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Mar 23, 2021

Agent Spotlight Series: Michael Carr

A warm welcome to Michael Carr, literary agent at Veritas Literary Agency. With a strong background in editing and writing, Michael enjoys teaching at workshops and conferences to help develop emerging writers. He is fluent in Spanish and also speaks Portuguese and French. Before joining Veritas, Michael had professions as diverse as programming simulators for nuclear submarines and owning an inn in Vermont.

CritiqueMatch: Share a fun fact about you.
Michael: I once took a camel trek through the Tunisian Sahara and slept in an earth-sheltered building that had been used as the set for Luke Skywalker’s uncle and aunt’s house in the original Star Wars movie. Most of the old set was still there, slowly fading in the desert sun. The room cost me five dollars for the night.

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Michael: I had a number of careers before I started as a literary agent. I was working as an innkeeper in Vermont doing freelance editing and book doctoring work on the side when I came across an aspiring writer with a great debut novel. I reached out to my current colleague at Veritas, and she took on the writer and sold the book. When she offered me a finder’s fee, of course, I accepted.

Not too long after that, I found another debut novel, and my colleague suggested representing it myself. From there, it was a couple of years before the agenting work could support me, and I was able to sell the inn.

If I were to retire from agenting (not currently in the plans!) I’d probably open a language school somewhere in Mexico or Ecuador.

CM: Once you make an offer of representation, what happens next?
Michael: Most of the time when I offer, it turns out that the author has other interested agents, which is to be expected. I want the author to take his or her time considering the options, to not feel pressured in making a decision. This is a good time to speak to some of my other writers to see how I work, to see if they connect with other agents, or to otherwise think about how they want their career to progress.

Once they’ve signed, I get my book notes back as soon as possible, so the new author can tackle revisions. During revisions, I’ll get a pitch written, make a list of editors to approach, and complete the other steps necessary to get the book out the door and earning its living as soon as I feel the manuscript is in condition to be submitted.

CM: What sets you apart from other agents?
Michael: I think the number one thing that sets me apart is my responsiveness. This business takes forever to get anything done, and I never want to be the one contributing to the wait. I’ll never be that agent who goes dark when their writers need help or have a question about their work or the process.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Michael: I’ve changed a little with time as my list has grown busier and that I’m now a mid-career agent. For aspiring writers, I want the manuscript to be really close to ready by the time it comes in front of me. We’ll go through a round or two of revisions before we go on submission, but I’m unlikely to sign a new writer on a book that still needs significant work. More likely would be that I’d ask that writer to revise and resubmit.

CM: Can you name any virtual events you will attend or that you recommend for writers in the querying trenches? 
Michael: I’ve attended a number of virtual events this last year, such as the Chesapeake Writing Conference, James Rivers Writers, and the Colorado Writing Workshop, and they’ve been great for staying connected during a challenging period of time. Because there’s no hotel or travel component, they’re more economical and less disruptive to the schedule than the pre-pandemic model of conferences, and I hope there will continue to be virtual events once the world returns to normal.

At the same time, I think there’s a great deal of value for writers to gather with other aspiring professionals and make the sort of connections that are difficult in a virtual-only world. With any luck, we’ll start to see in-person events start up again as well.

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing?
Michael: I’m always on the lookout for diverse perspectives and viewpoints. I have a particular interest in Latin American subjects, but anything that feels like it has been underrepresented in the field will catch my interest.

I teach at writing conferences every year, including internationally, and the invitations that most catch my attention are those conferences with a diverse collection of writers.

CM: What is a common myth about agents?
Michael: Aspiring writers tend to see agents as gatekeepers who are only looking for something that is easy to sell. I take on projects for many of the same reasons someone picks a book off the shelf at the bookstore: because it looks like something I want to spend time on. Of course, it’s a business, and I need to make a living, but my primary interest is finding great books and writers whose work I want to champion.


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Historical Fiction
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Nonfiction of all stripes
  • Memoir

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
Kensington - 2020
Orbit - 2019

Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

  • Follow standard query procedure. 
  • Make your pitch clever and engaging, giving a hint as to the tone of the book. You are trying to get the agent to read the first page with more attention, nothing more or less.
  • Don’t brag or over-promise.
  • Don’t try to reinvent the wheel by coming up with your own format. 
  • Don’t include unsolicited attachments.

Submission Guidelines:
For Fiction: please include a cover letter listing previously published work, a one-page summary and the first five pages in the body of the email (not as an attachment).

For Nonfiction: please query first. When we request a proposal, include an author biography, overview, chapter-by-chapter summary, marketing and publicity plan, analysis of competitive titles, and sample chapters or text.