I have mentioned my wonderful literary agent, Carrie Pestritto, a couple of times in this blog, but today I’m taking that a step further, and making her the guest star of this week’s post. We had a discussion a little while ago about misconceptions that people sometimes have about what a literary agent does, and that gave me the idea for an agent interview post. Plus, since Carrie wrote most of this week’s post, it gave me more time to work on my manuscript! Win!
Carrie Pestritto is with The Prospect Agency, interned at Writer’s House, and reads at lightning speed. In this interview, she will share insights into the world of a literary agent, describe what she wants to see in her query inbox, and share why she would like to visit the 1920s.
What do you love most about being a literary agent?
That’s pretty tough. I love everything about my job, but besides the obvious choice (reading), it’s probably the variety. I get to do something different every day, whether it’s talking to an author, looking at contract notes, meeting with an editor, or going through cover designs.
What does a day in the life of an agent look like?
Well, as I mentioned, my day-to-day varies a lot. Since I work at a commission-based agency and am still a relatively new agent building my client list, I also work part-time at a restaurant. So I really am doing different things all the time. Part of my day is usually devoted to reading and editing and networking with editors, and the other to helping Upper East Siders make reservations.
It’s not what you probably picture when imagining the life of a literary agent starting out, but I am grateful for every moment because I have an amazing opportunity with Prospect Agency to start agenting and building my career so early.
Do you think there is sometimes misinterpretation in the writing world over
what an agent’s job entails? How would you describe the relationship
between an agent and an author?
Yes. A lot of writers can be unclear on what exactly an agent does, and also what the benefits of having an agent can be. I am an editor, advocate, sounding board, business/creative partner, and friend to my authors. I recently blogged about a self-published author who mainly described agents as middlemen taking a piece of a writer’s pie, and that is DEFINITELY a misrepresentation.
Can we look forward to seeing some of your clients’ work coming out soon?
Yes! The first one of my authors who will see his book in print is Dan Newman. The book is called THE CLEARING and it is a mystery/thriller set in the Caribbean, which is due to pub on October 29th this year.
What drew you to the project?
Dan’s fantastic, evocative writing and the unique setting of the story.
What genres do you represent? What genres are you not looking for?
I represent commercial fiction, historical, mystery/thriller, narrative non-fiction, biography, memoir, young adult, new adult, and upper middle grade. I’m not really the right agent for romance, erotica, sci-fi/fantasy, or picture books.
Is there anything in particular you would love to see in your query inbox?
Ideas for books I’d love to see pop in my head at all times. In fact, Meghan, you know this from when I started sending you text messages about book ideas after we were talking about yummy food. In addition to sending random texts, I also usually post about books I’d love to see on my profile on Google+ with the hashtag “BooksImLookingFor.”
What is the best way to query you?
The Prospect Agency submission form! Although if I met you at a conference or specifically invited you to do so, I will accept queries emailed directly to me.
Any query pet peeves?
Umm not really. I guess when people don’t follow the rules and query me directly. I usually don’t read those.
What advice would you have for aspiring writers dealing with query
Keep aspiring! Writing (and reading) is such a subjective process, and an agent turning you down doesn’t necessarily speak to the merit of your project. And if that agent has given you detailed feedback as to why they are rejecting you, use it to your advantage. If you notice a pattern emerging from your rejections, i.e. all the agents who have passed have said that your main character’s voice isn’t engaging, take those comments and use them to revise your manuscript and make it better!
Have you ever had to turn down a manuscript you thought was well-written,
just because it wasn’t quite the right fit?
No. Well, yes. I have gotten picture book queries that I’ve turned down just because they were picture books, but only because I have no idea how to edit those and I don’t really have the right contacts in publishing for them. But if you have something that I think is incredibly well-written, I will offer representation! In fact, even though I don’t represent fantasy, I recently signed an author from a blog contest who has a YA fantasy novel because I think it is absolutely amazing and she writes so well.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished a great memoir called CHICKENS IN THE ROAD by Suzanne McMinn.
If you could visit any historical time period, which one would it be? Why?
Because I recently saw both THE GREAT GATSBY and MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, I’m going to say the 1920s, purely because of the glamour and the writers from that time.
Which do you like better, coffee or tea? (Just for fun)
If I’m tired or feeling like something to which mocha or caramel can be added, it’s coffee. If I’m trying to relive my glory days in Oxford and be classy, it’s tea.
Thank you, Carrie!
Carrie and I talk about food almost as much as we talk about books, so I thought I should include a homage to cake here. But…now I want cake.