I’m very excited to introduce Tina Wexler, literary agent at ICM. Let’s give her a round of applause!
Would you mind giving us a quick bio of yourself and what you’re looking for as an agent?
I moved to NY to get my MFA in poetry after graduating from Wheaton
College in Massachusetts. After cutting my teeth on subright sales at
the Ellen Levine Literary Agency/Trident Media and the Karpfinger
Agency, I joined ICM and started signing my own clients. I’ve been with
ICM since 2003. I live in Brooklyn with my husband and two cats. (I’m
a shameless cat person, though I should probably leave that off.)
These days, I continue to look for great middle grade and young adult
fiction, though I’m also expanding the non-fiction side of my list
(narrative non-fiction, memoir, pop culture, pop science,
beauty/self-help, food narratives). I tend to gravitate towards
contemporary stories, though I wouldn’t shy away from a great paranormal
historical. Mysteries, thrillers, love stories, school stories, tall
tales, spoofs…I’m open to it all so long as it has a unique hook and a
strong voice. The only thing I tend to avoid is high fantasy; I like my
fantasy grounded in this world. I am not looking to take on picture
book authors at this time
What made you want to become an agent?
I wanted a job that would feed my creative side while also taking
advantage of my business acumen. Business acumen? Err…That sounds
horribly boring. But it’s true. I wanted to work with authors; I wanted
to talk books; I wanted to help make careers happen.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give aspiring writers?
Take your time. Too often I read manuscripts that come to me too
soon. To drag out a tired cliche: you never get a second chance to make
a first impression.
What would you like to tell the teen writers out there that are looking to be published?
You write because you love it, because you can’t NOT write, and
that’s a beautiful thing, your passion for writing. Don’t let the quest
for publication ruin that for you EVER.
What catches your eye in a query?
An original premise, a great voice, both.
On the other side of the coin, what are three big turn-offs in a query letter?
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of query letters that don’t tell me
anything about the plot. I can’t figure it out. I’m being pitched a
story, but the writer won’t tell me what the story is–though he assures
me it’ll be a great read! Baffling. I also don’t understand why so
many queries lead with a negative: “I don’t know why you’d want to read
this…I’ve been rejected by 25 agents…I don’t really know how to write a
query letter” (despite the hundreds of websites dedicated to explaining
how best to write a query letter). I’m also not fond of being addressed
as Sir/Madam. Go figure. “Dear Ms. Wexler” always works, or if you’ve
heard me speak at a conference or know me from somewhere else, “Dear
Tina” or some such variation is nice.
How many queries do you receive each day, approximately?
How do you feel about re-queries and resubmissions?
I don’t mind re-queries so long as the writer mentions that they’ve
queried me before for a different project. If it’s for the same
project, I’ll want to know what they’ve changed about the manuscript/why
they are trying my again. Usually, if I’ve read a manuscript and
passed on it but have specific thoughts on how it could be revised, I’ll
share my specific ideas and invite the writer to resubmit should she
opt to incorporate [at least some of] my suggestions. So of course in
those situations, I welcome a resubmission.
What are the top three things you look for in a manuscript?
A distinct narrative voice, a great story, and characters who will stay with me long after I’ve finished reading.
When you call a writer to offer representation, what do you usually like to discuss?
I often start by sharing why I was so taken by their manuscript, why I
think I would be a great agent for them. We’ll talk a bit about ICM,
what ICM can offer, and what I specifically bring to the table. I’ll
explain my business style and try to get a sense of how we’ll work
together best. If I think their manuscript needs tinkering, I’ll discuss
my thoughts on revisions to see if we’re on the same page. I also like
to know what else they are interested in writing/what else they are
working on, since I’m looking at that phone call as the start of a long
And finally our traditional question, what is your favorite flavor of jelly bean?
Thanks so much to Ms. Wexler for taking time out of her agenting schedule to join us for this great interview!