Need a top agent? Here's who's repping books that hit the NYT Trade Paperback list, and how to get in touch with them.


24 January 2018



Agent: #needed#

Agency: Cooke Agency

Book: The Sun and Her Flowers

Representing - Rupi Kaur



Agent: #needed#

Agency: Cooke Agency

Book: Milk and Honey

Representing - Rupi Kaur


 Yfat Reiss Gendell


Agent: Yfat Reiss Gendell

Agency: Foundry Media

Book: Ready Player One: A Novel

Representing - Ernest Cline


Vivienne Schuster


Agents: Phoebe Larmore & Vivienne Schuster

Agency: Curtis Brown

Book: The Handmaid's Tale

Representing - Margaret Atwood


Alexandra Machinist


Agent: Alexandra Machinist

Agency: ICM Partners

Book: Lilac Girls: A Novel

Representing - Martha Hall Kelly


Eric Simonoff


Agent: Eric Simonoff

Agency: William Morris Endeavor

Book: The Women in the Castle: A Novel

Representing - Jessica Shattuck


Brettne Bloom


Agent: Brettne Bloom

Agency: The Book Group

Book: We Were the Lucky Ones: A Novel

Representing - Georgia Hunter


Valerie Hoskins


Agent: Valerie Hoskins

Agency: Valerie Hoskins Associates

Book: Darker: Fifty Shades Darker as Told by Christian (Fifty Shades of Grey)

Representing - E L James


Janklow and Nesbit Associates


Agent: #needed#

Agency: Janklow & Nesbit Associates

Book: Call Me by Your Name: A Novel

Representing - André Aciman


Bill Clegg


Agent: Bill Clegg

Agency: The Clegg Agency

Book: Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)

Representing - Min Jin Lee


Five Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Chances Of Selling Your Novel

Gong the traditional route in publishing? Looking for an agent or pitching directly to a publishing house?  

Any one of these dialogue errors will get your manuscript tossed in the recycle bin, particularly if you commit them in the first few paragraphs. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Using, "...she thought to herself...." as a dialogue tag. Seriously, who else are you going to think to? Unless you're doing SF and have already established some telepathy powers, just go with, "thought."  Better yet, create the right point of view distance and simply put it in italics or use some other convention. God gave you fonts for a reason, people. Use them.

2. Having your character look in a mirror or still pond and seeing a reflection in order to get character description in.

3. Including in your query letter on your nove any of the following phrases:

     a. It's based on my life.

     b. This really happened.

     c. My family and friends really love this story.

4. Overusing adjectives in dialogue tags, e.g. he said loudly, he said convincingly.  Simillarly, being oh so clever with your dialogue tags, e.g. he sighed, he whined, he expounded, he explained, he simpered. Just use said. Seriously. If you have to tag it at all. Eighty percent of the time, the reader should just know because of the flow of the dialogue and because of the voices of the characters. Weird dialogue tags evince a lack of confidence in your ability to create character voices. 

5. Starting with the weather or scenery. Not a fatal flaw if you're exceptionally skillful, but generally a waste of valuable real estate. You've got about ten seconds to capture your editor/agent/reader's attention.

That's my list. What's on yours?



Query Letters



Yep, this is really the letter that landed a top New York agent oh so many years ago. It’s written in what used to be de rigueur for writers: Courier 12 – in this case, New Courier – with two spaces after punctuation, unjustified margins an in “business letter” format. With a few changes in the mechanics, it’s exactly how a query letter should read today.

Based on this letter, George Wieser took me on as a client and he and his associates went on to sell my manuscripts to more than a couple of big New York publishers. The actual book pitched here, Rites of War, went on to hit the USA Today bestseller list. Since then, I’ve had several agents, but getting signed on never came close to that first agent thrill.

Do cold query letters work? You bet they do. A number of bestselling authors got their first agents with cold query letters, Dale Brown and Steve Martini among them. Whether you email a query or go the old-fashioned route, it’s still a primary way of connecting with an agent or editor.

Now, one thing you must remember, and that’s the point of the query letter. The ONLY goal of a query letter is to get the editor to request the full manuscript. I don’t care if you’re querying a fiction or nonfiction manuscript or even an article – the ONLY goal is to get a request for the full manuscript. Don’t forget that.

When they follow this template, most decent writers have around an eighty percent request-for-manuscript rate. Most of them think that’s pretty good.

Now, obviously – if your writing is awful, it’s going to be tough to draft a strong query letter. Same thing with your concept or story or log line. If you’re getting rejections when you’re using this template, then you need to find someone who will tell you the truth about your work and how it measures up to current industry standards.

That kind of help is beyond the scope of this report, but if you need help, shoot me an email. I can usually tell within a couple of pages if that’s your problem.

So. On to the query letter that put me on the bestseller list!



Cyndy Mobley

XXX North Second Avenue


Wieser & Wieser


New York, NY XXXXX

13 May 1995

Dear Mr. Wieser:

Marc Iverson suggested I contact you.  Marc and I are in the same Naval Reserve unit and he just finished reading a manuscript I’ve had in the works for a few years.  He gave me the “full Cleveland” on a previous draft and he says it’s now ready to see the light of day.

When the Russians activate still-functioning WWII mine fields around key Mediterranean choke points, the Commanding Officer of Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 106, Lieutenant Commander Jerusha Bailey, must fight through a web of deception and betrayal in order to reach the one man who can prevent a war – the Russian submarine commander now stalking her ship.  Rites of War (95,000 words)is the story of a National Security Agency analyst thrust into the center a conflict at sea and the choices she must make and the promises she must break in order to prevent World War III.

I enlisted in the Navy when I was 18.  I’m currently the ASW officer in a Naval Reserve unit that provides expert wargaming for battle force commanders.  When not with my reserve unit, I’m practicing law in San Diego.

Can I shoot Rites of War over to you?  I’m enclosing an SASE or you can reach me at ***-***-****.

Thanks so much for your time!


Cynthia Mobley


So, what do you think?

What a different world back then, yes? World War III was as “right there” as terrorist activity is now. The thriller world was still obsessed with Tom Clancy and The Hunt for Red October, so anything having to do with submarines and mines was exceptionally hot. Publishers were searching for a breakout female protagonist in the genre, so the idea of a female officer in the middle of combat was unique and very appealing. And throw in the National Security Agency – well, the story line hit al the right notes.

Would exactly the same story get the same results today?  Honestly, I’m not sure. The genre has changed and people are more worried about terrorist attacks than World War II. It would be harder to get the editor to suspend disbelief, but not impossible.

One funny thing about the final contract: while the publisher was frothing to have a female protagonist, marketing felt that having a female name as author would be a turn off. So the author name on the cover was CA Mobley, not Cyn Mobley.

One thing I’m sure about, though. This approach still works. I see it every year through the writing workshops I teach and in my own career.

Do you have to do it this way? Of course not. It’s your career. Sit in some agents’ and editors’ offices and watched them scan through their slush piles and you’ll know what they’re looking for.

This template is a place to start. It’s a structure. Use it when you’re tired of staring at a blank page and then when you know the rules, feel free to break them.

And be forewarned: after your first sale, everything changes. Then it’s a phone call and an email – no more cold call query letters!

Now that you’ve seen my query letter, let me show you the full template and the variations I’ve used.


The Bestseller Query Letter Template

Paragraph 1. The Opening:

Referral?  Tim Jacobs suggested I contact you.

Hook? Have you ever peed on a fire hydrant?

Interest? Congrats on the sale of Kumquat Heaven  to Warners.

Reminder? When we met at the Maui Writers Conference, you told me to drop dead.

Paragraph 2. The Story

a. Open with a log line OR a question.

When a giant shark devastates his community, police officer Kevin Bacon must overcome his fear of the water to protect the community he serves.

How far will a cop go to protect his family?

b. Then the story.

A Strange and Separate Journey (80,000 words) chronicles his search for peace and heavier firearms.  STORY, not plot.

Paragraph 3. The Author

Be interesting and sound easy to work with.

If you don’t think there’s anything interesting about you – YOU’RE WRONG.

Paragraph 4. Close

It’s complete OR I’ve attached chapters OR proposal.


SASE or recycle

Looking forward to your response



Based on my life....

My family loves it....

But it really happened that way....


So. That's how you write a killer query letter. 

Next question: which agents to query?

Why not try the most current top ten?