Monday, August 9, 2010

Remain optimistic: Interview with Agent Anna Olswanger

SCBWI Western Washington will be welcoming agent Anna Olswanger in October. As a preview of her appearance, here's a quick interview with her that also complements the forthcoming issue of our printed newsletter, The Chinook — which has a submissions theme. Check out both!

Q: Anna, what's your top tip for writing a successful query letter or submitting a manuscript?

AO: Write a strong first sentence. "Strong" can mean dramatic, stark, or surprising.

Q: What’s the biggest query letter or submission no-no, from your perspective?

AO: A query or cover letter that starts with "Dear Agent." The next biggest no-no is telling me that your manuscript has been professionally edited. I'd like to work with authors who can edit their own manuscripts.

Q: In your opinion, is it important to land an agent before trying to sell that first book?

AO: I think you can get your manuscript read on your own without an agent. So many editors go to conferences and give talks. You can meet them and they will read your manuscripts after the conference.

Q: What are your top tips for writers who are looking to find an agent?

AO: 1. Go to conferences where agents speak.

2. Make sure you're ready for an agent. Have you spent years perfecting your craft?

3. Pick your best manuscript and query about it. Don't mention the five other manuscripts you have ready to send. That will overwhelm the agent and make her or him wary of working with you.

3. Be willing to revise.

Q: How important is having a blog, Twitter, or Facebook in terms of catching an agent's or editor’s eye? Is there anything else you might look at besides the query or submission itself?

AO: If you're blogging, twittering, and posting on Facebook, when are you writing your novel or picture book? I'm not impressed by anything other than the quality of your manuscript.

Q: Could you share some stories about the best and/or worst query letters or submissions you’ve ever read? How about the most unusual?

AO: I don't give much weight to query letters. The only thing that matters to me is the quality of the writing in the manuscript. The worst submissions are the ones that weren't ready to go out: They had an overabundance of the passive voice, dangling participles, text that should have been cut.

Q: What is your best advice to an author or illustrator who is on the cusp of submission? How about one who is waiting for an answer or facing rejection?

AO: Remain optimistic.

Thanks, Anna! We're certainly optimistic about our time together in October, and we'll look forward to meeting you in person soon!

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