Ask an Agent Series: Jill Kramer

Jill Kramer is a literary agent at Waterside Productions, Inc. For this installment of our Ask an Agent Series, we asked Jill 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?

Not only a book that I would be interested in personally, but also one that would appeal to a significant niche or have broad-based appeal. For nonfiction, the dreaded “platform requirement” is always an issue, but for fiction, the great thing is that the book just has to be good…the author can be a complete unknown and still get a book deal. I also look for an author who is well spoken, personable, and who would do well in media interviews.
2) WHAT SHOULD A WRITER INCLUDE IN A QUERY TO AN AGENT?
I prefer a letter pasted into an email that provides a brief synopsis of the book and author, and details the target market. Then, if I’m interested, I’ll request the manuscript. And if I’m still interested, I’ll request the proposal.
3) AS AN AGENT, I SUSPECT YOU RECEIVE MANUSCRIPTS THAT AREN’T QUITE FINISHED. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS CONCERNING REVISION/EDITING? 
If it’s a manuscript that is only, say, 30% done, I can still get a book deal as long as what’s there is polished. If the manuscript is complete and is in relatively good shape, the publisher’s editor will take care of working with the author to refine it. However, an author who has a lot of great ideas but isn’t really a writer should definitely work with a ghostwriter or co-author.
 4) WHAT IRRITATES YOU AS AN AGENT WHEN YOU’RE EVALUATING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
Typos, and a sloppy presentation overall, especially in the initial cover letter. Also, I roll my eyes when someone says something like, “I know this will be a blockbuster bestseller.” And…I do not like it when I decide to pass on a manuscript and the author comes back and asks for advice, notes, or a critique on why I passed on it. I rarely respond to those requests.
5) WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE TO WRITERS WHO WANT TO SECURE AN AGENT?
Check out PublishersMarketplace.com (yes, buy a subscription), and see who the “dealmakers” are in particular genres. Then contact those agents.
 6) IS SELF-PUBLISHING A GOOD OPTION?
Yes, especially with respect to a good book that simply can’t find a publisher due to the aforementioned lack of platform. Self-publishing is a great way to start building a following.
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About Jill Kramer

Jill Kramer was the Editorial Director at Hay House, Inc., for 18 years; and worked with numerous New York Times best-selling authors including Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Tavis Smiley, Ben Stein, Carnie Wilson, Cheryl Richardson, and more. She is currently available for representation of quality fiction with empowering themes for adults and YA (including crossovers). She also represents nonfiction books in the areas of: mind-body-spirit, self-help, celebrity memoirs, relationships, sociology, finance, psychology, health and fitness, diet/nutrition, inspiration, business, family/parenting issues, and more.



  • This is quite informative! I like how she even considers unpublished Authors who haven’t gotten an audience yet. That’s a hard one to get past, for me, anyway. I’m not much of a salesman- I take “No” for an answer.