Episode 35: Interview with Jeff Kleinman – Query Letter Critiques (Part 1)

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hello and welcome to another awesome episode of DIY MFA Radio! Today I’m so excited to be interviewing Literary Agent Jeff Kleinman. Jeff is a founding partner of Folio Literary Management, and also happens to be my awesome agent!

What I love about working with Jeff is that he has an eye for spotting books that can really make a difference. He has this uncanny knack for sniffing out interesting stories, unique perspectives and, or course, writers with voice. He also has vision, with eye for what projects can be beyond the page. This is one of the many reasons why, when I was looking for someone to represent me and DIY MFA, Jeff was my no-brainer first choice.

Over the course of his career Jeff has represented a wide range of fiction and nonfiction (including many debuts). You can check out his full bio at FolioLit.com, but I’ll just say this: the list of books he’s represented is staggering. Seriously, it reads like a veritable who’s-who of top-notch fiction and nonfiction.

Most importantly, though, Jeff is one of those rare people who not only believes that books can make a difference, he backs it up with action. Aside from working hard for his clients, he dedicates a lot of time to teaching at conferences and helping to educate writers about the business. As he says in his bio “good writing and smart ideas can change our world,” and Jeff is helping to make that happen.

In this episode, Jeff and I talk about:

  • What a query letter is and why writers need one.
  • What the fundamental components of a query letter are.
  • What format writers should follow when writing a query letter.
  • Why it’s important to follow the submission requirements exactly.
  • Plus, Jeff shares his #1 tip for writers.

What I love about Jeff’s advice is that he approaches the query letter without a set “formula.” If you take only one piece of advice away from this podcast episode it’s that there is no “best practice” when it comes to query letters. The best practice is to write a great book and query in whatever way ultimately gets the agent to keep reading past the query and get to your pages.

Keep in mind that while a lot of Jeff’s advice can be applied universally, every agent has a different idea of what is important to them and what what parts of a query letter catch their eye. Make sure you know who you’re pitching and what they’re looking for. This will increase your odds of sparking that ideal agent’s interest.

Next, listen in while Jeff critiques some query letters for us!

You can follow along on the critiques by clicking these links and downloading a PDF of the queries we discussed.

“Query letters are no time for non-essentials.” –Jeff Kleinman
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Link to Episode 35

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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.


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