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Assessing Agents or Keeping Perspective

The importance of a good agent-author relationship is constantly touted to writers, and seeing as most of us would like to find the perfect match on our first signing, it's only natural that we stress.  With so little information available and no good way to know how we'll fit with an agent before we query, it's no wonder we start grappling for any kind of telling hint we can.  But what are we really doing?  Being fools, in some cases. 

Whatever are you talking about, Casey? 

Looking too far into details.  Details.  You know, judging an agent by their response times, their web site (or lack thereof), their submission requirements, the voice of their web site, the font they use, and so on and so forth.  It's like taking a walk through the Internet and deciding what we think about an agent by what's there.  No matter that we've never interacted with them personally.  Kinda silly.  So today, I'd like to offer a different perspective on some of the common hang-ups writers have with agents (including one or two I've been guilty of myself).

Slow Response Times:

You see it everywhere.  Writers speculating on an agent's response times and how that reflects on the agent.  Many think that slow response times directly reflect how well an agent will correspond with their clients, and/or the quality of agent's business ethic.  The same often goes for agents that have a no-response policy.

Hold on there.  You've got it backwards.  Believe it or not, finding new clients is generally a small facet in an agent's overall job.  They're busy dealing with the clients they already have, negotiating contracts, following up on due royalties, and making sales.  This is good.  This is what you'd want them to be doing if you were one of their clients.  You wouldn't want them to neglect selling your book to catch up on slush, would you?  When waiting out the weeks or months on a pending submission, try to remember what an agent is dealing with beyond you, and what good things it will mean if you become their client.

Only Accepts Snail-mail: 

It's easy to make assumptions about an agent that only accepts snail mail, and many such assumptions are made: they aren't keeping up with the times, they aren't "green," they'll only correspond over phone and mail, e-mail savvy editors won't want to deal with such an agent, etc.

Just because an agent likes to read their slush on paper doesn't mean they don't use e-mail.  Sometimes it's just easier on the eyes.  Some agents just have a better year-proven system with paper slush.  Whatever the case, don't skip over an agent with years of experience and fabulous clients because you're worried about how they handle slush.  Again, it's what they are doing with their clients that matters.  Are they legit?  Are they making sales?  Chances are, if you can get passed the paper slush pile, there is a great agent there who uses e-mail as well as the next no-paper agent. 

No web site: 

This is another area where we can lose perspective.  We hear about an agent, type their name in Google, and what do we find?  No web site.  Sure, it's disappointing, we wanted to learn more about them, but it doesn't mean they aren't a good agent.  Just because they aren't extremely accessible doesn't mean they don't want to hear from you either.

The reality is, the agent probably has a bulging clientele list, and if that's the case, getting a web site up for potential clients isn't going to be high on their priority list.  Stop for a moment and consider yourself a client of an agent with no web site.  Are you going to care whether or not they have a web site when you're in frequent contact with them and they are focusing on your book?  Probably not.  You'll probably never look at it.  Agents mostly have web sites for potential clients, so if an agent isn't necessarily looking to expand their list (but still looking), it's not going to be necessary.  They get plenty of other slush and referrals without one. There are some great agents out there like this, and you'd be extremely lucky to have them if they took you on.

Not a Member of AAR: 

For the writers who will only query members of the AAR.

The AAR used to be one of the best ways to find a legit agent, and it's still great, but these days, a lot of legit agents are choosing not to apply.  I don't pretend to know all the reasons, but I think it has a lot to do with Publisher's Marketplace and word of mouth.  A lot of established agents simply don't need to be part of the association to find new clients, and a lot of newer agents haven't been in the business long enough to apply.  These days, I don't think the AAR holds much sway.  If an agent is a member, all the better, but don't limit yourself to AAR agents.  Look for legitimacy in sales and clients.

Not in NY: 

I've seen writers limiting themselves to agents in NY.  I think the thought process is that agents in NY are bound to be chummier with editors and publishers.

Not necessarily true.  This digital age we live in is quite amazing.  Near or far, agents are in constant contact with editors and publishing professionals, and many of them make several trips to NY a year.  What matters is that the agent is making sales.  If they are making sales, they obviously have perfectly good contacts with NY acquisitions editors.  Again, there are AMAZING agents outside of NY.  Don't shoot yourself in the foot by trying to "suss out" which agents are second tier.  Location is not the way to determine this. 

Now, if location matters because you want to live near your agent, that's a different matter, and that's perfectly reasonable.

Never Heard of Em': 

Some writers seem entirely too focused on the agents with a lot of years in the business and/or big word of mouth.

Again (again, again, again), what matters the most is that they are legit and making sales.  So what if they don't have a big name around the Interwebs?   Maybe they've been in the publishing business for a long time, and you don't hear much about them because they aren't putting themselves out there.  If that's the case, they probably have some amazing clients and contacts in the industry.  Another lost chance, if you don't query. 

Maybe it's a newer agent that hasn't made a name yet.  If that's the case, they are going to be looking for new clients.  There are a couple bonuses to this, 1) you have a better chance with them, and 2) they might very well be a "big name" in just a few years.  As long as they are working for a respectable agency, they should be perfectly legit.  Someone has deemed them worthy, why not give them a chance?

Or maybe, maybe you're just out of the loop.  Just because you haven't heard of them, doesn't necessarily mean they aren't "somebody."

***

Okay, so I'm not saying to throw your research and sharpened assessment tools to the wind, I'm just reminding you to keep things in perspective.  During the submissions process we're kind of in a corner, staring at a large wall.  It's easy to get caught up studying all the cracks and crevices in that wall, and to forget what really matters.  But the thing is, there's a whole lot more on the other side (what we're striving for, after all), and those cracks and crevices will be pretty darn inconsequential once you're actually there. 

Focus on legitimacy.  Focus on sales and clients.  Take all the time you might spend assessing details and create a really rockin' list of questions to ask an agent if they offer.  Because that's where it's at.  THAT is where you can get the low-down, from the source, and make a truly informed decision.  You're not bound to accept an offer when you query an agent.  Use that to your advantage.  Query all the agents that MIGHT be a good match and then slow down, interview them, and find out for sure.

Wednesday's Word Count

Another new month is just beyond Friday. Craziness, I tell you. I need a time turner!

Prior Goal: Undetermined.

Accomplished: Revised several chapters and then... full stop.

Goal for new week: Serious brain stormage (again), me thinks.

Excuses / comments: I seem to be in a funk still. I'm so hung up on the rewrite, that I haven't been able to get into the new WIP. And yet, I'm having a lot of indecision about certain aspects of the rewrite that I'm not making any solid progress. I think the problem is that my gut and my brain aren't on the same page. Whatever it is, it's doing a number on me! Everyone else seems to be flying through their revisions and rewrites and I'm just...stuck. But anyway, I think I'm going to spend the week asking myself six thousand questions about the rewrite, and play around with and brainstorm my new WIP when I get tired of doing that.

On another note, I had a crazy dream last night that might end up being a crazy book idea. That's always fun.

What will your goals be this week? Any news you want to share?!

How To Tips: Author Bio

Let's talk author/writer bios.  I've been trying to write a keeper for months.  It's ridiculous, I know.   The problem is, I'd like to have a quirky, interesting bio and I haven't figured out anything good to say that's, well, quirky or interesting (and I call myself a writer?).  Also, seeing as I don't have any publishing credits or impressive MFAs or anything, whatever I come up with just seems empty. 

Here are some tips I've come across:

  • Write in third person.
  • Include pertinent credentials, experience, and/or awards (but be selective if you have a lot).
  • Mention other works you'd like people to find, if applicable.
  • Choose professional titles over personal titles.
  • If you lack credentials, consider mentioning any pertinent organizations you belong to (SCBWI, RWA, etc).
  • If you lack credentials, keep it simple and just say a few lines about yourself.
  • The average length seems to be 150 words, though it varies depending on what it's for.

If you're struggling to write your own bio, and are interested in examples, Book Browse, has a large collection of author bios to check out.

Here's an example of a bio I LOVE (not a children's author, but still, great stuff): 

Lorelei Shannon was born in the Arizona desert and learned to walk holding on to the tail of a coyote. She was a strange, fey child who kept to herself, and could often be found feeding flies to a big praying mantis in her mother's rose garden. Lorelei is now a horror writer, computer game designer, sculptor, and goth grrrl. She lives in the woods outside Seattle with her beloved husband, two beautiful sons, three big, hairy dogs, and an immortal goldfish.

What do you like in a bio?  Have any thoughts or tips you'd like to share?  If you're like me, and don't have anything much to say, what have you included?

Agent News: Upstart Crow Literary

Firebrand agent Michael Sterns is leaving to start his own agency, Upstart Crow Literary, which will represent both children's books and adult (see the comments). He is joined by colleagues Chris Richman and Danielle Chiotti. They'll be accepting submissions as soon as next week. The web site should be live the week following.

Alice Pope has the deets here. Best to all who query.

Update 08/11/09: The web site is live, the agency is on twitter and facebook, and they have a blog. Enjoy!

So Tell Me: Your Ideal Literary Agent

No matter how much research you do, it's nearly impossible to know whether or not you and a prospective agent will be a good match until you've worked together.  But what ARE you looking for in an agent?  Have you thought about it?

Logically, I think it's smart to know what you're looking for before you start looking.  But I also think life and this business require us to be flexible.  After all, we often don't know what we really want until we've experienced it or what we're looking for until we've found it (or hey, until we've experienced the opposite!). 

As it is, however, our view is limited to the present and to what we suspect we'll want.  But that shouldn't stop you from thinking about it and educating yourself on the what you can and can't expect.  So tell me: What are you looking for in an ideal agent?

And if you have an agent (ideal or otherwise), and especially if you've had more than one, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well! 

Agent Spotlight: Rebecca Sherman

This week's Agent Spotlight features Rebecca Sherman of Writers House.  

rebecca_sherman About: "Rebecca Sherman is an agent for Writers House. For over 30 years, Writers House has played a critical role in developing novelists and non-fiction authors. They have one of the industry’s finest lists of juvenile and young adult authors. Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night” (Link

Status: Open to submissions.

"While I have a client list that I am very happy with and keeps me busy, I always want potential clients to send material to me that could be a match. In other words, I never want to miss the opportunity to work with a client who writes or illustrates material that I fall in love with." (Link)

What She's Looking For:

From Her Bio:

“Rebecca continues to build her own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, she’s looking for books with something to say, books that make her laugh, and characters that truly remind her of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be. She is also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night” (Link)

From Publisher’s Marketplace:

“As I continue to build my own list of middle grade and young adult novelists, I'm looking for books with something to say, books that make me laugh, and characters that truly remind me of how confounding and wonderful (ridiculous! frightening! glorious!) adolescence can be.

“I am also looking for picture books by author/illustrators that can hold up to readings night after night.

“In addition to books for the children's market, I'm a huge fan of all things pop-culture and looking for non-fiction books in this genre as well as lifestyle, humor and narrative non-fiction for the 18-35 audience.”  (Link)

From a Blog Post (01/2011):

As it’s too large to paste over, see an extensive breakdown of what Ms. Sherman is and isn’t looking for HERE.

From an Interview (05/2008):

"I always point to books like PUNK FARM by Jarrett Krosoczka as wholly original work which is what I am looking for. I fall head over heels for projects that could only come from the mind of that creator. I definitely skew towards humor and originality over edgy or trendy." (Link)

From an Interview (05/2007):

"I'm always looking for manuscripts with a striking voice and unique point of view mixed with authenticity. Humor is a real plus for me. Although I represent many author/illustrators, I am looking for more novelists." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

"I am not currently looking for authors of picture book texts who are not also illustrators." (Link)

"If I feel like I have read the manuscript before, but better, I am going to pass. I don't want to see a lesser than version of Harry Potter or Gossip Girl or another story of the author's dog." (Link)

She doesn't often connect to sub-genres within YA like science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or historical, but there are exceptions such as LULU DARK CAN SEE THROUGH WALLS by Bennett Madison, which is a teen mystery novel she represents. (Link)

About the Agency:

"Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer's career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients' work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights." (Link)

"The Writers House children's book department, started by Amy Berkower in 1978, has grown to include seven agents representing many of our industry's most lauded and successful authors. Our list includes popular series like THE TWILIGHT SAGA, SWEET VALLEY HIGH, CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and JUNIE B. JONES -- as well as eight Newbery and Newbery Honor award-winning clients: Sharon Creech, Cynthia Voigt, Cynthia Rylant, Robin McKinley, Susan Patron, Neil Gaiman, Ingrid Law and Grace Lin. Writers House is also proud to represent the first two American authors to win Britain's prestigious Carnegie Award - Creech and Jennifer Donnelly; Christopher Paolini, who, at 20, is one of the youngest authors to hit the New York Times bestseller list; and the late Joan Lowery Nixon, the only four-time Edgar Award Winner recipient." (Link)

Quotables:

"My advice is to be talented, open, patient, and persistent. Look for an agent with whom you will be compatible, not just someone who can sell your manuscript." (Link)

"Do your research and then submit to a select group of agents. Make informed decisions about who to submit to and how. Be patient as they review your work.  If you don’t have any takers in the first round, be persistent. Be honest and open and show some personality. Agents aren’t looking for worker bees, we want to see originality. Talent is primary, but compatibility goes a long way. Make it clear to agents from the start that you are going to be cooperative and will work with an agent for the betterment of your career." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

"I am absolutely an editorial agent. My editorial input is expressed mostly for the benefit of unpublished authors. If a client has already been published and plans to publish again with the same publisher, I might put my two cents in (if asked), but would leave the substantive part of the editorial process to the client and editor. However, for unpublished clients and prospective clients, I feel it is of the utmost important to send the most polished manuscript possible to editors." (Link with more!)

"In clients, I am looking for writers and illustrators who are collaborative. It’s important that clients respect that I offer editorial feedback with a knowledge of the market. Patience truly is a virtue in the slow business of publishing. Again, it’s my job to represent an author’s career, not just one book. That is a huge investment and I hope clients will recognize and appreciate that. I want authors who aren’t in this just to be published. I’m looking for writers who have commitment to craft and imagination. Writers who respect deadlines, feedback, the process of publishing a book, their editor and me." (Link)

Web Presence:

Writers House website.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

Twitter.

WeBook.

Facebook.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

Selina Alko, Anna Alter, Melissa Anelli, Lindsay Eland, Shane Evans, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Grace Lin, Julian Hector, Laura Ljungkvis, Scott Magoon, Leslie Patricelli, Matt Phelan, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, Sean Qualls, Tricia Rayburn, Daniel Salmieri, David Ezra Stein, Dan Yaccarino, among others.

Sales:

As of 3/2011, Ms. Sherman is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 5 deals in the last 12 months, 2 six-figure+ deals, and 46 overall.  Recent deals include 3 middle grade and 2 picture books.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales and this is true of Ms. Sherman’s deals.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

“All submissions must include a query letter. MG and YA submissions should include a sample chapter (approx 10 pages) and a synopsis.

“Middle grade, YA, and adult non-fiction submissions should include a proposal.

“Please include one entire text for picture book submissions and sample illustrations or a link to an online portfolio or a dummy. I do not accept picture book texts by authors only. You must be an author/illustrator to submit picture book material.

“Email submissions should not include attachments--because viruses are scary. Snail mail submissions must include a SASE.

"Please tell me on the query if it is a multiple submission. Please keep me informed about other agents' interest or offers for representation via email. Do not accept representation until you have given me a fair chance to extend an offer as well." (Link)

Do NOT submit to more than one Writers House agent at a time.

Response Times:

Ms Sherman’s response time on queries fluctuates from minutes to a couple months with an average around two or three weeks.  Requested material seems to range from days to a couple months as well.  Her stated response time is as follows:

"I tend to tell people that it takes 6-8 weeks to reply to any phase of correspondence.  After that time a nudge can be given via email..." (Link)

If it seems you've been waiting longer than others, here's something to take heart in: 

"Writers who are waiting for a response should know that I see promise in their work.  Either I'm on the fence or just can't find the time to write the thorough report I'd like to give..." (Link)

What's the Buzz?

Rebecca Sherman has a great reputation.  She has an amazing list of clients who seem to adore her, and the sales to befit her nine years as an agent with Writers House.  Aspiring authors who have met her and/or heard her speak at conferences have come away very impressed.  I recommend following her on Twitter for updates and a glimpse at her personality.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview podcast with Rebecca Sherman at Just One More Book (11/2008).

Interview with Rebecca Sherman at The Longstockings (05/2008)

Interview with Rebecca Sherman of Writers House at Cynsations (05/2007).

Workshop Q&A with Rebecca Sherman at Verla Kay's web site (09/2005).

Guest Posts:

What I Really Want to Do Is Direct at Blue Rose Girls (01/2011).

Caldecott Call (01/2011).

Tradition and 2011 (01/2011).

Catching You Up on My 2010… all in one post (01/2011).

What Not to Read On Your Caribbean Vacation (12/2010).

What We Talk About When We Talk Picture Books (12/2010).

Tales of a Reluctant Blogger (12/2010).

Because a Dreidel Just Doesn’t Cut it (12/2010).

Around the Web:

Writers House thread on AbsoluteWrite.

Writers House on P&E ($ Highly Recommended).

Querying Dos and Don’ts from Rebecca Sherman at Ingrid’s Notes (05/2010).

Eight Myths About Literary Agents at Ingrid’s Notes (05/2010).

Agent Appreciation Day Post by client Lindsay Eland (12/2009).

Contact:

Please see Ms. Sherman's Publisher's Marketplace page or the Writers House website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 3/9/2011

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Reviewed By Agent? N/A

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Wednesday's Word Count

I just had fun reading through the "you know you're a writer when..." post again. I found it very reassuring that some of you prefer screen time with your characters over face time with real people. Whew. Good to know I'll have some competition for the "most anti-social writer of the year award."

Prior Goal:
Nada.

Accomplished: This and that, probably a little more this.

Goal for new week: Undetermined.

Excuses / comments: I didn't completely take a break, you see. I've still be tweaking the beginning of my novel and trying to figure out the best way to get the plot rolling. In other words, I've been testing just how many different ways I can write chapter one and chapter two (don't ask).

I also started something new. GASP. I know. But I think I need something to play with creatively that isn't under the restraints of revision, and I think I'm committed to the revision WIP enough now that it won't be an issue switching between the two. We shall see. Fortunately, I have all of you lovelies to get on my case if I seem to be abandoning the revision, yes?

Now, with my report out of the way, I want to know what's happening with you! What have your goals been? How have you been doing? Any new goals?

And... question on a Wednesday: How many, if any, complete rewrites have you done?

You Know You're a Writer When...

You know you're a writer when you wake up freaked out and preoccupied that your dream had no plot.

(Or maybe that's how you know you're revising.)

Have you had any "you know you're a writer when..." moments?  Share in the comments!

Interview with Author Suzanne Young

Hey all-

Today I have a special treat for you.  An interview with author Suzanne Young!  I think Suzanne is best known for writing at warp speed and producing more books than all of us have written collectively (okay, that might be an exaggeration) but there's so much more to love and envy!  Let's check it out.

Sue's Author Photos 2To get us started, here's the bio blurb from Suzanne's web site:   

Originally from Utica, NY, I moved to Arizona to pursue my dream of not freezing to death. My debut novel THE NAUGHTY LIST will be released from Razorbill/Penguin in 2010 so stay tuned for more details! Basically I'm living a completely random life.

I channel my obsessive-compulsive nature into writing books for teens, or occasionally cleaning my house. My website is just getting started, so keep coming back for all the goodies. In the meantime, if you want the real dirt, it's all on my Blog. See you there.

(Note: She now lives in Oregon.) And here's the interview!

Your upcoming debut novel THE NAUGHTY LIST is part of a four-book series with Razorbill. Can you tell us about the series?

I’d love to! The Naughty List is about a group of cheerleaders who track down and investigate cheating boyfriends. Everything is strawberry smoothie perfect until one of their own boyfriends is implicated in a cheat. Is he as naughty as all the rest?

The series will follow the squad—The Smitten Kittens—as they cheer for the Wildcats and make high school a safer place for hearts.

Naughty List final cover!Which character in THE NAUGHTY LIST do you relate to the most? How much teenaged-Suzanne went into the book(s)?

These characters were so fun to write, especially the main character Tessa Crimson. She’s sweet, smart, perky and completely different than you would expect. But I think I have to identify with one of her tell-it-like-it-is sidekicks, Leona. I sort of have a big mouth too.

To be honest, my high school experience wasn’t nearly as well organized as Tessa’s. But maybe some of the tears could be close to what I’d experienced… if I talked about that sort of thing.

Are you cooking up some “naughty” release day fun? Where can readers stay up-to-date on the latest and greatest?

Well, right now I’m trying to plan a launch party in NYC, but see there’s this thing… it’s called money. And I don’t have any. But I will have contests and all sorts of online bloggy fun!

You can come visit me at www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com

Melissa Sarver at Elizabeth Kaplan Agency represents you, but you didn’t gain representation by any normal means. Care to share the story there? It’s always fun to hear (even if it makes me a little green).

Well, I’d had an agent for about nine months when the relationship ended. At that point, I was a bit distraught. But then with the help of some great friends, I decided to keep sending out my work without an agent. A few weeks later, I got an email from Melissa. She’d been reading my blog and loved my voice. She asked if I needed representation! I think I gave her a hard time at first, but eventually I signed with her and Razorbill within the month!

Note:  Since this interview was posted, Suzanne has changed representation and is now repped by Jim McCarthy

You’re currently a full-time author. What’s an average work day like for you?

Right now? Revise, rinse, repeat. I wake up and immediately have coffee and feed my two kids and two dogs. As soon as they’re distracted I check my email and surf the net for a few hours. Haha. Then I get to work! When I’m in the middle of something, I can work up to ten hours a day. In between projects I tend to dabble with several things. Like, start stories, but not finish them. I have commitment issues.

What advice would you give for aspiring authors?

Keep writing. It wasn’t my first book that sold. My second. Not my third or fourth. It was my fifth. I just kept writing books. So if I could suggest something, it’s that. Keep going and love what you write!

You have a fabulous on-going story on your blog called GOING GREEN. How can readers catch up on the story?

Casey, you just reminded me that I need to update it!!!! Going Green was something I started while in between projects. If you go to my blog at www.suzanne-young.blogspot.com and go to the labels on the side, you’ll find it under Going Green. But make sure you start from the earliest post! It’s not the same if you miss the Frisbee smack.

What have you read recently and loved? Any books you want to plug?

Well, I was a HUGE fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I also can’t wait to get my hands on Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard.

LA09-BlogLogo3[1]You’re an official blogger for the SCBWI-LA summer conference this year. What does that entail? For those unfortunate souls not attending (me!), where should we keep our eyes peeled for updates?

Well, I like to think of myself as a red carpet diva—like a young Joan Rivers. But really I’ll be tweeting and blogging about the conference as it happens. Workshops and panel updates, interviews, and yes, maybe a few “Who are you wearing” questions.

You can keep up to date on my blog, tweets or most importantly, the official SCBWI Conference Blog at www.scbwiconference.blogspot.com

You currently live in Oregon and really seem to love it. What’s your favorite thing about living there?

The trees. Plus, I love camping so Oregon was the perfect place for us.

You’re pretty good at being totally random and fun. Tell us something completely random about yourself.

I’ve always wanted to be pierced and tattooed all over. I’ve pierced my tongue and nose (both gone) and gotten two tattoos. But in a past life, I was one of those Bad ass chicks with a tattoo sleeve.

Finally, what’s one interview question you haven’t been asked and wish you would be? And please, answer it!

Is there a talent or skill you wish you had?

I wish I could dance. Like, breakdance. My husband used to be a DJ and I was fascinated with the world. So yeah, I wish I were a super cute breaker. Lol.

Thanks, Casey. These were great questions!!!!!!
-Suz

Thank YOU, Suz!  I'm sure everyone will be on the lookout for THE NAUGHTY LIST when it debuts 02/04/2010 (or heading over to preorder it right now!).  I can't wait to read about Tessa and The Smitten Kittens! 

Agent Spotlight: Jamie Weiss Chilton

This week's Agent Spotlight features Jamie Weiss Chilton of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc.  

jamie2About: “Jamie Weiss Chilton represents children's books exclusively, specializing in teen novels and picture books. For teens, she is interested in literary/commercial fiction with intense emotional content (character driven, not issue driven plots); smart thrillers and mysteries; science-fiction and futuristic fiction; surreal stories and magical realism. ‘I'm looking for a YA writer who is reinventing and re-envisioning the genre, the way Francesca Lia Block did with her Weetzie Bat series in the 1990s. I'm looking for the Lady Gaga of YA fiction.’ As for picture books, Jamie gravitates towards quirky, unique, character-driven texts and illustrations.

“Jamie's career in children's books began in 1998, with an editorial internship at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, followed by positions as an Editorial Assistant and Assistant Editor at Bantam Delacorte Dell and Knopf & Crown Books for Young Readers, all divisions of Random House Children's Books. After returning to her hometown of Los Angeles, Jamie pursued her love of children's books in a new arena, as Conference Manager and Golden Kite Award Director at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) before joining the Andrea Brown Agency in 2008.

“Titles Jamie represents include STRUCK, a YA debut by Jennifer Bosworth (FSG); ORCHARDS, a YA novel in verse by Holly Thompson (Delacorte); THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, a debut YA by Jennifer Castle (HarperCollins); WOLVES, BOYS, AND OTHER THINGS THAT MIGHT KILL ME and the forthcoming GIRLS DON"T FLY by Kristen Chandler (Viking); genre-reinventing YA horror/psychological thrillers BLEEDING VIOLET and SLICE OF CHERRY by Dia Reeves (Simon Pulse); BAD FOR YOU, a graphic novel by co-creators Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham (Holt); JAMMY DANCE, a picture book by Rebecca Janni, to be illustrated by Tracy Dockray (FSG); Tracey E. Fern's nonfiction picture book BARNUM'S BONES to be illustrated by Boris Kulikov (FSG)' and the witty CAVEMAN: A B.C. STORY, told in pictures and twenty-six words by author/illustrator Janee Trasler.” (Link)

Status: Open to submissions.

What She's Looking For:

From her Bio:

"Jamie Weiss Chilton represents children's books exclusively, specializing in teen novels and picture books. For teens, she is interested in literary/commercial fiction with intense emotional content (character driven, not issue driven plots); smart thrillers and mysteries; science-fiction and futuristic fiction; surreal stories and magical realism. ‘I'm looking for a YA writer who is reinventing and re-envisioning the genre, the way Francesca Lia Block did with her Weetzie Bat series in the 1990s. I'm looking for the Lady Gaga of YA fiction.’ As for picture books, Jamie gravitates towards quirky, unique, character-driven texts and illustrations.” (Link)

From an Interview (2010?):

“I love to see completely unique twists on tried and true themes, and just unique twists in general. I also look for intensity in every genre. If you're writing a YA thriller, I expect truly high-stakes action; if you're writing contemporary story with emotional themes, you'd better make me cry; if you're writing a mystery, I need to be absolutely shocked when we get to the big reveal. In picture books, show me a brand new take on, for example, a first-day-at-school story and I'll be hooked.” (Link)

From an Interview (02/2008):

"I'm happy to see more risks being taken in the picture book genre, with wordless picture books, graphic novel-inspired picture books, and new formats. I love to see innovation in the genre." (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

Ms. Chilton does not represent adult projects.

About the Agency:

"We are a mid-size literary agency based in California celebrating over 2,000 titles sold. We bring the best of both worlds to the table—the personal client attention of a small agency and the clout of a larger one. We invest a great deal of care in each project and each client. We devise a strategy at every stage of the writing process, from conception, to editorial, to publication, that is tailored to the client and will enable us to find the best publisher for his or her books. We are seeking long-term relationships with writers and illustrators whose careers we can develop and whose talent we can foster." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

Yes.  She makes revision requests and editorial suggestions as needed. (Link)

Dislikes (Pet-Peeves):

“Well, one pet peeve of mine is characters asking questions of the reader. To me this is often a sign that the author needs to brush up on the good old ‘show don't tell’ rule.” (Link)

"When selecting clients, she said she's not a stickler for mistakes in the format of a submission. However when a writer doesn't follow guidelines she sees a red flag in terms of how that author will work with an editor." (Link)

Quotables:

"Our business is subjective and I hope authors keep that in mind when they receive rejection letters. As an agent, I'm more in touch with the authors than ever regarding how it feels to hear ‘no thanks.’ It's hard for me, too! Just remember that all it takes is one yes -- one perfect fit with an agent or editor and you're on your way. It can take a lot of tenacity and patience to get published. Keep trying, and while you're waiting for those agent and editor responses, continuing honing your skills at conferences and with your critique group." (Link)

"Take time to polish your manuscript to the best of your ability -- take advantage of conferences and critique groups. When your manuscript is the very best it can be, submit! I don't recommend holding on to a manuscript that's ready to go. Houses are more selective than ever, so taking the time to polish your work is extremely important." (Link)

Regarding favorite books: 

"My childhood favorite from when I was very young is THE SNUGGLE BUNNY by Nancy Jewell, illustrated by Mary Chalmers. [...] Recent favorites range from thoughtful, moving stories like YA IF I STAY by Gayle Foreman to reality-based fantasy like THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins to science fiction like UNWIND by Neil Shusterman to picture books by Jon Muth and David Ezra Stein." (Link)

Web Presence:

Andrea Brown Agency website.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

Twitter.

AgentQuery, QueryTracker, and AuthorAdvance.

Clients:

Beverley BevenFlorez, John Bladek, Jennifer Bosworth, Jennifer Castle, Kristen Chandler, Lori Degman, J.H. Everett, Tracey E. Fern, L.R. Giles, Rebecca Janni, Max Kornell, Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham, Jean Reagan, Dia Reeves, Marilyn Scott-Waters, Holly Thompson, Janee Trasler, among others.

There is also a select list of Andrea Brown Lit titles on the website.

Sales:

As of 03/2011, Ms. Chilton is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 7 deals in the last 12 months, 1 six-figure+ deal, and 19 overall.  Recent deals include 3 picture books, 2 young adult, and 2 graphic novels.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Some highlighted deals can also be found here.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Query only ONE agent at the Andrea Brown Agency.

Send a brief query in the body of an e-mail.  Put QUERY and the title of the work in the subject line.  Include publisher submission history and previous publishing credits (if applicable). Note if it’s multiple submission.  No attachments.

PB: Include full text.  Fiction:  Include first ten pages.  NF: Proposal and sample chapter.  Illustrators:  Two to three jpegs of children and animals.  

See the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for complete, up-to-date submission guidelines, as well the agency's General Advice and Do's and Don'ts.

Response Times:

If you have not heard back in 6-8 weeks assume rejection (Link). Ms. Chilton’s response time on requested material appears to range from a week to several months.

What's the Buzz?

Jamie Weiss Chilton joined the Andrea Brown Agency in January 2008 and was promoted from associate to full agent in early 2010.  She has a growing number of clients and sales and her clients seem quite happy with her representation. 

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Interview: Jamie Weiss Chilton talks submissions, eBooks and vampires at The Book Shed (03/2010).

Featured Reader Interview with Jamie Weiss Chilton at Nightstand.com (03/2010).

Interview with Jamie Weiss Chilton at ASJA (2010?)

Interview with Jamie Weiss Chilton at Tales From the Rushmore Kid (07/2009).

Interview with Jamie Weiss Chilton at Writing With a Broken Tusk (02/2008).

Around the Web:

Andrea Brown Literary Agency thread on AW.

Andrea Brown Literary on P&E (recommended).

Big Sur Writers Workshop that the Andrea Brown Agency hosts.

You can read about the revisions client Beverley BevenFlorez did with Jamie Weiss Chilton before her offer of representation (05/2009).

Contact:

Please see the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 3/3/2011

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes.

Reviewed By Agent? N/A.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Wednesday's Word Count

Oh Wednesday, you've come too soon.

Prior Goal: 60 revised pages.

Accomplished: 20 pages.

Goal for new week: ??

Excuses / comments: I'm still stalled, still brainstorming and re-envisioning this rewrite of mine. I don't want to rush it, so I'm dropping my goals for the week, maybe the rest of the month, and taking a breather.

But I hope you're all are still keeping on with your goals and making them happen. Drop in the comments and give me an update!

Literary Agent Dos and Don'ts.

There are so many rules, guidelines, preferences, and pet-peeves that you hear about in regards to literary agents and submissions.  Perhaps it's no wonder a lot of writers say "to heck with it all" and proceed how they think best.  Understandable, sure, but maybe not the best choice. 

I thought it would be fun if we put our collective heads together to list out the Dos and Don'ts.  I'm anticipating a great and rather long list, but please keep in mind the subjective nature of the topic as you give and take away from it.

I'll start...

DO research prospective agents and make informed decisions.

DO follow submission guidelines to a T, as best you can.

DO personalize your queries.

DON'T mass e-mail agents one general "Dear Agent" query.

DON'T send "goodies" or "research material" to prospective agents.

DON'T use unusual fonts or colors.

Your turn!  There are so many more... What will you add? 

Agent Spotlight: Steven Malk

This week's Agent Spotlight features Steven Malk of Writers House, LLC.

Status: Open to submissions but not actively seeking new clients.

Steven MalkAbout: “Steven Malk is the third generation of his family to be involved in the children's book industry. The son and grandson of children's booksellers, he worked at his parents' bookstore all through high school and college and entered the world of agenting immediately after graduating from UCSD in 1995. He opened a west coast office for Writers House in 1998, where he represents a wide range of authors and illustrators, including Jon Klassen, Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith, Mac Barnett, Marla Frazee, Kadir Nelson, Ruta Sepetys, Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis, Jennifer Donnelly, Matt de la Pena, Cynthia Rylant, Adam Rex, Sara Pennypacker, Loren Long, Elise Primavera, Bob Shea, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Nikki McClure, Sonya Sones, and many others.” 

About the Agency:

"Writers House was founded in 1973 with a vision for a new kind of literary agency, one that would combine a passion for managing a writer's career with an integrated understanding of how storytelling works. With this two-pronged philosophy, Writers House has played a critical role in developing the careers of hundreds of novelists and non-fiction authors. We believe in offering our clients not only our expertise in negotiating contracts, but in contributing to all phases of the editorial and publishing processes. Our goal is to maximize the value of our clients' work by providing hands-on editorial and marketing advice, as well as leading the way in branding, licensing, and selling film/TV, foreign, audio, dramatic and serial rights." (Link)

"The Writers House children's book department, started by Amy Berkower in 1978, has grown to include seven agents representing many of our industry's most lauded and successful authors. Our list includes popular series like THE TWILIGHT SAGA, SWEET VALLEY HIGH, CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS and JUNIE B. JONES -- as well as eight Newbery and Newbery Honor award-winning clients: Sharon Creech, Cynthia Voigt, Cynthia Rylant, Robin McKinley, Susan Patron, Neil Gaiman, Ingrid Law and Grace Lin. Writers House is also proud to represent the first two American authors to win Britain's prestigious Carnegie Award - Creech and Jennifer Donnelly; Christopher Paolini, who, at 20, is one of the youngest authors to hit the New York Times bestseller list; and the late Joan Lowery Nixon, the only four-time Edgar Award Winner recipient." (Link)

Web Presence:

Writers House website.

Twitter @stevenmalk.

AgentQuery.

QueryTracker.

What He's Looking For:

Genres / Specialties:

Children's authors and illustrators, picture book through young adult. 

From a Q&A (05/2010):

"My general philosophy is always that I don’t look for specific things, but rather strong, original voices that I haven’t read before, whatever genre they may fall under.  That said, one thing I’ve noticed is that I’m seeing quite a few submissions that seem derivative of books or genres that are popular at the moment, which isn’t as interesting to me.  If anything, I’d much rather find the next Munro Leaf, Ruth Krauss, Beverly Clearly, or Judy Blume; I’m always in search of people who have an appreciation for the classics and are able to identify what was so special about those books, and bring that same quality to their own work, but in a way that’s completely their own and feels unique to them." (Link)

"I do represent fantasy, but it’s hard to specify a certain kind of fantasy that I’m most interested in. As with other genres, I’m just looking for a strong voice and well-developed characters.  I will say that for fantasy, world-building can be crucial, so it’s something that I keep my eye on very closely." (Link)

What He Isn't Looking For:

"I tend to see too much stuff that's derivative of whatever's popular at the moment; stuff that's trying to capitalize on a trend. I want manuscripts that would succeed and stand out independent of any time or place. I have no interest in what's ‘hot’ at the moment." (Link)

His Advice to Writers:

"I can't stress enough how important it is to find the right agent for you as opposed to just any agent. I understand the impulse to want to get your work out there as quickly as possible, but it's important for writers to take a step back and take their time in making the decision about where to submit their work. A writer needs to figure out what he/she wants in an agent, and spend as much time possible trying to figure out who that is, rather than just shooting blind. Ideally, once you find an agent who likes your work, you've already done your homework and know a lot about them...." (Link w/more)

"Be professional. It's amazing to me how many people don't send a SASE, or write their cover letters in pencil with things misspelled, or send me something, then three weeks later send a whole new draft saying, ‘I sent you the wrong story.’ I really like a good cover letter—it makes an impression on me. But your work's going to speak for itself no matter what." (Link)

Editorial Agent?

"Yes, it's quite uncommon for me to send something out - especially by a first-time writer - and not ask for revisions first. The market is more competitive than ever, and it's worth it to me to take the time to make something as polished as possible. The goal isn't just to sell a manuscript; it's to put it in the best possible position to succeed. And the better shape a manuscript is in, the more likely this is to happen." (Link)

Clients:

Mac Barnett, Brian Biggs, Sheela Chari, Justina Chen Headley, Lena Coakley, Matt de la Pena, Peter de Seve, Kelly DiPucchio, Jennifer Donnelly, Carson Ellis, Emily Fairlie, AG Ford, Marla Frazee, Gris Grimly, Brett Helquist, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Amanda Jenkins, Jon Klassen, Loren Long, Melinda Long, Colin Meloy, Nikki McClure, Kadir Nelson, Kenneth Oppel, Margie Palatini, Sara Pennypacker, Greg Pizzoli, Frank Portman, Elise Primavera, Aaron Renier, Adam Rex, Chris Rylander, Cynthia Rylant, Ruta Sepetys, Paul Schmid, Jon Scieszka, Bob Shea, Lane Smith, Sonya Sones, Yoko Tanaka, Amy Timberlake, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Deborah Wiles, Karma Wilson, David Yoo, Michelle Zink, among others.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes.

Snail-Mail: Yes.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

E-mail: Query only.

Snail-mail: Query and SASE.

Query Tips:

"I just look for a query letter to be professional, concise, and to the point. It should include a good description of your work, and show that you have a good handle on your work as well as establish you as a professional..." (Link – dead)

"...it doesn't feel good as an agent to receive a submission where your name has been filled in at the top and it's obvious that every other agent in the business is receiving the same submission." (Link)

Response Times:

His policy is to respond within two weeks, though response times fluctuate between minutes and several weeks.

What's the Buzz?

Steven Malk has a large list of award-winning and best-selling clients and is consistently a top dealmaker. He is very passionate about children’s literature and a great advocate for authors. You can find him annually at the SCBWI-LA conference and on Twitter @stevenmalk.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

Summer 2011 SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Steven Malk at Suzanne Young’s blog (07/2011).

Q&A with Writers House agent Steven Malk at WriteOnCon (08/2010).

Q&A with Steven Malk here at Literary Rambles (05/2010).

Amazingly thorough interview with Steven Malk at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (01/2010).

Advice from Agent Steven Malk at Writer’s Digest (02/2008).

A podcast interview with Steven Malk on PodcastDirectory (12/2007).

Interview with Steven Malk by Alma Fullerton (02/2007).

Interview with literary agent Steven Malk at Hope Vestergaurds website (06/2001).

Live Chat Transcripts:

Workshop Transcript Q&A at Verla's website (2006) – link dead.

Workshop Trancript Q&A at Verla Kay's website (2005) – link dead.

Workshop Transcript Q&A at Verla Kay's website (2002).

Other:

Writers House thread at AbsoluteWrite.

Writers House at P&E ($ Highly Recommended). Steven Malk at P&E.

From Query to Book Deal in 72 Hours: Debut Author Elise Parsley at PW (12/2013).

How I Got My Agent: Melissa Guion at Guide to Literary Agents (12/2012).

A Query Dissected at client Lena Coakley’s site (10/2011).

Steven's client, Michelle Zink, shares her pub story on Reviewer X (04/2009).

Contact:

Please see Steven Malk's AgentQuery page or the Writers House website for additional contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 3/3/14 – in progress.

Last Reviewed By Agent? 6/9/11.

***

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.

Wednesday's Word Count

How is it already Wednesday again? *scratches head*

Yesterday's post was awesome. I loved meeting some of you lurkers and getting to know everyone better. If you haven't stopped by, please do, and if you've got the time, drop in and answer some of the questions people asked. Oh, and check out each other's blogs, too!

As for my work-in-progress report...

Prior Goal:
60 revised pages.

Accomplished: 30 revised pages, maybe.

Goal for new week: 60 revised pages?

Excuses / comments: This wasn't a good week for me. I could try to blame it on the 4th and my dad's birthday and my son's six-month (!) appointment and, and, and... but I won't. I just wasn't feeling the rewrite. My novel has a complicated structure (it needs to be this way for the story - it's not just stylistic) and it's still giving me a lot of mental grief.

Hopefully YOU had a much better week than me. There were some great goals posted last Wednesday. Tell me you've made up for my slackage!

P.S. My layout seems to be on the fritz - no idea why!

You There! Yes, You!

It's been all research, info, research, opinion, research on the blog lately.  Let's do something different.  Let's put the Spotlight on YOU. 

Tell me something about yourself, your blog, your web site, your book or WIP - anything!  If you read Lit Rambles but never comment, I'd LOVE it if you stepped out of lurkdom for a moment to say Hi!  Hey, even if you're stopping by the blog for your first time today, feel free to pop into the comments to promote yourself or just touch bases with some other reader/writer types.

Want to help propel the getting-to-know-youness?  After you tell us something about yourself or your work, throw out a general question for people to answer.  

Here's my first question:  Who's going to start?

: )

Links! Agent Research

Here are a few more links I'd like to share regarding lit agents and representation.

Agent Rachelle Gardner did a post awhile ago on what questions you might ask when you get THE CALL (really great stuff), a fab post on author-agent agreements, and what happens after you accept representation.

Fran Caldwell (who recently landed a lovely London agent) wrote a post on researching literary agents and why it's never too soon, and then followed it up with a post on what happens after you get a literary agent.  One thing I love about Fran is how much she respects herself.  By reading her posts, you can tell she knew what she wanted in an agent and wasn't afraid to cross agents off her list if she didn't think they'd be a good match. 

And today, author Lauren Barnholdt has an excellent post on why "dream agents" shouldn't be, well, dream agents.  Something I'd like to point out: she admits she's on her third agent, and you know what?  She's in good company.  A lot of writers go through two or more to find a good match. 

Do the best research you can, absolutely, and take advantage of THE CALL (or e-mail, as it may be) by asking as many questions as needed, but don't be too disheartened if you sign with an agent and it doesn't work out.  There is only so much you can learn beforehand, and if you did all the research you could, you know you gave yourself and the agent the best chance of working out. It's okay, rally up your self-respect and put your research smarts to use again - there's a better agent-author match out there for you. 

Have you read any other great posts recently on researching agents or the umbrella of?  Leave em' in the comments. 

Researching Literary Agents Part III

This weekend I realized I never put up Part III in my Agent Research series. So here it is!  If you're just tuning in, you may want to read Part I & Part II.

***

By now you should have a pretty good handle on your list of agents.  You know who you can potentially query and who's worth your time.  Now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty stuff, i.e. submission guidelines and personalizing queries. 

Submission guidelines:

Hopefully most of your agents have web sites.  It's likely some of them don't.  For those that do, I'd highly recommend reading everything, but particularly their submission guidelines, what they are and aren't looking for, and their FAQ if they have them.  If they don't have a web site, I'm assuming you've located their submission guidelines via your market book, an online database, or Publisher's Marketplace.  All respectable agents have submission guidelines.  If you haven't found them - there's probably a reason for that.  Keep researching.   

Think of submission guidelines as one of your (many) keys to success.  They're important.  If you can't follow submission guidelines, you're inviting agents to assume any number of things about you.  Examples include but are not limited to:  You did not do your research, you don't know how the business works, you can't follow simple instructions, you're not from this planet, you think you are beyond respectful compliance, you want to waste their time, you do not respect them, you're sub-intelligent, etc. 

So, if they're asking for query only, seriously, only send a query.  If they want a query and the first three chapters, don't send more than that.  Even if things start to get really good in chapter four.  If they want a proposal.  Well, that's what you send.  Whatever it is - do it.  It's not a matter of bowing down to agents because they're almighty beings that rule the literary earth.  It's a matter of respect.  They're telling you want they want in order to assess what you're trying to sell.  It's a simple as that.  Would you walk into a job interview with your resume, all of your references in person, and an autobiography to boot?  No.  At least I hope not.  Don't lessen your chance for an offer by disagreeing with an agent's submission guidelines.  If you really don't agree - maybe you shouldn't be querying that agent at all.  Remember, you want the best agent for you and your work.  It's not just about getting your book published.  It's a long-term relationship that will only work well with communication, respect, and partnership. 

There are always exceptions, right?  If you've had a direct request from an agent to do so, feel free to disregard their guidelines.  Perhaps you met the agent at a conference and they requested that you send them a full rather than their stated five pages (or whatever).  If that's the case, them by golly, send them the full, but you should remind them of the conference in your query letter so they know who you are and why you're possibly straying from their usual guidelines.

Personalizing Queries:

The most basic personalization you can and should do is to address the agent properly by last name. 

Dear Mr. Bransford:

Dear Ms. Reamer:

A comma does nicely as well.  It takes very little time and it's a truly simple courtesy used it nearly all business correspondence. 

Other personalizations can include: Mentioning you met them at a conference, mentioning you read their blog, mentioning something they said in an interview or market guide, mentioning a book they represent that you liked or that's similar to yours, etc.  Just don't go overboard.  There's almost an art to this - do your research.

Agents Who Blog:

If the agent has a blog, you've got veritable a gold mine at your disposal.  Take the time to read it.  And don't just read the three most recent posts.  DIG.  Look in the archives.  Try to find posts where they've specified preferences, pet-peeves, detailed what they like in a query letter, etc.  If you've already been reading their blog regularly, all the better.  And even if the agent rarely talks about the business and what they're looking for, you're still getting an invaluable look at their character.  Is this someone you'd want to work with?  Finding a good match personality-wise is just as important as anything else. 

Books They Rep:

Another great way to get a feel for what an agent represents and to personalize your query is to read books they already rep.  This can obviously become very time consuming, especially if it just means adding one personalized sentence to your query.  However, it may set you apart, if you do it well, so you may want to consider reading something that each of your top agents represent, particularly if it's similar to yours.

Random Tips:

  • You can find an agent's gender on LitMatch.
  • You can occasionally find font/type preferences on AgentQuery.
  • QueryTracker is a fabulous tool for research and, well, tracking queries, or course.  
  • Never ever query multiple agents in one e-mail.
  • Never use a general salutation such as "Dear Agent."
  • Don't knock yourself down by saying things like "If you have time," or "I know you're busy," etc.
  • Do not use fancy paper. 
  • Do NOT send THINGS to agents.  Even if they have a professed love of Godiva chocolates.  Resist.  You can send them Godiva when they're officially your agent, they've sold your book, and they're not concerned that you're psycho.
  • Have a list of questions ready or know what you're going to say if/when you get "the call."  Seriously, use this opportunity to find out everything you couldn't during your research.
  • Prioritize your list and query small batches at a time.  You can learn a lot from rejection, but that's a post for another day. 

And finally, don't just take my word for all this.  What did I say about not trusting any single source of information?  Gosh, get out there and research researching!  Google "researching literary agents," "literary agent scams," "personalizing queries," and so on and so forth.

Best to everyone preparing to query.  If there is something else you'd like me to cover or expand on, let me know in the comments!  I'll do a more thorough post on personalizing queries one of these days.

Happy 4th of July!

Fireworks2009

What are you plans for this lovely day of Independence?  Hope everyone has a great one full of good ol' American food, comradery, and twinkles in the sky.

Agent Spotlight: Sarah Davies

This week's Agent Spotlight features Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Sarah Davies 2 (3)About: “Sarah Davies is based in Washington DC and heads the North American side of the Greenhouse, so if you live in the States or Canada you should submit work to her (see submission guidelines for more information).  Sarah has more than 25 years’ experience of children’s publishing, moving to the USA from London in 2007. She started her career at Collins (before it was HarperCollins), followed by a spell at Transworld/Random House. In 1994 she joined Macmillan Children’s Books in London as Fiction Editor, rising through the editorial ranks to Publishing Director (and member of the Management Board), a position she held until 2007 when she left to start Greenhouse.

“In her publisher incarnation, Sarah worked with and published many high-profile writers on both sides of the Atlantic. As an agent she has shepherded many debut (and several previously published) authors to success. She has considerable experience in contract negotiation, marketing and rights, as well as a strong understanding of digital developments. Excellent publishing contacts in both the USA and Britain, and homes in both countries, have given her an unusually transatlantic view of the children’s books industry, enabling her to represent authors directly to both markets. Sarah makes regular trips to New York and London, meeting publishers and keeping in touch with the book scene.

“A member of AAR and SCBWI, Sarah is an experienced speaker on issues connected with children’s books and creative writing and attends international bookfairs, American writers’ conferences, and industry events throughout the year. She loves talking to writers about their work and says, ‘Everything you need to know about Greenhouse is embodied in its name.’

“Married to an American, Sarah has twin sons who are more-or-less grown-up now, and who taught her much of what she knows about young people and reading.” (Link)

Extra information on Ms. Davies' track record and commission structure can be found here.

Status: Open to submissions.

What She's Looking For:

From the Website:

"We specialize in children’s fiction – from high-concept/character-led series aimed at the 5+ age group through middle grade to young-adult/crossover novels." (Link)

From an Interview (09/2010):

“Top of my list would be a dark, intriguing and chilling ‘what if?’ YA thriller. We’ve had so much paranormal and we’re in danger of overdosing on dystopia. I think we’re now in the zone of real-world stories with a riveting premise and a hook that makes you go ‘wow’ and read into the wee hours.

“I have a great fondness for middle grade, girl-oriented fiction – and I love luscious, lyrical writing. I would be thrilled to have something beautiful, with a pitch-perfect voice, drop into my inbox. Something that is fun and accessible to read, yet has an undertow of wisdom and thoughtfulness.” (Link)

From a Contest Post (01/2009):

"Smart, high-concept tween fiction with a strong voice and lots of commercial appeal. Strong middle-grade fiction, with adventurous storylines – perhaps with supernatural/spooky plots, if really original. Boy protagonists, international settings, historical/magical threads are all interesting. Strong characters that leap off the page. Teen novels that are arresting, dark, superbly well written and linger in the mind and heart. Other fiction I would love to find: A great story set in the Middle East with authentic characters (a KITE RUNNER for young people). A big and important novel with themes that engage and challenge the intellect; this could be futuristic or perhaps have political or racial issues woven into the storyline. A ‘novel for our times’!" (Link)

From an Interview (01/2009):

"I like authors who can make me laugh or cry, who can make me see the world in some new way--who make me want to leap to the phone to call them as soon as I've turned the last page. I also love authors who can do great action (very rare) and big stories that engage the intellect as well as the heart (also rare). Oh, and sharp, snappy commercial writing with a strong hook.  But I also have a passion for beautiful, powerful language and therefore adore writers who can weave magic with their words (which means, yes, I will take on a literary novel if I have a strong enough belief in the author)." (Link)

From an Interview (10/2008):

"I’m definitely interested in seeing dark or paranormal fiction, so long as the story is really original, sharp, and arresting. There’s so much in this area out there, that anything new really does have to stand out.  I’d love to see a great ghost story. Also, what I think of as a ‘big book’ – that is, a dark, epic story with intellectual insight, and layers and deeper themes underlying the action. But there’s got to be a great emotional heart to the story too." (Link

From an Interview (02/2008):

"I like everything – from the mass market series to the literary novel, from girly fiction to dark thrillers. I just want to see something special in a project – a shining spark of originality, characters that leap off the page, a narrative voice that makes me keep reading. It’s funny, but when I read something out of the ordinary, I feel like the hairs are standing up on the back of my neck. It’s proved to be a very reliable gauge!" (Link)

What She Isn't Looking For:

“Our current policy on picturebooks is that we do not solicit either texts or illustrators, but do represent picturebooks when by authors whom we have already taken on for their older, longer work.  Additionally, we are not looking for non-fiction, short stories, educational or religious/inspirational work, poetry, pre-school/novelty material, screenplays or writing aimed at adults.” (Link)

Quotables:

"Greenhouse aims to nurture and grow to full maturity the talent of exceptional writers. I have worked with many, many authors on both sides of the Atlantic, and know that starting out can be daunting. With an emphasis on working creatively with clients, Greenhouse can help writers develop their unique voice and focus their work – and then be their advocate, ambassador and long-term partner through the whole publishing process and beyond." (Link)

"It’s very important to me to have a strong, long-term relationship with clients. Having been 25 years in the publishing industry, I know the business from the inside and have excellent contacts in both the US and UK. I work hard to find every client the very best publisher and deal for their writing. My editorial background means I can work creatively with authors where necessary; I aim to submit high-quality manuscripts to publishers while respecting the role of the editor who will have their own publishing vision."  (Link)

"If a client grows from children’s fiction into other areas, then the Greenhouse will continue to represent the author, whatever the age group or genre of work. The agency says they represent authors, not books." (Link)

Her Advice to Writers:

"Really take your writing seriously and do all you can to polish it before you submit it. Read voraciously, join a critique group, go on a writers’ conference and listen to published authors talk about their experience. There are lots of things you can do to learn about the craft of writing before you start looking for an agent. Also, get to know the market, spend time with kids and understand their world as it is today, not as it was when you were a child or teen." (Link)

Ms. Davies has a list of her Top 10 Tips for Children's Fiction Writers on the website.  There is also a FAQ page here.  And a great blog post called the Tao of Sarah offers some great advice as well.

Editorial Agent?

"I am absolutely an ‘editorial agent,’ and that is a trademark of the Greenhouse. I came up with the name "Greenhouse" after a lot of cogitating because I wanted the agency to be all about nurturing, growing, flowering.

"Turn over my business card, and you'll read that Greenhouse is ‘Where writers grow.’ I have spent my whole career working editorially with authors, from concept stage to craft, and writing editorial notes, changing titles, supporting an author through revision (often several revisions), is deep in my bones."

Read this excerpt and more about Ms. Davies editorial approach here.

Dislikes (Don’ts):

"I like writers who follow my submission guidelines. Or to be more honest, I get a bit cross with those who don't!" (Link)

Ms. Davies has blogged about things she likes and dislikes in submissions a few times.  Check out this post, this post, and this one, too.

Clients:

A complete list of Greenhouse clients can be found on the website.  Ms. Davies’s clients include:

Sarah Aronson, Tami Lewis Brown, Cindy Callaghan, Sarwat Chadda, Amanda Cockrell, Winifred Conkling, Sue Cowing, Sarah Crossan, Alexandra Diaz, Teresa Harris, Jill Hathaway, Elissa Hoole, Lindsey Leavitt, Megan Miranda, Valerie Patterson, Tricia Springstubb, Shawn Stout, Talia Vance, Brenna Yovanoff

Sales: 

As 02/11, Ms. Davies is listed on Publisher's Marketplace as having made 14 deals in the last 12 months, 7 six-figure+ deals, and 37 overall.  Recent deals include 9 young adult, 3 middle grade, 1 general/other, 1 international rights.

NOTE: PM is usually not a complete representation of sales.

Query Methods:

E-mail: Yes (only).

Snail-Mail: No.

Online-Form: No.

Submission Guidelines (always verify):

Query with the first chapter or first five pages (whichever is shorter) pasted into the body of the e-mail.  No attachments. 

“Your query should be no more than the equivalent of one page in length and should include a short synopsis of your plot, a few lines about yourself and any writing ‘credentials’

PLEASE NOTE:  If you live in the USA or Canada, your query should be addressed to Sarah Davies and marked for her attention in the subject line. If you live anywhere else in the world, your query should be addressed to Julia Churchill and similarly marked for her attention.” (Link)

Query Tip:

"Keep your query short and concise, giving us rapidly the key points we need to know: length, target market, one-paragraph plot outline, short bio of yourself." (Link)

Also, make sure to read this post.

Response Times:

The agency usually responds within days to a week but has a stated response time of up to 6 weeks on queries.  Response times on requested material range from days to about a month but they ask for 6-8 weeks.  If you have not heard back within the stated timeframes the agency invites follow-ups. 

See the complete, up-to-date policy on the website.

Web Presence:

Greenhouse Lit website.

Sarah's Blog.

Publisher's Marketplace page.

Twitter.

QueryTracker, AgentQuery, AuthorAdvance.  

What's the Buzz?

The buzz is very good.  Ms. Davies has put a lot of time and energy into building a great reputation for The Greenhouse.  The agency has a unique philosophy and mission statement, and I think Ms. Davies' thorough interviews, blog posts, and successes demonstrate her commitment to it.  As I searched the web, I felt like others shared my feelings on this. The umbrella of writers who would like to call her their agent is large.

Worth Your Time:

Interviews:

7-Questions For: Literary Agent Sarah Davies at Middle Grade Ninja (09/2010).

Interview with Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary at YA Highway (08/2010).

Interview with Sarah Davies by Jenny Desmond Walters for SCBWI Bologna 2010.

SCBWI Bologna 2010 Interview: Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency at Cynsations (02/2010).

Marvelous Marketer Interview with Sarah Davies at Market My Words (03/2009).

Sarah Davies Interviews herself about Bologna (03/2009).

Agent Interview: Sarah Davies of The Greenhouse Literary Agency at Cynsations (01/2009).

Interview with Sarah Davies by client Tami Lewis Brown at Through The Tollbooth (10/2008).

Selected Blog Posts:

Welcome to the Adventure (01/2011).

A Kipling Moment (10/2010).

How to Make an Agent Happy (09/2010).

Just the Two of Us (08/2010).

A Peach of An Agent (07/2010).

How to Write the Breakout Novel, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 (05-06/2010).

The Christmas Interview (12/2009).

The Skinny (11/2009).

And the Word of the Week Is… Revision! (09/2008).

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting (07/2008).  

Around the Web:

See the “What We Are Doing” page on the website for conferences and events.

Query Series: Michelle Shusterman and Sarah Davies at YA Highway (07/2010).

Agent Appreciation Day post on Sarah Davies at Brenna Yovanoff’s blog (12/2009).

You can read a few great blurbs from some SCBWI Undiscovered Voices authors that Ms. Davies signed after the competition (ctrl-f her name for quick search).

The Greenhouse Literary Agency thread on AbsoluteWrite.

The Greenhouse Literary Agency on P&E ($). Sarah Davies on P&E ($).

Contact:

Please see the Greenhouse Literary Agency website for contact and query information.

Profile Details:

Last updated: 2/24/11

Agent Contacted For Review? Yes

Reviewed By Agent?  Yes – 2/24/11

Comments: N/A

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Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at agentspotlight(at)gmail(dot)com

Note: These agent profiles presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. They are not interviews. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found herein is subject to change.