I write stuff for kids...and muse on writing, children's books, and the publishing industry in general

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Insider Scoop – Interview with Caitie Flum, ex-agent intern and proofreader (Part 3)

Welcome to The Insider Scoop, where I’ll be bringing you interviews, useful tips and tricks, and all sorts of insightful information from those deep within the children's book industry.

Today, we continue our interview with Caitie Flum, an ex- agent intern with Hachette Book Group and Writers House, and a proofreader in the medical industry.

This interview has been posted in three parts as follows:
  • Part 1 – a day in the life of an agent intern (here)
  • Part 2 –evaluating queries (the inner workings of a literary agency) (here)
  • Part 3 – the specific things that agent interns report on when assessing queries/manuscript submissions for a literary agent, plus more about queries (today)
So, onto the final part this interview…

Question 5 - What information concerning a query/manuscript submission do you put in a report to the literary agent? [Out of curiosity, do you have a standard checklist that you compare against - if so, is this something you can share with us?]

I don't have a checklist, but I will give you an overview of the things I included.


Usually if anything beyond decision it would be underlining things I loved or a quick sentence about the book's greatness.

Rach: First impressions so do count!

  • Reaction after first 5-10 pages.
  • If there was any character development in first 50. So many partials have just action, action, action and nothing to develop who the character is or their motivations. Character is so important (especially in YA and MG) and if the writer hasn’t made it a priority in the partial, it is an issue.
  • Impression of main and side characters.
  • Any major issues I saw.
  • After 50 did I need more?
Rach: That’s interesting. “Need more” vs “want more” or “wouldn’t mind looking at more.” Seems a much higher test that needs to be passed!


This was always the longest because this is what the agent would see, or, more likely the foundation for my editorial letter to the author (which made me very nervous).
  • I would include everything from the partial.
  • Lots of time on major issues with suggestions on how to fix overall quality of writing (it is easier to fix an okay story than an okay writer).
  • Analysis of market and how well it is written with market in mind.
  • What I think the hook is.
Question 6 - What causes you to automatically reject a query/manuscript submission? Is there anything in particular we should avoid saying/doing when submitting a query?
  • Too much voice in the query, like I said before it is usually covering up for bad writing or story.
  • Sending us a query for a genre/type of book we don't do at all.
  • Comparing self to blockbusters (Twilight, Harry Potter). Comparing is fine, but find something that wasn't a smash, it shows you actually know your competition.
  • Trashing a book we represented. It didn't happen to me, but Jodi Reamer was upstairs and she would get queries trashing Twilight all the time. Guys...she represented it. She helped it make a ton of money. Even if you don't like it, don't bash things she worked on then claim yours is better thinking she will want yours!
  • Too many errors. I forgave a typo or two, but grammatical errors or too many typos showed laziness.
  • People talking about more than one project in one query. Just don't.
Rach: Great advice Caitie, thanks!


Well, that wraps up this interview with Caitie Flum. Thank you so much for sharing your insights into this world with us.

A final word from Caitie… I have a book blog where I also discuss the publishing world at caitieflum.wordpress.com. If you look on that blog, you will see I am currently accepting queries/partials from writers who want a critique. I will give you what I gave the assistant.

And stay tuned next Monday, October 25, where I'll be interviewing the winner of our First Crusader Challenge (announcement of results to follow shortly).


Elena Solodow said...

Great interview. Thanks so much for posting!

Kirthi said...

Very informative, thanks so much for it ^_^

Unknown said...

Interesting to know what goes into the report to the literary agent.

Thanks, Rach and Caitie :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks, very helpful post.

Megan K. Bickel said...

I really enjoyed this interview. It had lots of advice and information packed in over the three weeks! Thank you!

Bast said...

Really interesting. Thanks for posting the interview.

Lola Sharp said...

Interesting. Thanks for the great 3-part interview, Rachael (and Caitie). Well done, ladies.


erica and christy said...

Love the interviews. Thanks, always! We know. We know. You already got it, but we have an award for you on our blog. You don't even have to pass it on. It's free! http://lynneawest.blogspot.com/2010/10/too-too-sweet-our-twofer-tuesday-post.html

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