Book Broker—An interview with Catherine Cho

An interview with literary agent Catherine Cho from the Curtis Brown agency - tips and advice for writers and authors about writing and sending query letters

Agent: Catherine Cho


Preferred genres: Speculative fiction, reading-group fiction, science fiction & fantasy. 

1) What stands out in a good submission?

A succinct and well-written cover letter, but of course, what matters most is the material itself. I’m looking for a story that’s compelling and memorable.

2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?

I think a common mistake is not to approach the cover letter as a professional document. A writer has to think of a query letter as a sales pitch, it’s not a place to be self-effacing or apologetic. You want to entice an agent to read your manuscript (and remember most agents are reading in their free time – on public transport or in the evenings). I have to believe that you as a writer believe in your own work.

3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

A poor sense of pacing is one of the biggest flaws in manuscripts. It takes time and skill to develop a storyline that’s compelling and has a strong sense of narrative momentum. Many writers stumble in the opening chapters.

4) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?

Be patient and use rejection as a learning tool. Continually try to improve; all it takes is one agent to believe in your work. Agents want to find writers.

5) Are there any recent changes or trends in the publishing industry that you think authors should know about?

It’s become increasingly difficult for debut writers to break out in the publishing industry. This just means there’s a higher expectation for debuts, and so writers should expect to go through several drafts on a manuscript with an agent.

6) You've just decided to represent an author and the contract is signed. What steps do you take to prep the manuscript for submission to publishers?

I’m a very editorial agent; I tend to do many drafts with clients, especially because editors are looking for high quality in their submissions.

7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?

I’m late to this one, but I recently read AMERICAN WIFE by Curtis Sittenfeld. I’ve been a long-time fan of hers, but I think she is a master of storytelling. She creates these fascinating characters and multi-dimensional worlds, and she makes it look so effortless.

8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?

I’m very excited about Daisy Pearce, a suspense novelist who writes these beautifully eerie suspense novels. Her debut novel is going to be published by Thomas & Mercer.


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