Thursday, July 7, 2011

Agents and Authors, According to Jennifer Weltz

Saturday night we had a fancy dinner, the kind with three forks and a waiter who puts your napkin on your lap in case you have trouble doing it yourself. In college I went to an etiquette workshop, and I was excited to finally use my mad skills.
Once dinner was over, Jennifer Weltz spoke. You can read the whole speech here (why didn’t they write out every speech?!), but here’s a summary:
First, she provided statistics that made me feel a little dead inside; she reads 8,000 queries a year, and out of those, she only requests chapters from 10%. From that small percentage, she only requests manuscripts from another 10%. This year, she only took on five new clients.
After the shock wore off, I wondered: out of all those queries, how many of them were ready to be submitted? So many people send out crappy queries even though they have good books (guilty). Then you have to account for the people who submit the wrong genre. I’d like to see how the percentages change among the writers who have a fighting chance.
Jennifer identifies herself as a reader, editor, storyteller, negotiator, navigator, accountant, and manager. If you want to know more about the countless roles of an agent, you should read her full speech. I can’t include it here because they do so much.
Here’s some advice if you’re one of the 8,000 who want to get noticed:
1.       Do your research. Submit to the right agents and follow their guidelines.
2.      Tell the story and also give a sense of voice, passion, and the characters
3.      Tell her about your platform, your qualifications, and if you’ve read authors she represents

She said, “If I pass on your book, please understand that you are truly better off finding someone else who will feel the necessary passion… Keep in mind when looking for an agent that you are looking for a long term partner. Frankly, many of our relationships with our authors have lasted longer than their marriages!”

She urged authors to build supportive communities.

“We have seen authors meet and connect and cross promote each other’s books as well as connect them to reviewers and bloggers and even a TV appearance! We should not be re-inventing the wheel with every author, but instead drawing on each other’s strengths to achieve greater heights through collaboration… In a nutshell, pay-it-forward. You would be amazed at your returns.

“You are a community that is stronger when united. Don’t tear each other’s works apart publicly and, if you see others ganging up on a writer, condemn those actions.”

She also urged authors to be nice online. “Give your agent warning before blogging about how, while you highly respect her opinion, you have decided to completely ignore her advice.”

She closed her speech with this:

“You are the vital ingredient for success throughout the process. Not only because the burden is now more and more on you to connect to your readers, but because without you… There would be no business!

“Your imagination and talent is where it all begins as pages turn, even virtually, and you transport yet another willing participant back in time to plunge into a deeply satisfying read.

“And that is what I look for every day.”


  1. Great post. Will definitely check out her whole speech when I have a bit more time (oh, the busy world of a writer!)

  2. I remember being one of those unprepared query-ers. Half of winning the game is learning how to play eh?

  3. I'm always impressed by how much the editors and agents I've heard speak truly honor and respect what authors bring to the table. Sounds like that was true here, too.


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