This year, at the Write on the Red Cedar conference, we tried something new. Instead of flying one or two agents in for our attendees to pitch to, we compiled a list of awesome agents that were willing to take a look at queries from our attendees. Over the next few months, we'll be posting interviews with some of these agents. This month, we're talking to Abby Saul!
Abby founded The Lark Group after a decade in publishing at John Wiley & Sons, Sourcebooks, and Browne & Miller Literary Associates. She's worked with and edited bestselling and award-winning authors as well as major brands. At each publishing group she's been a part of, Abby also has helped to establish ebook standards, led company-wide forums to explore new digital possibilities for books, and created and managed numerous digital initiatives.
A zealous reader who loves her iPad and the ebooks on it, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. Abby’s personal library of beloved titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics, to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, to dark and twisted thrillers. She’s looking for great and engrossing adult commercial and literary fiction. A magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College, Abby spends her weekends—when she’s not reading—cooking and hiking with her husband. Find her @BookySaul on Twitter.
How and why did you become an agent?
While exploring options with several internships during college, I really clicked with the one I had at a literary agency in Chicago. Spending the summer reading manuscripts, writing reader's reports, and learning about publishing as a business (rather than just a way to be around books) hit all of my buttons and made me know that publishing was for me! After graduation, I started out in New York on the production side of publishing, which taught me how books were made, then ultimately came back to Chicago to work at a commercial publisher. While there, I was offered a position at the agency where I interned during college and so made it back to the agenting side of the business. Everything about it - the editorial work, the business and negotiation skills, the client management, finding new amazing books - is everything I want in a job, and I'm so lucky to have discovered the career that's right for me!
What's the best query you've ever received and what made it stand out?
This is such a tough question because I get at least 200 queries a week (!), and the best queries just do it right... which means they aren't necessarily memorable. (Some of the bad ones, on the other hand, I'll remember forever!) A professional and good query will do everything it needs to do in a way that makes the story stand out and the query itself fade away. I've found the majority of my current clients through the query inbox, and their queries are ones that are short, sweet, and are pitching me great books. They wrote queries that focused on the book and had obviously been edited and read a bunch of times. My biggest advice on queries is to take your time perfecting it. You've spent so much time on the book - don't wing the query!
Are you also a writer or do you just love books?
I am not a writer of books. I am a writer of pitches, editorial letters, informative articles, supportive emails, thank you notes, and contracts. By that I mean, I learned early on that I'm an excellent reader and an excellent editor, but that I don't have a book in me. I just help writers get their books out!
What are dying to see in your inbox? What are you tired of seeing?
I am dying to see an amazing, female-driven historical fiction set in a "new" time period (ie, not World War II). And I'm tired of seeing projects in genres I don't represent. I know that's not helpful trend-wise, but it honestly hurts my heart when people have wasted their time and mine by sending a query that's going to be an instant no because I don't do science fiction, or young adult, or whatever. After you take your time on your query, take a tiny bit more time to make sure you're sending the query to someone who represents the project you've written.