CritiqueMatch

CritiqueMatch is a platform where writers and beta readers connect and exchange work for free! New: You can also buy a critique or beta-reading service from our top-rated users!

Dec 29, 2020

Author Interview Series: October 2020 Contest Winner Lola Sable

The CritiqueMatch contest coordinator, Mary, “sat down” for a virtual chat with Lola Sable, the winner of the October 2020 FictionFive Writing Contest.

CM: Congratulations on being the winner of the 2nd CritiqueMatch FictionFive Writing Contest! What were your expectations when you entered the contest?
Lola: Thank you for the congratulations! To be honest, I did not expect much to happen when I entered this contest. In the back of my mind, I had high hopes, of course, but I genuinely never imagined I would even make it past the first round. I thought it would be a good way to go outside my comfort zone and challenge my insecurities about sharing my work.

Dec 18, 2020

October 2020 - FictionFive Contest Results!

We are thrilled to announce the results of the October FictionFive Contest!

And the winner is… drum roll please…


Lola Sable’s Literary Fiction entry My Beloved Monster was the highest rated entry across all categories in the October FictionFive contest and wins the top prize, a $250 gift card!

Congratulations to all our finalists in each of the 5 fiction categories. The top 3 finalists in each category won feedback from one literary agent and one developmental editor (on top of bragging rights!). 

We are so proud of our finalists as more than 30% of them received requests for more pages from literary agents! Great job and best of luck on your querying journey! 

See the finalists below, as well as the honorable mentions in each category, which are the high-rated entries that ranked close to the finalists.







We continue to be amazed by the support and engagement of our users. It was the incredibly generous number of hours spent by our volunteer judges that made this contest possible. A big thank you to all our judges, agents and editors!

The participating literary agents were: Stephanie Winter, P.S. Literary Agency, Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency, Matt Belford, The Tobias Literary Agency, Danya Kukafka, Aevitas Creative Management, Duvall Osteen, Aragi Agency.

Save the date: our next contest is penciled in for March 2021!


 

Dec 8, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Jackie Williams

A warm welcome to associate agent Jackie Williams! Jackie joined The Knight Agency in July of 2020, after working as a Food & Lifestyle Editorial Fellow for Chronicle Books.

She began her career in government, graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Political Science and Latin American Studies, and subsequently assisted in consumer protection and international trade cases at the Federal Trade Commission. She enrolled at the George Washington School of Law, however realized she preferred the courtrooms of literary fiction to the actual courtroom. 

Jackie reads a broad range of commercial and genre fiction, especially stories with psychological suspense, dark, gritty voices, speculative elements, multi-generational plots, bleak, dystopian themes, and intricate world-building; even better if the stories are set in space. Some of her favorite authors include N.K. Jemisin, Haruki Murakami, Cixin Liu, Greek Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, Blake Crouch, Daniel JosĂ© Older, Rachel Caine, and Carmen Maria Machado. In non-fiction, she looks for books that expand the reader’s empathy and self-awareness. Books like The Cooking Gene, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, and When Breath Becomes Air come to mind.  She’s interested in collaborating closely with writers throughout all stages of their careers and bringing more multicultural representation to the publishing landscape. 

Jackie lives in Atlanta with her fiancĂ© and Shih-Tzu mix, Yuna. As a thriller writer, she’s also a member of the female-led, crime-fiction organization, Sisters in Crime (SINC). 

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Jackie
- I was a Division III point guard and love all things basketball.
- I used to be on a hip-hop dance team
- I can sing (This is a lie! I couldn’t sing if my life depended on it.)

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in science fiction or fantasy in the last five years?
Jackie: Modern fantasy has definitely moved away from Tolkein-esque, medieval fantasy, especially in the last five years. There have been more fantastical cultures, races, and perspectives. Books like Children of Blood and Bone, Jade City, and The Broken Earth trilogy, for example, are beautifully written but also have these spectacularly original and immersive worlds. 

I’d say science fiction has become more accessible. Books like The Expanse and Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy are expanding the genre, and as technology becomes even more ingrained in our lives, more readers will be interested in exploring the connections between society and technology. 

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Jackie: Interesting question! I think it's more challenging to stand out in the YA market, particularly YA fantasy nowadays. The concept needs to be super strong and fresh. I've seen a lot of great YA books not get the coverage they deserve, and more recently, editors who have the option of acquiring both YA and adult books shift more towards adult fiction.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Jackie: For one, our ability to stay curious about the work. As an agent, I find that repeatedly asking 'why' helps me understand what the author is trying to accomplish and influences my actions—how I edit and provide feedback, the editors I engage with to potentially send the manuscript to, etc. Curiosity helps us gain more understanding, and I believe it results in a better outcome. 

Also, being transparent and communicative. I have a background in public policy, an industry that also relies heavily on relationships. From those experiences, I've learned that checking-in frequently, updating your colleagues on your progress, asking questions, and essentially, maintaining an open dialogue gets more things done. That applies to an agent-author partnership as well. 

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Jackie: I'm very hands-on. I love supporting the author and creating a dialogue on how to improve the manuscript. 

And every manuscript needs something different. My editorial comments are entirely at the author's discretion, but it's one of the best parts of the job to get creative with the author and figure out the solutions needed for their book. 

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Jackie: Like the rest of the publishing community, agents have reasonably adapted to the COVID landscape. I request more Zoom meetings and virtual chats. I give editors a bit more time to respond to emails before I check back in. I'll reach out through more unconventional platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn to see what they’re looking for. 

But it also seems that editors haven't slowed down and are acquiring books at the same rate if not more so than before. So, while more patience is required, not too much has changed, especially for an agent or author.  

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Jackie: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Jackie: A common myth is that agents are looking to reject queries and submissions. Agents don't exist without writers! We want writers to succeed, and with every query we read or pitch we hear, we are eagerly hoping to connect with the writer and their work. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Fiction: Book club, Crime, Fantasy, General, Horror, Literary, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller, Upmarket, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
  • Non-fiction: Cookbooks, Crafts/DIY, Humor, Illustrated, Lifestyle, Memoir, Pop Culture, Sports, True Crime
What you’re not interested in:
  • Picture books, Chapter books, Graphic Novels, Short story, Erotica 
_______

2 Knight Agency Client Examples
Margaret K. McElderry Books - 2021
William Morrow - 2020
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Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Do highlight what’s interesting about your protagonist. 
  • Do include 10 pages of your work, as per my submission guidelines. 
  • Do address your query to me!
Don'ts:
  • Don’t query multiple agents from The Knight Agency at the same time. 
  • Don’t use generalized language or cliches that can apply to another book. Get specific about what makes your book stand out. 
_______

Submission Guidelines:
Please submit your query and first ten pages here:

Dec 3, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Mary C. Moore

A warm welcome to Mary C. Moore! Mary is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates, based in the Bay Area. She represents MG, YA, and adult fiction. When she’s not agenting she enjoys baking, gardening, and other cottagecore activities. To find out more about her visit marycmoore.com or follow her on Twitter @Mary_C_Moore.

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Mary: Publishing tends to be cyclical, so what I say may be oversaturated now, will change quickly. However, we are on the tail end of a YA royal fantasy glut, and I would guess that we will see an oversaturation of witch fantasies and horror in the near future, as a lot are being bought up right now. MG in general enjoyed a big surge these past two years, so it may be harder to sell in soon, like YA is, but hopefully not. Personally, I think WWII and superhero stories are overdone, but they are still regularly hitting the shelves. The “Girl” titled thrillers have calmed down a bit, but are still a hard pitch. The reality is, if you have a fresh take on any genre/story you can break through, no matter the state of the market. But you need to know the market to understand what a fresh take would be, so read, read, read. And be reading current books!

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Mary: I was a writer and had queried two projects widely, but struggled to understand the query/publication process--this was before there was a lot of information available online. I didn’t know anyone in the business or even other authors--beyond my MFA peers who were in the same boat--so it was a frustrating mystery of how to get an agent. I started an internship at KC&A because I was curious about what was behind the curtain. But once I started, I fell in love with agenting and haven’t looked back since. If I hadn’t ended up as an agent, I’d probably still be working in field biology/animal behavior. That was my previous career, which I did enjoy as I love working with animals, but not as much as I love working with books. 

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Mary: There isn’t a fixed answer to this, as my relationship with each client is different depending on the individual, and it’s constantly evolving. But I would say that the key for the longer-lasting relationships has been open communication, mutual respect, and trust. Through clear communication we’ve reached a place that I’ve proven to them they can trust me in what I do, that I prioritize their best interests, and when I say something is or isn’t working they are willing to revisit/revise the plan. So it’s pretty smooth sailing once we reach that point. That’s also when we begin to connect on a more personal level as well and you start to see that wonderful author-agent bond come into fruition.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Mary: It’s constantly fluctuating, but I usually have around 20-25 clients, with around 10 super active clients (i.e. clients that are in the middle of a project whether it’s being written/submitted/negotiated). I’ve found over time my list has become very curated around the authors, i.e. I’m looking for strong writers with interesting backgrounds, voices, and perspectives that I feel I can really help have a long career. So these days, although I’m always excited about the projects I sign, I’m more excited about the writer themselves when I offer representation.  

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Mary: I tend to be heavily involved in the editing process, although less so than I was at the beginning of my career. Again, it depends on the individual, but I expect no less than one round of revision with a new project, and on average, do three rounds of revision. These revisions are focused on big picture developmental edits; I rarely if ever, do line-editing for my clients.

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Mary: Quite honestly, it’s not that different than what I was doing before, as my office is not located in NYC, so most of my work was virtual. The only thing missing is my trips to NYC and conferences to socialize with industry people. But as I’ve been at this for a few years, I’ve already made quite a few in-person contacts. Most official pitches are done via email these days, with exceptions for those projects you feel are going to be really big, or there’s a particular editor you think is going to be really excited about it, and with those you can always pick up the phone. I do miss the in-person meetings though.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Mary: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! It’s such a fun, intelligent read that subverts tropes in a great way. And The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, that book is the gold standard for adult fantasy in my opinion. Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke is fantastic if you’re looking for a great literary mystery. I also just finished the MG book Front Desk by Kelly Yang, which I loved, and I think deserves all the awards and praise it received. Any authors comping any of these books, I want to see your query!

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Mary: That we are similar to other agents in other fields such as real estate i.e., we’re looking for projects we can turn over quickly and make money fast. The reality is we’re partners in an author’s career, which hopefully will last for years. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • I read widely, and enjoy adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction. I’ve worked with a lot of SFF, so I’m very comfortable in that genre. I’d love to have more mysteries on my list, both in YA and adult. I’m especially hungry for upmarket genre fiction a la Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones or Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke. I’m also looking for whimsical MG.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Non-fiction (including memoir), picture books, or self-published novels (although she will consider your next project).
_______

2 Client Examples

Roaring Brooke Macmillan - 2020
Orbit Hachette - 2021
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Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Be professional and polite
  • Remember that agents are human and need boundaries, but that most of us are kind and respect you for putting your work out there
Don'ts:
  • Disparage others in the industry (books, people, etc.) in your query letter. The publishing world is small; odds are we know the person personally. 
_______

Submission Guidelines:
I keep my submission guidelines updated on my website: http://marycmoore.com/index.php/submissions/

Dec 1, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Duvall Osteen

 

A warm welcome to Duvall Osteen, a literary agent at Aragi Inc., where she represents a diverse list of award-winning and notable authors. She represents fiction, narrative nonfiction, and select graphic novels. Her literary interests include writing rooted in place, especially the South, multigenerational storytelling, family drama, and literary suspense. Duvall holds a Masters of Arts in Southern Cultural Studies from the University of Mississippi. 

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in literary fiction books published in the last five years?
Duvall: You know, I think what we’re seeing in literary fiction, with the push to publish more diversely, is less of a trend and more of a broadening of scope that I hope will last forever. I think the stories publishing now that feel fresh and new have been there all along. Certainly, we represent examples of that, which we are very proud of. Many of our authors have been among those who have paved the way for authors writing about places, ideas, languages, genders; across races and countries – so, if it seems like a trend, it’s been very hard-won, but more than a trend, I think readers are eager to discover newness, and what better place for that than fiction? 

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Duvall: It’s important to me to have a personal relationship with my authors. When we connect personally, it helps me better understand what they need from me as an agent, as we work to build their careers. Some clients like me to be more hands-on, others less so. All of my clients have a good sense of humor, even if the style of humor manifests differently across my list. I think that’s a key component. Also, a mutual trust.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time? 
Duvall: I represent roughly 45 clients, but only about half are active at any single time. A few of my authors are professionals in other fields, so they may really only write one or two books. I don’t typically take on clients who only plan to write one book, but in each case, I loved the person and the material so much, I was happy to be a part of the work. My author list hasn’t really changed over time, and I don’t anticipate that it will – I am committed to representing authors whose work I love, and that looks wildly different all the time. You’ll find a lot of diversity on my list, of material and among my authors. I have broad tastes, so I’m always eager to read from a wide variety of voices and styles.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Duvall: Quite, especially at a macro level. First, I work with authors on bigger picture edits, and edit more via asking broad questions rather than line by line. Of course, there is also a time when focused editing is necessary, and that takes shape based on the individual needs of the book, and the work style of the author.

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing? 
Duvall: Lots of Zooming about! And occasionally socially distanced walks in the park, when appropriate. BYO-coffee, BYO-wine, BYO-walking shoes!

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Duvall: I read Severance by Ling Ma during the second week of March, just before NYC shut down because of Covid. The novel is about many things – but the predominant thread is about a virus that takes over the world, leaving people in a zombie-like state. It was insane timing, and a brilliant, satirical novel. I highly recommend it. 

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Duvall: Very! A query is the author’s way to introduce themselves and their work, so it should reflect the author’s style, and it should have a strong, succinct pitch for the book. 

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Duvall: That we read at work! Boy, do I wish that were true. It’s not a myth that we spend all day reading, but that day, at least in my house, is Sunday. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Literary fiction and narrative nonfiction with a strong voice
  • Writing rooted in place, writing that explores interpersonal, especially family relationships, or relationships to the land, the environment, and socioeconomics
What you’re not interested in:
  • Genre books (science fiction/fantasy/romance)
  • Children’s books, young adult books 
_______

2 Client Examples

    FSG/MCD - 2020
    Delphinium Books - 2019
    _______

    Query Tips

    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    Dos:
    • Include a small personal element that shows you’ve researched the specific agent you’re querying – finding the right agent is a huge move in your career, so you want to show you’ve taken this process seriously! 
    Don'ts:
    • Be overly familiar, or comp your book to classics (it’s not Moby Dick, we promise, it’s just not, and for that, we are glad!) 
    _______

    Submission Guidelines:
    Please submit all queries to queries@aragi.net.
    Aragi, Inc. represents a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. We do not represent screenplays. Submitted queries should include a cover letter with your name, a short bio, the title of the work, and a brief synopsis. Manuscripts should be attached as .PDF or .docx files and should be titled in the format “Last Name_Manuscript Title,” e.g., “Ginsburg_Sunset City." You may include a full manuscript or an excerpt of whatever length you choose. We do not accept queries by mail or over the phone.