Book Broker – an interview with Mary C. Moore
Agent: Mary C. Moore
Preferred genres: Age ranges—I represent middle grade, young adult, and adult. Genres—bookclub, SFF, mystery, women’s fiction, contemporary, romance, thriller. I lean toward feminist stories or unique points of view, whatever the genre.
Bio: Mary C. Moore received her MFA in Creative Writing and English from Mills College Oakland. She joined Kimberley Cameron & Associates as an intern and moved up to assistant and then agent. She looks to work with career writers with something unique to say in whatever genre.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
That the author has a solid understanding of the market, especially in the genre/age range they are writing in. I don’t expect this; it's part of the reason why authors partner with agents. But if a submission shows a clear picture of what its target audience is, that can be really appealing.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
An outsized expectation on the behalf of the author, i.e. they believe they will be the next “big thing” and that it will happen right now. I do urge writers to dream and reach for the stars, but they also need to be aware that it takes hard work and potentially a long period of time to be a career author. Usually the manuscripts in these submissions will be sloppily edited and a poor derivative of something popular because the author is focusing on being rich and famous, not the writing process itself. However, for writers reading this interview, you’re already beyond that. Know that if you take querying seriously, agents will take your query seriously in return.
3) How do you feel about personalization in query letters? Can you give an example of effective personalization?
In my opinion, personalization should be focused on why you chose to query that particular agent, i.e. what about them inspired you to want to work with them. This can be simply that the agent represents the genre you write in. Honestly, if the query spells my name right and falls within the category I represent, that’s enough personalization for me. Most effective? I have had writers mention a book I’ve represented that they loved, or that they are a fan of one of my clients, or they liked something I said on my blog, and I appreciate that.
4) How much importance do you give to comparable titles in a query letter? How do they help you assess whether a manuscript is a good fit for your list?
See my answer to the first question, as great comparable titles give a clear picture of where a manuscript fits in the current market. So comps can really make your query stand out above the rest. But again, don’t panic if you can’t figure it out, just try your best. I’ve seen some ridiculous comp titles over the years, but I don’t dismiss the query because of them.
5) For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention?
Anything that answers the question “why are you the best person to write this story?” So if you wrote a legal thriller and happen to be a lawyer, or you wrote a cozy mystery centered on a knitting club and happen to be president of your local knitting circle, or if you are writing YA and you’re a high school teacher, that is great supportive information. If you work with books in any function or can highlight your reading skills, e.g. a librarian, book-blogger, head up your local bookclub, work at a bookstore, etc., that can signal a serious connection to books which is always a good sign in a writer.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
Much higher salaries across the board and expanded hiring, but especially for entry-level positions. This would support the younger more diverse staff in place already that is at constant risk of burning out, and help further diversify the industry, which is sorely needed.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I just finished SECOND NATURE by Michael Pollan. I’ve been gardening quite a lot this past year, so I was already primed to love it, but the way the writing is so personal and relatable hooked me further. I really appreciated how he highlighted the possibility of finding balance between humans and nature. But as that’s non-fiction I will also plug MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia; the way she merged classic gothic literature with historical Mexican culture and subtly wove in contemporary social commentary, wrapped up in a thrilling story just floored me. I would love to find and represent more like that.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
YES! I’m so excited about C. L. Clark’s THE UNBROKEN, the first in a wonderful fantasy trilogy Magic of the Lost, that just released from Orbit, Hachette. The author is brilliant at deconstructing our traditional narratives around fantasy, particularly military and colonization. She’s absolutely a dream to work with, and exactly the kind of writing I appreciate in the SFF genre.