Every month [more or less] we introduce you to a different writer-oriented website. These are sites with which one or more of our team members has had positive experiences. We hope you'll check them out and let us know what you think!
This month on OA Recommends, let's learn more about Janet Reid, Literary Agent!
1- What is the origin story or history of your blog? Why did you start?
There I was, down at the crossroads...
No, wait, that was how I met all of my husbands.
I'd seen the success of other agent blogs so I decided to try my hand. I think this was about 2008.
Then it was not just a great forum for promoting clients, and offering information that (I hoped) would be useful, it was the only forum. (Boy has that changed!)
It was also a great way to clear up some of the crazy misapprehensions writers had: there is no black list; agents don't reject queries for a misplaced semi-colon; agents aren't deities (some agents are actually idiots.)
2- What are some of the biggest changes your blog has experienced over the years and have your original blog goals changed?
The biggest thing is of course I started when blogging was new, rode the wave of blog popularity, and now, blogs are so passé I'm almost retro.
My goals haven't changed: rant, promote, contribute to transparency. Not always in that order.
3- How do you choose which topics or questions to write about?
I answer questions from writers that I think other writers will be interested in.
I try to avoid things that are too specific to a particular writer, but I've found that for the one person who writes in, there are many more who say "I had that problem too" in the comment column.
Mostly though, the blog posts are about things I'm interested in, or things I hope other people will find useful.
Or cat pictures. The world can't have enough pictures of cats. Or dogs. Or bears.
4- Is there a topic or question that you frequently receive and blog about? Has your answer to that question changed over the years?
I try not to talk about any one thing too often.
Mostly I try to provide insight from the other side of the desk.
Now that blogs and YouTube videos by agents are common, the questions are more about things that have changed: query portals; pronouns; trigger warnings.
5- You are also the Query Shark. What's the most common problem you see in the queries you receive?
People haven't read the archives of 300+ queries (and comments).
I'm always surprised by queries that make mistakes like putting my address (street address!) at the top of an email query, and the author's address at the top too!
That format is 20+ years out of date.
I really do NOT want to work with people who haven't kept up at least somewhat with new standards.
6- You have "rules for writers" on your blog. In your experience, which is the most important rule? Why?
Good manners go a long, long way.
I've fired clients who were rude to the staff. I can't abide people being rude to folks they perceive as lesser, or unimportant.
I'm not keen on people trash talking publishing in query letters either. I'm not unaware of the shortfalls of this industry, and a lot of the decisions that get made, but that's not what I want to hear about in a query.
7- When a writer receives "the call" and is offered representation, in your opinion what is the most important question the writer should ask the agent?
Assuming a writer has done the research they should have ahead of time (what has the agent sold? being the number one thing to know), you want to ask what the agent's vision is. Do they want to submit the book to one editor or many. Do they think it should be a hardback or TPO. Do they think it's a big trade press or small trade press book.
There was an announcement recently (12/20/21) about long time Scribner author Abraham Verghese leaving his publisher cause they did not share an editorial vision for his new book.
Making sure a prospective agent is literally on the same page with you is important.
8- With all the websites for writers out there, why should someone take the time to read your blog ; what makes your blog unique?
The comments from the other people who read the blog: the Reiders.
Hands down they are what make this blog unique and valuable.
I can yammer all day about this and that (and I do) but the perspective provided by the Reiders is what makes it a worthwhile place to visit.
9- Would you please list the links and ways people can find you on the internet? Blogs, websites, social media.
QS Blog: queryshark.blogspot.com
Janet Reid is a literary agent in New York City.
Her clients include New York Times bestselling Patrick Lee (The Breach series); Jeff Somers (WRITING WITHOUT RULES); Hilary Holladay (the first full length biography of Adrienne Rich); Tom Lippman (CRUDE OIL, CRUDE MONEY); Dana Haynes; Phillip DePoy; and Alison K Williams (7 DRAFTS: Self Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book.)
Her list is largely crime novels and thrillers, and narrative non-fiction in history and biography.
She is a member of AAR, Sisters in Crime, the Association of American Historians, the Womens' National Book Association (NYC chapter), Biographers International Organization, SCBWI, and the Dena Pawling Fan Club.
She keeps a blog at JetReidLiterary.blogspot com that answers questions from writers and allows her to rant on things that drive her crazy in publishing and reasons she loves her job and the city.
She also runs QueryShark.blogspot.com a blog that posts (with permission) and critiques queries and revisions from writers. To submit a query click on the link "how to submit a query to the shark." It's all volunteer.