detailed answers. These things help me decide who to query. Hopefully they'll help others especially those not as familiar with your posting habits and opinions you've expressed elsewhere.

Great thread. Best of luck in all of your agenting!
 

Mr. Anonymous

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Michael,

I don't have any question in particular, but did want to wish you happy holidays and thank you for this thread. I'll be sending you a query +5 in a week/week and a half. ;) (once I've finished revisions.)
 

AlishaS

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I feel the need to chime in and say Thanks! The detailed answers are great, and it is nice that you have taken the time out of your busy day to start this thread!
 

A Named Pen

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@ Michael C.

Hi, I have a question.

Since you are allergic to synopses, if a query only lists the initial conditions of a chaotic plot without telling you the entire story, what would be your next step? (Assuming you are sufficiently enticed by those initial conditions, of course.)


p.s. Merry Xmas to those who celebrate it : )
 
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