Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Advice from Literary Agent Sandra Bond

Thanks to the wonderful Casey over at Literary Rambles for having me as a guest blogger--again! If you don't follow her blog, you should!

*Don't forget you have until this Sunday to enter our 300 Followers Contest!

I spent Sunday afternoon with the wonderful members of the Parker Writers Group listening to literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency discuss numerous agent-related topics. She was kind and gracious, staying an extra half hour to answer all the audience questions. Some of the info was geared toward those at the beginning stages of writing and I won't go into the basics that were addressed (e.g. writing a synopsis, how to pitch to an agent/editor, the importance of the first line, and researching which agents to query)--for those topics, you can see our prior posts here, here, here, and here.

Fun Fact about Sandra: She doesn't like synopses and rarely asks for them. I know some of you are jumping for joy right now! 

Book I'm Most Excited to Read by One of Sandra's Clients: I just picked up Postcards from a Dead Girl by Kirk Farber (and got it signed by him). I can't wait to read it!

Here are a few key questions that Sandra answered for the group:

What makes a manuscript pop?  Sandra stressed that agents have different tastes and likes/dislikes. She prefers great writing over story (some agents look first at the story/hook) and acknowledged she likely would have turned down a writer like John Grisham. What makes  a submission pop for her are:
  • great writing (she always looks for this first, above all else)
  • the voice
  • the characters
  • the first sentence, first paragraph, and first chapter are respectively, the most important parts of the manuscript. She knew within the first page of the manuscript that she wanted to sign several of her clients!!! HINT: If you feel your story doesn't really pick up until Chapter 3, you may want to revisit the first chapters.
  • Another important aspect of submitting involves following agency guidelines (Sandra asked a writer to submit the 1st two chapters of their novel, and he responded that although he knew what she wanted, he thought he'dsend the last chapter instead as it was a better chapter.) DON'T DO THIS! 
What should an unpublished author put in the biographical part of their query letter? I'll do a comprehensive post on query letters in the future, but this question is important for those sending out that first query. Again, you need to research individual agents to see what they prefer but Sandra likes a writer to include the following information if applicable:
  • membership to a professional writing group (e.g. SCBWI)
  • writing conference attendance
  • established critique group membership
  • career which involves writing
What is she looking to represent right now/what is she not looking for?

In fiction, Sandra stated she is always looking for a well-written, commercial crime/thriller novel. She emphasized the "well-written" part several times, and said she's looking for a James Lee Burke. So far, she's only taken on one client in this genre because of the well-written part.

She's also seeking a variety of commercial and literary fiction, including women's fiction and YA. For kidlit writers out there--while she is open to urban fantasy in YA, she's not really looking for any post-apocalyptic scenarios.

Sandra does NOT represent romance, adult fantasy, poetry or science fiction.

In non-fiction, she is seeking interesting, well-written narrative NF (e.g. Eat, Pray, Love or Three Cups of Tea). She would also love an interesting science book by an expert--remember that having a platform is a key compoment of selling most NF. Memoir is an area that she hasn't taken on, because the genre is so tricky--great writing is the most important aspect of memoir and she hasn't yet found it.

Sandra is NOT looking for any self-help books. She doesn't usually represent history, although she did sell the incredible book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America.
How to Query Ms. Bond: send a query letter via email or snail mail to her attention (see her link above for her email and mailing address.) If interested, she'll ask for more. Due to the number of submissions she receives, she won't reply if not interested--so don't take it personally.

Final Note: It's so awesome when agents take the time to do things like this. It's not like they get paid for it, and it's a huge benefit to aspiring writers. If you get the chance to attend an event like this, be sure to thank them!!!


  1. Great info! I especially liked the tips on what makes a manuscript pop. All about the popping, ladies. :)

  2. Great info, Kristi. I'll definitely check her out!

  3. I know this is an old post, but I am curious how someone can say they are interested in narrative nonfiction like EPL and then not be interested in memoir. EPL is a memoir last time I checked.


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