Ask an Agent: May 2024

In this monthly column, we check in with one of our resident agents to answer those questions you’re too afraid to ask for yourself. This month, Laura Bennett of the Liverpool Literary Agency tackles questions asked by BFS members in our dedicated Discord channel.

Name: Laura Bennett
Agency: Liverpool Literary Agency
Specialism: Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Location: North West England
Follow: Threads: Losbennett / Twitter: Losbennett

Read more about Laura in her BFS member profile, here.

There’s a lot of questions about query letters this month! For more about Laura’s thoughts on this, head to the Liverpool Literary Agency’s blog to read her guide to query letters.

Q: What are your absolute no-nos for a query letter?

I’m actually quite relaxed when it comes to query letters, although I know other agents can be a little stricter. Generally as long as you include the information I need (genre, age range, wordcount), I’ll take a look. Absolute no-nos would probably be: Don’t write too much about yourself at this point, keep it to the work and maybe a paragraph of relevant information. I also don’t like it when people are too arrogant about their work—it’s great to be confident, but don’t tell me that this will be the next best-seller!

Q: And as a counterpoint, what did somebody do very well indeed to gain your interest?

I really like a sharp, succinct opening with a blurb that immediately grabs my attention. We get so many queries that being able to quickly see that this is my genre, age range and a suitable word-count really helps! Other than that, I like to see a blurb that really tells me something about the character, setting and stakes. Make it sound exciting!

Q: Do you mind if authors query their manuscripts with multiple agents at the same time?

Not at all. In fact, it’s encouraged! You should send it out to as many as you’re comfortable with. I’d say at least a dozen or so at a time—enough that you have a good chance, but not so many that you run out. You might want to tweak your query or work depending on feedback before doing another round.

Q: While I think the secondary POV and general tone of the book I want to query probably do make it adult fantasy, I could totally see an argument for it being marketed as YA based on the teen protagonist and big coming-of-age arc. None of my other WIPs could be considered YA though and I’d sort of rather have this one the ‘fantasy’ shelf too rather than the ‘young adult’ shelf if I ever make it to bookshops. Am I being silly even thinking about this marketing concern so far in advance? Is it even a worthy concern in the first place what it ends up labelled as?

I wouldn’t worry too much at the querying stage. As long as you’re sending it to agents and/or publishers who cover the age range you’re aiming for, you’ll be okay. You can always have that discussion after. It might be worth having a think about it, though – for me, a teen protagonist and “coming of age” main story is YA and it would feel odd having it as an adult book. That’s what we mean by knowing the market – certain stories and tropes just work best as YA or crossover. But as long as you’re querying agents who do YA and adult, there’s no reason you couldn’t do both anyway.

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Featured image: by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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