TriadaUS Literary Agency and has been promoted to a literary agent. He’s building his middle grade and young adult author list.
Hi Brent! Thanks so much for joining us.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you became an agent.
I'm based out of Louisville, KY and I assist Uwe Stender and work on my own list. I came to TriadaUS after years of interning at The Bent Agency and freelance editing.
2. So you’re building your own list now and represent middle grade and young adult authors. What are you looking for as an agent? Any genres you are looking for and/or prefer?
I represent a wide range, from middle grade to adult, but I do want a really strong MG/YA list. During my career as an intern and an assistant I've worked with over 5 literary agents, so I've developed very eclectic sensibilities. For middle grade, I tend to go for beautiful writing, fresh voice, and a strong sense of place. I love fantasy, magical realism, and contemporary/realistic stories. Some of my favorite MG writers are Rebecca Stead, Jerry Spinelli, Brian Farrey, and Kathi Appelt.
For YA, I want books with slightly higher concepts but still retain a lot of meaning and really wonderful sentences. Some of my favorite YA writers are Nova Ren Suma, Nick Burd, Stephanie Perkins, and Libba Bray.
Something at the very top of my list, regardless of genre or category, is a sweeping, sentimental story with a hint of strangeness. I would love to find something at the intersections of stories like Her, The Time Traveler’s Wife, About Time, or Upside Down.
3. That's great you worked with so many agents and that it helped you develop your own tastes. Are there any genres you don’t want to represent or don’t think you can sell right now?
YA scifi isn't really my forte, but I would definitely be open to it in middle grade. My interests in MG are much more vast, and I tend to be extra picky about YA. And, while I enjoy paranormal/supernatural stories, it’s almost impossible to sell these days.
4. I always feel sad when I hear popular genres are no longer selling because the fan base of those genres still likes that type of story, but it's good to know what's not selling. I have a lot of followers who are self-published and/or published by smaller presses. And I’ve read that you’re supportive of self-published authors. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
I would be open to representing previously self-published or small press authors, so long as I’m able to get enthusiastic enough about the project they’re querying me with. My only advice is to be very sure about what you’re doing—I get so many queries for books that are self-published, and it’s frustrating to think that these writers are trying to get the best out of both worlds. Queries for self-published novels are an automatic rejection. The only exception is if the book sells exceptionally and the books need a print outlet, but that’s very rare and a majority of the writers that query self-published works own up to poor sales in the query letter.
I will also say that I’m less hesitant about authors who have self-published their books exclusively in e-book form, since POD books’ numbers show up on Bookscan.
5. That's great to know you're open to some self-published authors. Share a bit about what you’re looking for in your clients and whether you’re an editorial agent.
I’m most drawn to writers that are risk-takers and write without pulling any punches. I think those writers are the ones that most often write from the heart. As far as editorial work goes, it depends on the client and the book. There are manuscripts I’ve sent out as-is, and there are ones that took multiple rounds of revisions. Every project is different, and I’m usually able to gauge what the author-agent relationship will look like once we have that first phone call.
6. What are you looking for in a query letter and do you ask for manuscript pages too? Which do you focus on more—the query or the manuscript pages?
I love concise queries. All I need to know is who your protagonist is, what they want, what’s standing in their way, and what’s going to happen if they don’t get it. I ask for ten sample pages pasted below the query. I tend to skim the query for genre and category before jumping into the pages and if the pages impress me I take a closer look at the query.
7. It's good to know you'll get to the manuscript quickly, because sometimes the manuscript is really good but the query isn't no matter how much the writer works on it. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you? And what’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
I hate really long query letters, and messages that don’t get straight to the point. My response time varies but I typically respond to queries within 24 hours. The exception is weekends, holidays, and vacations. My response time on full manuscripts isn’t quite that fast, but is usually within two to four weeks.
8. I’ve read that TriadaUS Literary Agency has quite a few contacts in Hollywood. How important is this to an author considering signing with an agent?
We work really hard to exploit all subsidiary rights, but I think we have a special strength in film/TV. A great portion of the manuscripts we represent and sell are simultaneously shopped around by some of the best producers and agents.
9. That's awesome how quickly you respond. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
There’s always been a natural evolution to the literary agent’s job, so of course it will always change. It’s just hard to pinpoint how, exactly, which is why I love this job so much: you’re never not on your toes.
10. Any other advice you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?
I think we’ve just about covered everything! These were such great questions, and I’m a big fan of the Literary Rambles blog. I hope everyone will continue finding and using resources such as this blog to help with the querying and publishing process.
So glad you like our blog. Thanks for sharing all your advice, Brent. You can find Brent at:
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. International entries are welcome.
Here's what's coming up:
On Saturday I'm participating in the May I Suggest Giveaway Hop. I'll have lots of great newly released YA choices or a $10 Amazon Gift Card for you to choose from.
Next Monday I have an interview with debut author Krista Van Dolzer and a giveaway of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING, her MG historical contemporary story.
Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Donna Galanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy, JOSHUA AND THE LIGHTENING ROAD. Donna was an intern with an agent and has lots of great advice to share on querying.
The following Monday I have an interview with debut author Jenny Martin and a giveaway of her YA science fiction TRACKED.
Hope to see you on Saturday!