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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our Guest: Melissa Jeglinski

Today I’d like to introduce all of you to my wonderful agent, Melissa Jeglinski of The Knight Agency. Melissa has a unique perspective in the publishing world – that of both agent and editor. Before joining The Knight Agency in 2008, she enjoyed a successful 17 year career with Harlequin.

So, without further ado – Welcome to Lady Scribes, Melissa! Thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your knowledge.

Over the years, I’ve listened to a number of agent panels at various conferences and read a lot of agent interviews, and it seems everyone always wants to know, “What are you looking for?” I would imagine since you are the submissions coordinator at TKA, you get asked that a lot. So I don’t want to ask you that per se. But rather – since you see countless query letters, what advice would you offer writers who are submitting? Are there any common mistakes you notice that are easily fixed? And would one of those mistakes prevent you from asking for more information from the writer in question?

Lydia, thanks so much for the invite. I appreciate the opportunity to put in my two cents. Yes, as submissions coordinator for TKA I read about fifty query letter per DAY. And I see the same openings over and over. The writer starts out by asking me a question instead of just giving me information that’s compelling. I suggest trying to be less chatty and more upfront. I want to see a brief synopsis, details about the genre and word count and information about the author. Truthfully, I almost always say no to queries that start with a question or series of questions...unless the plot really captures my attention.

Aspiring authors slave over their first fifty pages, polishing them for submission. As agency slush piles can be endless, how much leeway do you give a submission? If they lose you somewhere on page two, do you stop right there? Or do you give them a little time to grab your interest? And if so, how much time do you give them?

I’m going to sound tough, I know it. But I usually know within the first three pages if a project is right for me or not. The author’s voice should really come through from the first sentence. The first line should capture my interest and the first few paragraphs should set the stage for the drama that is about to unfold. So, yes, if a project loses me in those first few pages, I will turn it down. But, that’s only if there’s nothing there to compell me forward. It may not have the best opening line but if the writing is intriguing, I may give it a chance through the first chapter. I’ve sometimes noticed that a manuscript doesn’t need it’s first chapter at all. Often, it is composed of set up and explanation that can easily be included in other chapters.

The other ladies on this blog knew you were coming today and were anxious to hear what you had to say. I was even asked to ask you some specific questions. I wheedled them down. Here’s what’s left:

What do you wish writers knew about the publishing industry?

It’s a tough world out there and publishers are being extra selective about which projects they take on. I know it’s hard to keep in mind, but you can’t take rejections personally. Publishers are less and less likely to take on anything risky, even if they love your writing. So remember, it’s not always about your project, but it’s always about the market.

If a manuscript is rejected and then revised, how much time should pass before a writer should re-submit? Or should they even do so?

A writer should feel free to resubmit their revised project as soon as they want—but only if revisions were requested. If a request was not sent along with the initial rejection, query again, letting the agent know you’ve done extensive revisions, even giving a brief outline about what you’ve done. If they decline to see the revisions, it may be that your writing and or project just wasn’t right for them and may never be right.

What do you think makes for an unforgettable character?

An unforgettable character is one I can really relate to and commiserate with. They don’t have to be the heroine or my age or contemporary. They just have to feel real to me both in actions and words.

Have you ever offered representation to someone from a contest final?

No. Not yet. :)

Well, thank you so much for answering these questions for us today, Melissa. Your insight is much appreicated!


  1. Great interview. Thanks for stopping by, Melissa. I appreciate your insight on the submissions process.

  2. Lydia -- you're like Oprah. You asked what I would have! I salute you. Melissa, thanks for being forthright. The last thing I want to do as a writer... is waste an agent's time. I'll be sure to scrub my query for chatter and cut to the chase.

  3. Wonderful interview, ladies! Melissa, I really appreciate your candor and your willingness to share your perspective with us. I love your advice on the query letter and on rejections - it's not always easy to keep things in perspective when you're faced with a "No."

  4. Thank you so much for taking time to answer Lydia's questions and appear on the blog. It was very insightful.

  5. Lydia,
    Great interview.

    Thank you very much for your candor and for taking time out to answer our questions. I've heard more than one agent say not to take rejections personally, but you did a nice job of explaining that the market is a major factor in determining what to represent. And thank you for answering the resubmitting a project question. :)

  6. Lydia certainly doesn't beat around the bush. What an excellent interview and look into the agent's side of of the business. Thanks for sharing your insights, Melissa. :-)

  7. Thanks for the advice. It's always appreciated when agents give of their time and expertise.

  8. This is perfect timing: I am sending out my first batch of queries this week. I appreciate the opportunity to have a little insight into an agent's mind. Thanks for the great interview!

    Erin Rieber

  9. Wonderful advice. Thanks for a very enlightening interview!

  10. Lydia,
    What a great interview. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule do talk to your agent.

    Thank you for your candid answers. They provided insight into what can sometimes seem like a very mysterious business.

  11. Wonderful interview! Thank you both Lydia and Melissa! Excellent advice and it does just feel so nice to have someone be straight forward for once. Thanks for stopping by Melissa!

  12. Great interview! Thanks for sharing:)

  13. Wonderful interview, Lydia.

    Melissa, your comments are so helpful. No nonsense and straight to the point. It gives us a great insight into an agent's mind.

    Thanks for your time.

  14. Lydia,
    Thank you for the wonderful interview with your agent! I'm a new member of HHRW and wanted to stop by and check out your blog, since you mentioned it on the listserv. By the way, the design is lovely. I look forward to checking out your posts in the future.
    Sara :)

  15. Melissa, thanks for taking the time out to answer some questions - and for being very direct with your answers. I seem to see the same kinds of responses a lot from various agents: don't start your query with questions, the first few pages will either grab me or not, etc. I like that consistency. It means that some things hold true throughout the industry.

  16. Great interview. Really got down to the brass tacks! Very helpful insights.

  17. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by today! I'm so glad you all enjoyed Melissa's interview, and I hope the information is useful.

    Once again, I also want to thank Melissa for joining us today and sharing her perspective. On behalf of all of the Lady Scribes, we really appreciated her spending her time with us today.