Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview with Agent Lora Rivera of the Claire Gerus Literary Agency

UPDATE: Lora has left the agenting business to pursuit other interests. 

I remember that when I was querying I loved reading agent interviews to see if they were a fit.  So now I bring you one of them!  Meet Lora Rivera of the Claire Gerus Literary Agency.  I hope you enjoy this one!

Lora Rivera began her publishing career at the Claire Gerus Literary Agency in 2008. With an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, she takes an editorial approach to new projects. Working for two years as editor and book doctor for numerous agency authors, she is now actively building her own client list. She currently lives in Tucson where she teaches English composition, writes literary and YA fiction, and composes biographies for CPS children through Aviva’s Life Book program. More info can be found at

1. How did you become an agent, and when did you start building your own client list?

After interning with CGLA for two years, and watching the ever-increasing buildup of new fiction submissions, Claire and I decided we could handle the files faster if we worked them separately. Claire’s focus is now nonfiction, while I handle all new fiction proposals. We initiated the separation in September ‘10 and finalized it when I signed my first author in October.

2. What genres are you looking for right now?  Would you rather represent a commercial book like Twilight or a more literary one, like The Book Thief—or both?

I read widely. I love both literary and commercial fiction and would be thrilled to represent either. The clincher for me is story and voice. Do the characters come alive for me? Can I sympathize with their struggles and inmost desires? As for genres, I’d really like to see some guy-focused YA, startling middle grade, or solid (not ironic) adult literary fiction. But I can fall for pretty much anything if it reels me in.

3. What type of manuscript you definitely wouldn’t represent?

I don’t want to rule anything out here, but I’d say I’m feeling a little burnout with “clever” adult lit fic. This may be due to the MFA experience, which ultimately led me to writing genre fiction, especially YA, where the literary and genre world can happily meet. In a positive, often beautiful, straightforward way. Thus, sarcastic literary fiction would probably have an uphill battle.

4. What kind of voice captures you and makes you want to read more?

“Voice” is a word thrown around quite a bit these days in publishing and is somewhat slippery. In a 1st person book, it’s often the character’s voice coming through on the page. In this case, it’s the character herself who keeps me reading - Is she funny, scathing, naive, sincere? And how will these qualities, seeping through the prose, play out over the course of the book? In 3rd person, voice can be the author’s voice, or simply that elusive spark - a fantastic or unusual turn of phrase, an on-the-nose descriptive line... I’m afraid “I know it when I see it” rings true for this.

5. Could you tell us about The Claire Gerus Literary Agency and your role as a fiction associate?

“Associate” is fairly synonymous at CGLA with junior agent. I receive and assess all fiction submissions and sign my own clients. And when needed, Claire eagerly supplies her impressive 30+ years of experience.

6. According to your submission guidelines, you only ask for a query and not any sample pages.  What makes you ask to see more?  And if a writer pastes a couple of pages below the query, would that annoy you?

We’ve all heard it: A fantastic query letter is the most effective way of getting an agent to peek at a manuscript. I ask for a synopsis because this helps me get a clearer idea of the book. And I ask not to see sample pages mainly because it’s frustrating to open long emails on my tablet phone. I won’t automatically reject a submission if it comes with sample pages, but I’d prefer authors to take the request seriously.
Update: Ms. Rivera is now requesting the first five pages PASTED below the query.

7. Are you an editorial agent? A career builder agent?

I’ve always felt this division is somewhat misleading. A good agent will do both: improve their authors’ storylines, help tighten their prose, offer suggestions for weak characters - all editorial functions - and equip authors for a promising career, brainstorming for new book ideas with the market in mind, fighting for the best contracts, offering suggestions for web presence, publicity, marketing, etc.

Last question before the fast five: 
8. Can you tell us why writers would be happy to have you as their agent?

As a fellow writer, I know how hard the work is – both to get the manuscript into shape and find a home for it in this tough market. I will obsess over your manuscript as much as you do. And if you’re not obsessing, maybe find an agent who isn’t quite as passionate about getting your quality literature, entrancing plots, and inspiring characters into the hands of a loyal audience.

And now for fun:

Guilty pleasure? In-and-Out Burger. Animal style everything. If and when I move back east, I will miss this. Though my arteries will probably thank me.

Dream vacation? Italy, Ireland, India.... Some place starting with an “I.”

Your wish for 2011? I’d love to land a 3-book deal. Series are just so much fun!

Random fact about you that we probably don’t know?
I’m a voracious eavesdropper. Whenever I need to get outside my own head, or when I have a nasty case of writer’s block, I take a stroll and listen in.

Cookies or coffee?  Both, please?
Okay, fine. You can have both :D

Thank you, Ms. Rivera, for your answers.  And if you guys enjoyed “meeting” her, you can follow her on Twitter (@lroseriver) and query her via email to lora.rivera at (Query only. Include a short synopsis (2-3 pages) in the body of the email. No attachments, please.)


  1. Great interview, Monica! I saw Ms. Rivera's name pop up on QueryTracker, but I hadn't done too much research. Now I'll do a little more. She seems like someone worth querying.

  2. I really like the "guy" YA angle.

  3. Thanks Monica- very nice interview. I wasn't familiar with Ms. Rivera either. :)

  4. She sounds amazing! I love her outlook on what a good agent will do. I'll be checking into her agency. Thanks for introducing us to her Monica!

  5. Hey there! I'm glad you guys enjoyed reading this one ;) Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Nice interview! Glad to know I'm not the only admitted eavesdropper around here. ;)

  7. Hey Linda! Eavesdropper? Ha! That makes 3 of us! :P

  8. Thanks for the great interview. I'm adding Ms. Rivera to my list now. :)

  9. Thanks, Monica, for an excellent interview. For struggling writers looking in, it's nice to hear from the agent's viewpoint. I wish Ms.Rivera luck and extra Visine for all those queries your intriguing interview will bring her way, Roland

  10. Great interview, Moni! Insightful questions and answers.

  11. Hey Stina! I'm glad you found this helpful! And nice to meet you! (You know, I think I've seen you around before... so maybe nice to re-meet you?)

    Roland! Thanks so much for stopping by! And for your good vibes, too. :D

    Jenny! Thanks! I was just on your blog, yanno? Nice to see you here too!

  12. Nice interview! I'm sure this will be very helpful information for a lot of people. I'll go tweet the link!

  13. Thanks for introducing Lora to us. I love how she's also an author, and is passionate about her work. I've added her to my list!

  14. Lisa! Thanks for tweeting the link! You rock!

    Julie! I'm glad you added her to your list. Wish you luck! :D

  15. Great interview! She's sitting on a query of mine right now and I wish I'd read this interview first because now I REALLY think she's awesome. Guess I just get to hope my query was good enough :)

    OH - followed you here from my friend Kelley Vitollo who blogs at YAtopia and is repped by E. Ellensburg.

  16. Loved this interview. It's so nice to hear passion rising through the business "have-to's." I admire someone who had to wade through queries AND grade compositions.

  17. I notice in this interview it says not to paste sample pages with the query, but her website asks for a synopsis and the first 5 pages. Perhaps she changed her guidelines lately?

  18. Hey Cheyanne! I just asked Lora, and I'll come back when I get her answer :)

  19. Hey again! So you were, right, Cheyanne. Now Mrs. Rivera is requesting the first five pages pasted below the query. Thanks for the heads-up!
    I already updated the interview.

  20. Awesome, thanks for verifying! I had my query all ready to send to her but wanted to make sure it was perfect!

  21. No problem! And good luck with the query! :D
    And oops--I meant Ms. not Mrs! LOL

  22. Lora is no longer accepting queries. Outstanding fulls for fiction are being sent to the senior agent (who is currently not accepting queries for fiction due to backlog).

  23. Thanks for the heads up, Stina :)

  24. And another new agent bites the dust. Lora left agenting last week.

  25. Yeah, it's kind of sad, isn't it?

  26. Not for me! I get to snuggle into a warm and welcoming community of fellow writers now.

    That's kind of a weird image... :)

    Just remembered this interview. *sigh* Those were the days. I wasn't hounded by my WIP characters at almost 2AM.

  27. @Lora
    LOL about being hounded by characters at 2am!! That always happens to me.
    Well, before that you were hounded by queriers, right? lol

    And sure, this is a warm and welcoming community, and though many would say they would still like you to agent, I'm glad you're snuggling here! :D