Jennifer Flannery is the founder of Flannery Literary. For this installment of our Ask an Agent Series, we asked Jennifer what she typically looks for when she considers manuscripts for representation (as well as what tips she could provide for writers interested in publishing their work). Here's what she said:
1) WHAT SPECIFIC CRITERIA DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN CONSIDERING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
I look for a strong voice most of all, more than genre or subject. I want to get caught up and lost in the story and know I'm in the hands of someone who can engross me and hold my attention.
2) WHAT SHOULD A WRITER INCLUDE IN A QUERY TO AN AGENT?
A clear non-sales-pitchy summary of the book. That's really all I look for.
3) AS AN AGENT, I SUSPECT YOU RECEIVE MANUSCRIPTS THAT AREN'T QUITE FINISHED. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS CONCERNING REVISION/EDITING?
Take your time. There will always be a market and a need for a great story that's well-written. Make sure the book is done, rather than merely reaching the end of your patience in writing and revising, before you submit. You only get one chance to make a good impression-do it with your strongest writing.
4) WHAT IRRITATES YOU AS AN AGENT WHEN YOU'RE EVALUATING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
In terms of query letters, I don't like feeling as if I'm in a sales pitch meeting. Don't bombard me with marketing cliches and a hard sell. It's a book, not an insurance policy. Be careful if asking questions as a hook ("have you ever…?) because if my answer is no, you've lost my attention. I'm not a big fan of comparison, either, they wind up not being as helpful as a little desperate and frantic ("it's sharknado meets war and peace…") When reading the manuscripts, I can't stand adverbs or adjectives nor overly clever ways of saying "says," (exclaimed, chortled, mulled, declared…). I don't like lengthy set ups ether-please get me in the story right away, I'm not a fan of wordy descriptions that are beside the point, especially for young peoples' books. Oh! And I hate when characters ask themselves questions when they're thinking. It feels twee and forced. I believe thoughts are better as declarative sentences, not existential pondering.
5) WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE TO WRITERS WHO WANT TO SECURE AN AGENT?
Don't get discouraged, it might take time. Make sure you feel a connection with them so that you can trust this person to guide and assist you.
6) IS SELF-PUBLISHING A GOOD OPTION?If you know what you're getting in to (it's a lot of work and responsibility an hassle) then yes, by all means try it. But educate yourself so you know what to expect.
Literary agent Jennifer Flannery has represented top authors and discovered award-winning books for children and young adults, but she says those successes seem secondary to earning her master of arts in liberal studies (MALS) degree. “I love the faculty–what they shared and the practical application. We would discuss something in class one night and I would be using it in my work the next day. From a professional point of view, my experience in the MALS program has helped me be successful in the publishing industry. It is such a diverse industry–people come from all over.”