Friday, September 2, 2011

Ask the Agent Interview . . .

As scheduled, we are meeting today with Joyce Holland, an Associate Agent at D4EO.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Joyce. There’s a lot going on in the industry right now and we’ve got a lot of areas to address. I have a few questions that my readers have proposed, so let’s begin, shall we?

Q. First off, what made you decide to become a literary agent, and how did you get started?

I help run an annual writer’s conference in Destin, Florida each year. I invite editors and agents from all over the country. One of the editors I invited kept in touch with me over the years.

When she quit editing and decided to become a literary agent, I did some reading for her. I had been a reader for a magazine for years, so it was old hat to me. When she decided to resign from that position she recommended me as her replacement, and after a trial run, I was an associate agent. That was two years ago.

Q. Why would a writer seek out an agent? In other words, what does the agent actually bring to the table?

In the case of D4EO Literary, lots of experience. Bob Diforio has been in the industry for decades and his contacts are impossible to count. When it comes to contracts, I believe you need an agent. Check out

Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I wake up every morning believing today will be the day I find that jewel in the slush pile. Somewhere out there is a gifted writer who will absolutely thrill audiences, and I’m going to find him/her.

Q. What’s your least favorite thing?

You mean genre? I am sick of vampires, witches, and wizards. They may still be selling but I don’t want to read them.

Let’s talk about the bigger picture for a moment. The publishing industry as a whole. Obviously, ebooks have changed traditional publishing, and digital publishing has had a significant financial impact. Estimates indicate that ebook sales will exceed $1 billion in 2011.

Q. As an agent, what effect has digital publishing had on your job?

I think the future is in ebooks. Speaking for myself, it’s the only way I read now. So I think when you approach an agent you should tell them you are willing to go that route. I will always try print first, but the ebook market is moving up fast.

Q. If a writer decides to publish their work as an ebook, does that prevent them from ever having it published as a printed version? In other words, would an agent ever make an offer of representation on a previously published work?

It doesn’t prevent them, but personally, I wouldn’t be interested in a book that has already been epublished. Now tell me you sold ten thousand copies of your ebook and we might talk. But as you know, I don’t speak for all agents.

Ok, let’s get back to traditional publishing and what’s going on there.

Q. Are agents requesting as many fulls and partials as they once were?

I request very few. Actually, I prefer authors send me a one-page synopsis in the body of their email, along with the first chapter, and I want them to attach the entire book as a Word file. I can make a decision based on the synopsis and first chapter. If I love it I don’t want to have to send for it, I want it there, now. This saves us both time. By the way, please tell your readers to always include the ending in the synopsis. You won’t believe how many people say…if you want to know what happens, read my book. An instant reject will follow that approach.

Q. So how would a writer impress you? What makes a query letter stand out?

Start with your hook. Unless I love your idea, I don’t care how you came to write the book and who in your family liked it. This is a business. If you hook me with a blurb I can’t resist, I will want to know all about you. I suggest a subject line on top that has the title, genre, and word length. Then lay out your hook. Include your credentials at the end.

Q. What genres to you handle, and which is your favorite?

I love thrillers best, then mild sci-fi, romance, horror, memoirs, true crime, and non-fiction that teaches something new and exciting.

Q. When an agent replies 'this is not what we are looking for right now', what does that really mean?

One of two things. They mean it, or they don’t like it. LOL

Q. Are you accepting query letters now?

I’m closed to submissions until the end of September.

Ok, readers. Mark your calendars and get your queries and synopses ready to send out.

Q. If you could open an email and discover the Query of Your Dreams, what would it say?

I’ll give you an example of a query I fell in love with. The query was for a book called A Little Primitive and this is how the letter began:

Few people know that Lewis and Clark, the intrepid 19th century explorers, recorded testimony about tiny Indians living in the western wilderness. That odd snippet of history bugged me and soon evolved into a 95,000-word thriller called, A Little Primitive. Set in contemporary Wyoming, it features a host of odd characters, one of whom is a very strong female, and another who...well, just isn't very big.

After moving to a remote cabin, Tori Lanier merely wants to write her second novel in peace. That's when she discovers a two-foot tall Indian lying in a pool of blood beneath her house. While nursing him back to health she learns of a hidden treasure and prehistoric cave paintings. They form a tenuous alliance and the hunt is on. Meanwhile, trouble arrives in the guise of a redneck ex-con, an academic n'er do well, a dealer in phony Indian artifacts, and a cowboy grocer, to name a few. Oh, and Tori's abusive ex-husband, who wants to kill her.

Who could resist A Little Primitive?

You've given us something to aim at, Joyce. And be prepared. We have a lot of really great writers in our family here, so you might be getting that magical query sometime after September.

We certainly want to thank you for taking the time to grant us the interview. It’s very generous.

Q. In closing, do you have any words of advice for aspiring authors?

Yes, never give up. I read this advice in a magazine years ago and don’t know who to credit for it, but I repeat it at every conference. ‘If you can’t keep your kitty litter lined with rejection slips, you aren’t sending stuff out enough.’


  1. What a great interview! Thanks to both of you :) And I love that query letter for A Little Primitive~ it's so unique!

  2. Great insight on the mind of this Florida agent.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.