Caryn Wiseman is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. For this installment of our Ask an Agent Series, we asked Caryn 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?
Like every agent and editor, I’m looking for amazing writing, amazing characters, amazing voice and amazing story. I look for books with emotional depth and a strong voice; excellent writing in a tightly-plotted story; and characters that stick with me long after I have closed the book. I only handle children’s and teen books, so no adult books, please!
2) WHAT SHOULD A WRITER INCLUDE IN A QUERY TO AN AGENT?
Our submission guidelines are on our website www.andreabrownlit.com. A writer should follow those guidelines if he or she wants us to consider his or her work.
3) AS AN AGENT, I SUSPECT YOU RECEIVE MANUSCRIPTS THAT AREN’T QUITE FINISHED. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS CONCERNING REVISION/EDITING? Our submission guidelines state that we want to see complete, polished manuscripts, so I don’t receive very many that aren’t finished. Some aren’t ready, but that’s a different issue! You only get one chance to submit to a particular agent or editor, so make sure that your manuscript is the best that it can be. Workshop it, join a critique group, and make sure that the whole manuscript, not just the opening, is phenomenal!
4) WHAT IRRITATES YOU AS AN AGENT WHEN YOU’RE EVALUATING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
Seeing the same tired tropes at the beginning, like the main character waking up from a dream or finding an amulet in an old, haunted house. Falling in love with the opening of a manuscript, and then watching it fall apart as it continues.
5) WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE TO WRITERS WHO WANT TO SECURE AN AGENT?
Stand out from the crowd!
6) IS SELF-PUBLISHING A GOOD OPTION?
It can be. There are a lot of variables involved, including the category and genre of the book and whether or not the author already has an established name. When we help one of our existing authors self-publish their book, our goal is to make it indistinguishable from a traditionally published book.
Caryn has been an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 2003, and she has sold almost 250 books. She handles children's books only: young adult and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, chapter books, and picture books (fiction and non-fiction). She represents NYT bestselling authors, award-winning authors, debut authors, and authors at every stage in between. No matter the genre, Caryn is looking for books with emotional depth and a strong voice; excellent writing in a tightly-plotted story; and characters that stick with her long after she has closed the book. In YA, she gravitates toward books that make her think and toward books that make her cry; in middle-grade and chapter books, laughter tends to be the common thread. She loves books that are intellectually challenging and take risks, but in a very logical way.