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Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Secret Agent Interview: Part II

Welcome back for part two interview with dream-agent Edward Necarsulmer IV, Children's Director at McIntosh and Otis.

I tried to keep my gushing to a minimum yesterday, but I have to add that Edward is not only a gifted agent, but also a very enthusiastic, encouraging, cool person to work with - which is why I say over and over in the Hooking a Hottie Agent series that a good personality fit is worth its weight in a hundred pre-empts. I have learned this in the best way possible.

So, without further effusiveness...I offer Part II of The Secret Agent Interview:

Holly: What are your biggest submission no-no’s?

Edward: I’m not a big fan of semi-threatening queries on legal stationary…I find that a little off-putting. Try not to scare me by saying it’s a 24-book series. You want to balance confidence with humility to some degree – I’m not looking for the next Twilight, for example; I’m looking for the next thing with which I fall in love.

If you call and yell at my assistant, I definitely won’t read it. Calling is inappropriate, but it’s absolutely appropriate to follow up by mail after 6-8 weeks. Too, multiple submissions are more than acceptable. I don’t think my time is any more valuable than that of an aspiring author or illustrator. The only thing I do ask is that the soliciting party be honest in their cover letter that they’re multiply submitting.

How many query letters do you receive in a given week?

Right now our submissions are about 150/week. They have doubled in the last year, especially as more and more publishers are closed to un-agented submissions. I’ve had great luck with the discovery pile, but keep in mind it’s time I’m taking, usually out of the office or on weekends, on spec.

I have found authors at conferences—I found Holly at a conference, and I just signed a writer from a conference where I spoke and was blown away by her superlative writing. A true “Wow” moment is good. And they do happen.

What are your submission requirements?

Initially, if it’s fiction, I like to see a query letter and first five pages. I’m still a snail mail guy, so please include an SASE. My assistant and I do read everything that comes in and do our best to respond as soon as possible. Send one picture book at a time.

The query should act as an introduction letter. Try to be businesslike, because you want to make a good impression as your first communication. It’s great to add something personal, as long as it’s still professional. Do your research, and do it correctly – I’ve had some queries say, “I really like such and such book you did,” and it’s not coming out until 2011. Clearly, someone is spending too much time on Publishers Marketplace and not enough at the keyboard.

If you want to say something about your work, let me know why it’s different than every other book out there about bullies or vampires or whatever topic you are broaching.

Illustrators should send more of a standard query letter with their website and a postcard. If their website has a special password protected section that allows agents and the like to review their portfolios, even better.

Find the crucial submission information at the McIntosh & Otis website.


Thanks, Edward, for revealing your not-so-secret agent identity to visit Brimstone Soup!


  1. People really send semi-threatening queries on legal stationery? That's ... unusual.

    I love the term "discovery pile." I'm sure it's very easy for agents to get jaded about the unsolicited stuff, especially when it comes packaged with threats and/or glitter. I admire people who look at things with an optimistic eye.

  2. You guys, I was just submitting my 60,000 word picture book MS on Mussolini. The query was only threatening because it was written in the voice of Il Duce. And I was out of letter-size paper.

    I appreciate Edward giving us a weekly number. When agents/editors say 'thousands' I can't visualize. But 30 a day on average? And reading them after hours? Thank heavens for agents that love their jobs.

    My favorite part of the two-parter is: Holly being discovered at a conference. That is still such a magical story. And by magic I mean Holly's hard work, perseverance and dedication to craft.

  3. Jaime, I hope you included his grisly end "on the hook," so to speak, meat hooks that is. Il Duce wasn't polite, why should you be?

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jaime about the magic of Holly's discovery and the greater magic of all the incredibly hard work and life's blood spent getting there.

    Great job Holly and thank you Edward.

  4. Wonderful!!! Insightful and totally helpful.