Elizabeth Kaplan owns and runs The Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency in New York. For the first installment of our Ask an Agent Series, we asked Elizabeth what she typically looks for when she considers manuscripts for representation (as well as what tips she could provide for writers interested in publishing their work). Here's what she said:
WHAT SPECIFIC CRITERIA DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN CONSIDERING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
First and foremost, can the author write with an individual voice and style that captures my eye. Is there a reason for the book to exist? Does it have information or a story that needs to be told? Is there an audience for it?
WHAT SHOULD A WRITER INCLUDE IN A QUERY TO AN AGENT?
What is the book about, how is it different from other books already in the marketplace? Why are you the person to write it? How can you help it find its audience?
AS AN AGENT, I SUSPECT YOU RECEIVE MANUSCRIPTS THAT AREN'T QUITE FINISHED. DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS CONCERNING REVISION/EDITING?
The writer should feel it is finished but be open to revision ideas if they are suggested. It is hard to edit your own work and a fresh set of eyes will see things you don't, but you should only send your best work.
WHAT IRRITATES YOU AS AN AGENT WHEN YOU'RE EVALUATING A MANUSCRIPT FOR PUBLICATION?
A writer who hasn't done their homework and research on the market.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU PROVIDE TO WRITERS WHO WANT TO SECURE AN AGENT?
Read as much as you can. Know your market. Get a recommendation — perhaps you know writers from a writer's group, a teacher, a writer from whom you've solicitated advice. Do your best to find a direct line to the agent and not just the slush pile.
IS SELF-PUBLISHING A GOOD OPTION?
Onlly if you have a large platform to support it. Otherwise it will be hard to get an audience outside of your friends and family.