CURRENT GIVEAWAY CONTESTS

Here are my current Giveaway Contests

THE SOMEDAY BIRDS through April 8th

Upcoming Agent Spotlights and Query Critique Giveaways

Tracy Marchini on 4/17/2017
Loren Oberweger on 5/10/2017
Alyssa Jennette on 5/24/2017
Bibi Lewis on 6/12/2017
Kelly Van Sant on 6/21/2017

Q&A with Stephen Barbara of InkWell Management

Big thank you to everyone who sent in questions for our Q&A with Stephen Barbara. Here are the final five and Mr. Barbara's excellent answers.

Lauren asks:

What are the elements of a perfect submission for you?  What can a writer do to make sure they haven’t wasted their opportunity to query a project?

[SB]: Try not to overthink it. The most important thing is to have written something outstanding. After you’ve done that, do your research on the industry and write a brief, professional query letter to the agents you’d be happiest to work with. There’s a lot of anxiety around breaking in but it isn’t as bad as you might fear. There are good readers at every agency who are dying to find a great new voice, and with a little bit of luck you’ll find one of them.

Dennis asks:

With an increasing number of authors turning to indie publishing, do you see agents approaching self-published authors if they like the author's work? Does it sway an agent's decision when they see an author has taken on the commitment to craft, professionally edit, design, and publish their own work?

[SB]: I’ve noticed a few agents making a business of scouting the indie publishing space to find writers, but I don’t think that’s editorially-minded; it tends to be more about whether those writers hit a certain threshold of sales, because if they do they can flip the rights to traditional publishers.

I’m not inherently interested in writers who have chosen to self-publish, but  intellectually I’m very curious and I am fascinated by indie publishing. Last year I introduced my clients Paper Lantern Lit to a data company and together they launched a digital publishing imprint called The Studio, which is becoming an exciting platform for YA and adult fiction that for various reasons is better suited for the digital market than the traditional one. I sat in a lot of meetings as that got started and I’ve tried to understand how indie publishing works, things like pricing, metadata, BISAC codes, and so on. And it’s all interesting to me but the goal was always to move away from self-publishing, to create support for writers even in the online space, because I think writers shouldn’t be alone. Writers are isolated enough even when they have publishing partners.

Heather asks:

What are you looking for in MG these days?

[SB]: Right now I’m reading Gary Schmidt’s Orbiting Jupiter in galleys, and it’s very good. I tend to love middle-grade fantasy, but this one’s a realistic novel that is very close, and very true, to the young person’s point of view. Laura Amy Schlitz once said to me, “You know,  Stephen, we’re children’s writers because we never forgot what it was like to be a child,” and I often think of that line. I have only a hazy memory of my own childhood, and maybe that’s true for most people. I think it takes a rare set of talents to capture that middle-grade voice, to get really close to the inner world of a child, and so few writers can do it. If I’m looking for something in middle-grade it’s that particular voice that rings true to the age of its characters.

Manju asks:

With the sweet spot for picture books being 400 words or less are publishers buying more easy readers and chapter books? If so, can you share word count targets and desired topics?

[SB]: I haven’t seen a particular uptick in chapter book acquisitions. I think it’s a good market, of course, but it’s a little conditioned by demographic limitations. We know that adults are reading YA, and we know that picture books and middle-grade novels also have very broad readerships, but chapter books are so specific. They’re a bridge to more sophisticated reading, and I think that gives them a somewhat narrower shelf presence. Most chapter books I’ve sold have been around 10,000 words, but easy readers are shorter, as are the Read & Bloom books recently launched by Bloomsbury.

 Kara asks:

If an agent has requested material in the past, is it helpful to mention that if we query them later with a new project?

[SB]: Sure, if you can turn a weakness into a strength. You’re reminding someone of a pass when you do that. But maybe you can do it in a funny, charming way, or maybe that past project truly was a close call for the agent. I think query letters can generally just be clear, concise, and professional, but I have no hard and fast rules for these things. Lauren Oliver came up to me in a bar one night and said, “I’m going to send you a novel called BEFORE I FALL and I’ve decided you’re going to be my agent.” That would be the wrong approach for 99% of writers, but it worked for her. Me, too, I guess. Everyone figures out what works for them.

***

"Stephen Barbara has been a literary agent since 2006, representing authors of books for young readers as well as select adult fiction and nonfiction. His list of critically acclaimed and bestselling authors includes Lauren Oliver, Laura Amy Schlitz, Lisa Graff, Leila Sales, Sam Munson, Paul Tremblay, Lynne Jonell, Todd Strasser, and Jack D. Ferraiolo, as well as the companies Paper Lantern Lit and The Story Pirates. Prior to joining InkWell in 2015, Stephen spent six years as an agent with Foundry Literary + Media, and before that was Contracts Director of the Donald Maass Agency for three years, both in New York City. He is originally from New Haven, CT, graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002, and now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife and son."

You can find Mr. Barbara at the InkWell Management website and his Twitter @Stephen_Barbara. Check out his Agent Spotlight for more interviews and information.

Stephen, thank you for your time and expertise. It is so very appreciated.

33 comments:

  1. Thanks to Stephen for taking the time to answer these questions. Love the story of how he connected with Lauren Oliver!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for answering our questions, Mr. Barbara.
    And thanks to Casey for everything you do for writers.
    Happy Summer!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great interview! I liked his points about turning a weakness into a strength when querying. And a great story about Lauren Oliver!

    ReplyDelete
  4. A very interesting conversation between Stephen and Laura Amy Schlitz -- and similar to exactly what MG authors said on a panel I recently attended at Books of Wonder. We were asked by an audience member how we captured the MG voice when we were all, ahem, past our MG years. Every single one of us said, "I'm still a kid in my head!"

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, I would never have the guts to tell someone 'you're going to be my agent'. Glad it worked for both of them though. Thanks for the great interview.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is a great treasure trove of information. Thanks for posting it!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you Stephen for answering our questions. Lauren Oliver is a gutsy lady, I would never be able to do that.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Every agent looks at things differently and writers need to realize that.

    I'm really curious about Paper Lantern Lit now.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Lauren Oliver's approach made me laugh--I can see that being a big no-no for most agents, but I'm glad it worked for her. I've always liked her books. But I doubt I could be as gusty--I much prefer the email approach.

    Thanks for answering these questions, Stephen!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Having met Lauren Oliver once at a conference, I can totally see her doing that. Thanks for answering the questions, Mr. Barbara!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I giggled at Lauren's approach. Like Liz, I prefer the "old-fashioned" email approach. You won't even find me pitching to agents/editors.

    Great interview. Loved the point about MG and voice.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great insights and an outstanding interview.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great responses and of course I learned a few things.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Since I tend to 'overthink' things, this interview was very helpful to me. I really admire Lauren's determination. Glad it all worked out in the end.

    Julie

    ReplyDelete

  15. Nice, i really like it.if you enjoy our site as if you pla t follow: http://www.robesdemariee2013.com/

    ReplyDelete
  16. What an honest and insightful interview! I found Stephen's answers to be clear and helpful to authors in various stages of publishing. I learned a lot and truly enjoyed the interview. Thanks for sharing it. :)
    ~Jess

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thanks for the in-depth look at your perspective as an agent, Stephen. Your answers were definitely clear and helpful. I'm also interesting in learning more about The Studio.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Awesome Q & A! Enjoyed reading the questions and answers. Lol on Lauren's approach. Kudos to her for her courage and for you- for taking her on as a client. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Love the format on this interview as excellent questions and answers surfaced. Stephen has a welcoming demeanor which is a superb attribute for anyone, especially an agent. Thanks for the helpful read.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Great interview, and really nice to read.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great Q & A! It's good to meet Stephen. Natalie, thanks so much for putting this together. Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Wow! I can't believe Lauren Oliver said that. Just wow.

    This is a terrific Q & A. Thanks, Casey.

    ReplyDelete
  23. These are always so helpful for writers!

    ReplyDelete
  24. thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment .

    obat maag

    ReplyDelete
  25. Great interview. It's always good to have insight from the people who are right int he middle of the book world.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Mr. Barbara always has interesting insights into this business.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Awesome. Those were some great questions and answers. I loved reading the responses.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Thanks for the helpful interview!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. This was great and so informative. I've bookmarked it.

    ReplyDelete
  30. "we’re children’s writers because we never forgot what it was like to be a child" I love that. Great interview.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Really enjoyed the interview.... Thanks Casey.

    ReplyDelete
  32. It's great to meet another person with the same name spelled the same way as mine. I can relate about not over thinking things. Keep it simple. And do not end your opening line of a query letter with a preposition.

    ReplyDelete