Book Broker—an interview with Sandra Sawicka

Book Broker—an interview with Sandra Sawicka, literary agent from MARJACQ agency, query letter advice and #MSWL manuscript wish list tips

Agent: Sandra Sawicka


Preferred genres: crime, speculative fiction, mystery, horror

interview with Sandra Sawicka, book agent from MARJACQ agency, query letter suggestions and #MSWL manuscript wishlist tips

Bio: Sandra Sawicka joined the agency in 2014.  Her main interests are genre fiction (SFF, speculative, crime, horror) and YA. She also handles translation rights for all authors represented by Marjacq.

She would love to see: action-packed adventure, accessible, grounded SF, crime with a speculative edge, atmospheric historical novels, campus novels, spooky mysteries, ghost stories, high concept, YA adventure, anti-heroes, and popular science nonfiction (especially linguistics, cybernetics, and astronomy).

Not for her: anything spiritual, comedies, military SF, steampunk, hard SF, political or techno-thrillers, dystopian fiction, slasher horrors, World War II stories, beautiful writing with no plot, conspiracy theories, tear-jerkers, animal cruelty, travel nonfiction, memoirs, chick-lit, middle-grade, and picture books.

1) What stands out in a good submission?

The writing! It really is 99% about the writing. As for that 1%—it's good to have a clear, concise cover letter, where you begin by stating the title, genre, and word count of your novel. A good submission is also tidy and has no typos—nothing to distract from the writing.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?

There's a few—the most obvious at first glance is messiness, but I'm also always wary when the genre description is really long, like for example "it's a crime romance novel with a touch of supernatural and a philosophical edge to it." This usually means the writer is not sure themselves what they've written and that the narrative will pull in all those different directions resulting in a pretty rough draft.

3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?

Escapist fiction—be it a masterfully plotted crime novel, atmospheric historical fiction, or action adventure, I want to be completely transported.

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?

I don't obsess over comps. I might bump something to the top of the pile if they happen to quote a book/film/show I really enjoyed, but not very often. Occasionally, they can actually be a turn off. If someone pitched "Dracula meets Gravity," let's say I'd approach it a little skeptically... As for how I decide whether something is good for my list—I tend to focus more on whether I can envisage it published and which editors might be interested in seeing the manuscript, and not whether it fits my roster of authors. If I like it and believe in it, then it fits; there's no more curation going on.

5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?

There are two surefire things that make me really excited to read on: when an opening leaves the reader with a question—most obviously this would be "what happened here/next?"—but actually the more original the better. I'm also really drawn to visual writing.

Uh, common snags. Overwriting is my pet hate. You know, "The crimson disk of the sun climbed above the soldier row of susurrating coniferous plants"—not my style. Too much exposition/dialogue in the opening pages is another one.

6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?

If I had just one wish, I'd love for the publishers to take more risks and be more open to projects that are a bit more off-beat. It would foster originality and inclusivity, which can only be to everyone's benefit.

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

Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch—I know it's not a new book, but wow, it's fun. It's a fantasy novel, but it's as if the author sat down, wrote down all the fantasy tropes and cliches, and made concerted effort to avoid all of them. So original.

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

I'm really excited by Lauren Forry's new locked-room mystery set in an uber luxurious hotel on the Moon, published next year by Bonnier Zaffre—it's just so much fun. Here's The Bookseller announcement, if you'd like to read more.

interview with Sandra Sawicka, literary agent from MARJACQ agency, querying advice and #MSWL manuscript wish list tips

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