August 23, 2010

6 1/2 Ways to Impress an Agent -- by TINA WEXLER

Tina Wexler did not try to sell the first book I'd sent to her. But she was intrigued by another project I mentioned in my query letter. Tina helped me refine and sell that project. Then another. And another. Since we connected through the SCBWI message boards in 2005, Tina has helped me sell three novels to Random House and a picture book to Holiday House.

As an agent, she's wicked savvy at all aspects of her job. As a friend, she's warm and wonderful and wise.

Tina has generously stopped by to teach us 6-1/2 ways to impress an agent.

Tina Wexler is an agent at ICM, predominately interested in middle grade/YA fiction and adult non-fiction. Upcoming client releases include WHO STOLE MONA LISA? by Ruthie Knapp (illustrated by Jill McElmurry), PAST MIDNIGHT by Mara Purnhagen, PENNY DREADFUL by Laurel Snyder (with drawings by Abigail Halpin), and THE RENDERING by Joel Naftali. Tina currently serves on the board of the Rutgers University Council on Children's Literature and is an active member of SCBWI. Hailing from Southern Maine, she lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two persnickety cats.


1. Write a really amazing query. Which is to say: take your time, try describing your work multiple ways until you find the best approach, read successful queries online and have as many people as possible read yours so that you’re certain it makes sense and is a shiny apple.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of their list. This doesn’t mean you have to read every book they’ve ever sold--I leave that job to my mom--but by showing them you know a bit about who they represent, you’re telling agents you’ve done your research on who to query.

3. Do your research on who to query.

4. Write a really amazing manuscript. Which is to say: take your time, put your work through multiple revisions, read published works in your genre, and consider joining a critique group or finding a writing partner whom you trust who can help make your manuscript a shiny apple.

5. Be nice. Agents, like most everyone, want to work with people who are personable. This does not, however, mean “Fawn over the agent” or “Send a bushel of apples to the agent.”

6. Don’t ask the agent, “Why all this apple talk?” because if you’ve read HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL, you already know it’s because she’s daydreaming about Bubbe’s Jewish Apple Cake. But do ask other questions you may have. Be a part of the conversation. Agents want critical thinkers who take this getting-published thing seriously.

6 ½) Take this getting-published thing seriously. There’s plenty of fun to be had, but remember, this is a business, not a hobby or a get-rich-quick scheme. Agents want hard workers, writers dedicated to their craft who view getting published as the first step of a long journey, writers whom they will want to be with on that journey.

Thanks, Tina, for sharing your wit and wisdom!


Jill N. said...

Thank you Donna and Tina for that great post!!!

Tina, you are one funny lady. I'm working on polishing my right now,if I can only stop thinking about Bubbe's Jewish apple cake that is! cake.

Jean Reidy said...

Thanks, Donna and Tina. I'm off to tweet this link to share the great advice!!

middle grade ninja said...

Great advice. Now I am also dreaming of Bubbe's Jewish apple cake. Hmmmmmmm...

Julie Musil said...

Great advice! I love that you have such a warm working relationship with your agent. That's wonderful!

Wild About Words said...

Thanks so much! And thanks to Tina for stopping by and sharing her wit and wisdom.