Hema: Is it advisable to get your manuscript read to a classroom before it is published?
Mark: No, not at all! (Mark was emphatically unequivocal about this point.) This exercise will not produce an objective critique for your manuscript, which is what you should be seeking. And I say this for two reasons:
- The kids will say they love it anyway, because the book will provide a break for them in the day’s routine.
- The teacher will say she’s excited about it; I was a teacher myself, so I know. Most everyone when they ask for criticism, they’re only willing to listen to positive comments about their work. So, the teacher will only focus on the positive aspects of the manuscript and will not be able to provide the kind of objective critique you’re looking for.
So, I do not suggest this kind of exposure for your manuscript. You should be part of a critique group which has published authors, or authors who are working at getting published. They can provide objective comments for your work.
I would advise you strongly against including anything like “I had my manuscript read to a classroom and the kids loved it” in a query letter; no one will look at it favorably.
(I always thought that reading it to a classroom would be a good beta test for one’s manuscript. Mark’s answer was sure an eye-opener for me!)
Questions Related to McVeigh Agency:
Hema: What are you looking for in a client?
Mark: I am looking for authors who:
- Have a unique voice.
- Have something they need to say that will be of interest to a wider audience.
- Take a professional approach to writing.
- Are willing to take criticism.
- Are aware of industry trends and market direction.
- Can write multiple genres for multiple age groups: picture books, middle grade, young adult, the lot.
- Are not reluctant to talk to the agent. Authors should be upfront about what’s working and what’s not in their relationship with me. When I provide them with editorial suggestions, they don’t always have to take them. They should be able to tell me if they don’t agree with my suggestions.
Hema: What is the ratio of established authors vs. new authors in your client list?
Mark: About 2/3 of my clients are established authors and the rest are new talent.
Hema: What do you look for in a query?
Mark: I look for a letter that is simple and professional. See the submission guidelines in my web site for more details.
Hema: Writing a good query letter is a whole different ballgame than writing a good story. It’s very hard for the author’s voice to come through within the expected 250 words or so. I see that your submission guidelines include a query letter and the first 20 pages of the manuscript. So, if a query letter does not grab your attention, do you leave it at that, or do you go ahead and read the pages included in the email?
Mark: When the query doesn’t grab my attention, I do go on to read ten or so of the pages included. It depends upon those initial pages whether I will go ahead and read all 20 of them.
Hema: Thank you very much, Mark, for taking time out of you busy schedule to answer my questions!
At this point, I had at least a dozen more questions that I would have loved for Mark to answer for me, but the 15 minutes allotted me were regrettably up.
Mark’s new blog is going to be officially launched soon, with interviews with publishing legends, give-aways, videos, and more. He also promises to up the gossip quotient to make it worth the time for those who follow his blog.
Need more reasons? Then how about this: he is going to give away more of these free chats in the first week of April! So, go on and start following his blog, if you aren’t already doing so.
It was a pleasure to talk to Mark, and he gave me a lot of food for thought. Thank you, Mark, for sharing all this excellent information with me and the readers of my blog!
Here’s Part A of the same interview.