2.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
If you’re writing (or better yet, have already finished writing) a young adult novel and need a step-by-step guide on how to write a query letter and who to send it to, this is for you. Otherwise, though there are helpful lists and indices detailing agents, most of the information covered in the earlier chapters is readily available online via a variety of blogs on how to publish. For example, chapters covering things like writing a query letter only include a few examples, and most of the examples throughout the book seemed to be geared towards the young adult end of the children’s market (despite the title). Further, many of the examples feature up-and-coming as opposed to new authors (e.g. one agent shared a query letter from a woman who had already published several books and had won awards), though the book is clearly marketed towards aspiring and starting writers. I think it was useful for the indices and some of pet peeves agents share, and it was clearly written, but, again, the examples were few and far between; it also doesn’t cover self- and/or online publishing, which may be a wasted opportunity.
The writing throughout this book was clear and entertaining — there are beginning chapters where they’ve interviewed agents and editors about their various pet peeves ( chapter one mistakes that will make you stop reading, etc). Though there is a chapter about the pacing of picture books, most of the interviews and examples deal more with young adult novels (which does make sense, as there is more to say given that they’re generally longer books). The chapters are all fairly brief and range from talking about illustrators to the writing process and/or doing research. But… each is so short, and often focused on just interviewing one particular writer, that it was hard to get too much out of the book.
I did find some of the specific turn-offs of agents interesting, and the indices in the back are very helpful (not only does it list agents and publishing houses, it also has spotlights on particular agents and lists what their particular interests are, what genres they’re not interested in, etc). The indices make up about 35-40% of the book, so if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a worthwhile buy.
The book also specifically mentions that they have a policy of not including subsidy or co-op publishing, which may or may not be a missed opportunity considering that’s an expanding market. Also telling, though this is the 2013 guide, when I wrote a query letter to one of the featured agents (it’s still January of 2013, note), I got an automatic email that she had already left the agency and the publishing world…
Comparisons to Other Books:
I think that this was similar to other Writer’s Market guides in that the indices is the most useful thing… if you want more specific advice on writing query letters etc, there are many blogs; you can pretty much Google “how to write a query letter for x” and there are many, many examples that will probably be more specific to your particular needs.