One of our 10 Minute Novelists, Sherry Howard, recently wrote this piece about Janet Reid, literary agent and blogger. Janet’s advice is excellent. It’s always a good idea to to listen to agents and learn from the experts. Enjoy!
Janet Reid, of Fine Print Literary, is also well-recognized as her more ferocious persona, Query Shark.
There are different aspects of Janet that are worth getting to know: the agent, the Query Shark, and the blogger.
Here are ten reasons to learn about agent extraordinaire, Janet Reid.
- Get to know the agent. Janet is most interested in representing crime fiction and narrative non-fiction, although she occasionally says that she’s a sucker for great writing of any kind. She’s quick to suggest that writers of children’s works query other agents, because she’s honest that way. She represents some great authors: Patrick Lee, Sean Ferrell, Jeff Somersault, and Robin Becker, just to name a few.
- Get to know the Query Shark. Her massive library of query feedback, compiled as the Query Shark, is widely recognized as the best place to learn to write queries well. She has dissected hundreds of queries, and suggests, no—demands, that you read each and every one of them if you want to understand the art of the query. I’ve done it, and it’s worth the time. As a matter of fact, I’ve read them all more than once. Eventually, you’ll internalize some of the advice.
- Get to know the blogger. The blog is ongoing, and filled with rich content for any writer, whether you plan to query Janet or not. The content usually triggers writerly discussions among the woodland creatures, AKA blog Reiders.
- Get to know the Reiders. Reiders are a lively bunch of blog devotees, many of whom comment daily. (I only comment when I think I have something to add value to the discussion, which isn’t every day.) When I told Janet about this post, she emphasized that the Reiders bring a lot to the table—the experience wouldn’t be as fun, useful, or informative without enjoying the comments, too. “I view this as a group experience.”
- Get to know the wizard behind the curtain. Janet accepts questions for her blog, and often blog comments trigger an answer from Janet in a new blog post. We know Janet “reids” comments because every once in a while she’ll inflict a shark nip at one or more of us for some misbehavior. Have a question? Find the link in the sidebar: Get in touch.
- Study the resources in the archives. There are several ways to find what you need: category, other posts, and a search tool that’s very efficient. If you have a question about writing, you’ll likely find an answer and a discussion. If not, see #5.
- See that agents can communicate if they choose to. Janet keeps a notice on her page about where she is with queries, and provides information about what to do if you haven’t heard from her. If you query her, you’ll know if she’s seen your query yet.
- Study her answers to questions. She has probably answered any writer question you can possibly think of. Her files are well-ordered, and a search will help you find what you need. See #6.
- Study her book recommendations. Janet recommends books she represents, but also other books. Pay attention. You’ll learn something about at least one agent’s tastes in books.
- Enter her flash fiction contests. Janet runs flash fiction contests that are a great teaching/learning tool. Her comments about the results give wonderful insight into what works, especially opening lines. She’s very specific about the winning entries, and what worked for her. It’s a great place to flex your writing muscles and enter, or just read and learn. Thanks to a regular Reider, Colin Smith, there’s a compiled reference of previous winners.
In the same Writer’s Digest issue that honored 10MinuteNovelists, Janet’s blog was recognized as “the best of the best” in the agents’ category. I couldn’t agree more!
Sherry Howard is a former school administrator, storyteller and poet. Her website is SheryHoward.org.