Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 17, 2016

Free Fall Friday – 7 Common Writer Mistakes

7 Common Writer Mistakes 

by Clelia Gore

1. Not following agent instructions is a biggie.

2. Greeting generally like “Dear Agent.”

3. Worse, CC:ing me and a bunch of other agents on one query email.

4. I also think that sometimes, because we are working with children’s literature, that people choose to be very casual in their queries–this is a professional letter and this is our profession, so we like for it to be taken seriously.

5. Some other mistakes include writing a synopsis instead of a pitch — we want a pitch.

6. Sending attachments.

7. Apologizing for not having been published before–there’s no reason to do that! It’s okay if you don’t have prior publishing credits. Good writing comes from anywhere, even debut authors, and there are other ways you can show you are a serious writer (like writing a great query!)

Check back next Friday to read Interview with Clelia Gore.

blog ceclia MLM agentAgent Clelia Gore of Martin Literary Management is June’s Featured Agent and will review four first pages at the end of the month. See submission Guidelines at the bottom of post.

In the most general terms, she represents:

  • Picture books, including baby books (both from authors and author-illustrators)
  • Middle grade fiction and nonfiction, including early readers and chapter books
  • Young adult fiction and nonfiction

Clelia has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Boston College. She received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law and practiced law as a corporate litigator in New York City.

In 2011, she decided to dedicate her career to books and reentered graduate school at Emerson College, where she received a master’s degree in Publishing and Writing. While she was studying publishing and taking creative writing courses at Emerson, Clelia gained firsthand experience in the publishing industry working in the children’s book division at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and in academic books at Oxford University Press. She also taught academic writing and research courses to freshman students as a graduate student faculty member at Emerson College and sits on the board of directors for Poetry Northwest magazine.

Clelia’s Wishlist:

  • I am very keen on developing my YA clientele this year. I’m mostly interested in reality-based YA featuring a strong voice (high importance!), memorable characters, resonant themes and a pitch perfect premise.
  • Middle grade requirements same as with YA! Although I am more open to fantastical elements and adventures.
  • I always appreciate YA or MG stories that have a basis in history or true events–as long as the time period is thoroughly researched. Unusual or unsung parts of history are always interesting to me.
  • YA or MG memoirs or narrative nonfiction. Specifically, I would love to see a YA memoir related to the modern Native American teenage experience.
  • Authors/illustrators with a large social media following, Instagram or YouTube in particular.
  • YA true crime to play off of the success true crime has had in the adult world with series like Serial, The Jinx and Making a Murderer. Preferably with a happy ending since we’re dealing with real young people.
  • YA or MG magical realism a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende. A good recent YA example of this style is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.
  • Charming, quirky, tongue-in-cheek YA similar to the movie Amelie
  • In the mood for a summer camp love story
  • Quirky, funny picture books that feel thoroughly modern.
  • A picture book about a non-anthropomorphized llama or an alpaca (i.e. in the wild, i.e. not Llama Llama). I love llamas and alpacas!
  • Picture books featuring animals we haven’t seen much of in kid lit before (like an okapi!)
  • Anything about Alexander Hamilton for any reading level. My husband is obsessed with this founding father (he was way ahead of the trend!). I once threw him an Alexander Hamilton-themed birthday where we visited all of the AH sites in New York City and New Jersey, and destroyed some BURRitos for lunch as vengeance against his dueling partner.
  • Nonfiction for all age groups and genres! Educational, memoir, historical, biographical, STEM-related. I do a lot more nonfiction than the average kid lit agent and I’d like to keep it that way.
  • Nonfiction teaching kids in a clever, unconventional way like the recent Never Insult a Killer Zucchini or the upcoming Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head
  • I’m interested in promoting diversity in children’s literature. Across all genres, I am interested in characters and voices that are not often heard from. I’m from a multicultural family myself, and know what it’s like to be a kid and not see yourself represented in the books you read. A book like Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown would have been so important to me!

What I am not looking for (sorry!):

  • Adult anything. If you have an adult nonfiction query, consider my colleague, Sharlene Martin, who specializes in that genre
  • New adult (college through 20s character experience).
  • Hard fantasy or sci-fi
  • Protagonist finds out she/he has a magical/paranormal ability on his/her birthday YA or MG (flooded/fatigued market).
  • Dystopian YA or MG (flooded/fatigued market)
  • Picture books where the moral leads the story, lesson-based books (trade publishers don’t want these either)
  • Rhyming picture books (I find them cloying, sorry!)
  • Manuscripts that have not been through a thorough editing process, that have not been seen by eyes other than the author’s


In the subject line, please write “June First Page Critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be skipped over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: June 23rd.

RESULTS: July 1st.

Please only submit one first page a month. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. like those peeves Kathy…. and they go for artist agents (who do sell picture books too) as well. it’s called ‘common sense’, but seems to often be lacking.


  2. I would like some advice on what you call “pitching”. What would that be if not a synopsis?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: