We have our next literary agent visiting today, so if you’re looking for an agent, get ready! Please welcome Margaret Bail, Agent at Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management! Thanks for being here today, Margaret!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Margaret: Like most agents I’m a total bookworm. I love to read, and I also write fiction. One day on FB I saw a call for interns at a literary agency and thought it might a cool thing to do, so I applied. It was months later when they finally interviewed me, and then hired me. It was just a temporary position, but I’d caught the bug, so I started shopping around for another agency where I could apprentice, and that’s when I found Andrea Hurst Agency.
Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?
Margaret: I’m willing to give everyone a chance, so I won’t say that anything elicits automatic rejection, but there are some things that are bothersome, and avoiding them will make me more likely to keep reading. First, and this isn’t story related, but it really irritates me when authors don’t follow directions and submit based on the website guidelines.
As far as story is concerned, I’ve got a few pet peeves: first of all, I really hate prologues because 99% of the time they’re unecessary and just muddy up the actual story. Secondly, I don’t like it when characters wake up in the first scene of the story. It’s just so cliché (unless the character wakes up in midair falling to earth without a parachute. One of the few wake-up beginning scenes, IMO, is The Bourne Identity). I want to read something fresh and different. In fact, I really prefer action at the beginning, and then work in backstory as the story progresses. Finally, if you send me a genre I don’t represent, I will reject it outright (e.g., YA, literary fiction, religious fiction).
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
Margaret: I really like romance, all subgenres except religious/inspirational. I get a lot of romance submissions, but romance is surprisingly difficult to write well, so the more I get, the more likely I am to glean some really good stories from the inbox. I’d love to see some historical romance that isn’t Regency…let’s find some new, fresh historical eras to write about because, really, people fell in love all throughout history, not just in the Regency period. I’d also like to see more time travel romance, because who among us hasn’t daydreamed about finding ourselves in a different place and time?
I also really like thrillers.
As far as what do I get too much of? I get a lot of fantasy, and although I like fantasy, I’m really, really picky about what I like. I don’t particularly care for Tolkien-style fantasy with wizards, sorcerers, elves, trolls, etc. My all time favorite books are Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, so I guess I really like dark, gritty, alternate worlds.
Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?
Margaret: It’s probably not surprising to learn that in addition to agenting, I also write novels. But it might surprise some people to learn that I’ve written stage plays, as well, some of which have been produced in North Dakota (where I live) but some have also been produced in New York City (waaaay off Broadway).
Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
- Follow directions before submitting. I know I said that already, but it can’t be reiterated enough.
- Before submitting your manuscript to an agent I would suggest polishing your manuscript, making use of beta readers, joining critique groups, and/or using the services of a professional editor.
- Oh, and if you get rejected by an agent…be professional about it. If you send me a childish ranting e-mail calling me names and claiming that it’s ‘my loss,’ etc, it’s not going to make me change my mind. In fact, it’s only going to make me glad I won’t be working with you.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Margaret: Check out my submission requirements on our website:
I’m not terribly active in social media, but I do put in appearances now and then: