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AGENT TINA WEXLER AND JESSICA LAWSON GUEST POST AND QUERY CRITIQUE AND WAITING FOR AUGUSTA GIVEAWAY

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I am thrilled to have Jessica Lawson here again with her agent Tina Wexler to share about Jessica's new MG WAITING FOR AUGUSTA. Jessica has been a long time follower, and I have been so excited to watch her career grow since she published her debut MG novel in 2014. It's not easy to continue to sell new manuscripts to publishers, especially in MG genres, but Jessica has found her niche and this is her third book.

Here's a blurb of WAITING FOR AUGUSTA from Goodreads:


With a fresh, funny voice, lots of adventure, and a healthy dose of magic, the author of The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher and Nooks & Crannies—which School Library Journal called “original, engaging, and funny” in a starred review—comes a profound tale of love, loss, and family.

Eleven-year-old Benjamin Putter has a lump in his throat, and he’s certain it’s a golf ball. He knows it sounds crazy, but everything’s been topsy-turvy since his father died last month. And he doesn’t know how to fix it.

Then, one day, something starts tugging at Ben, telling him to hurry to Augusta, Georgia—home of the most famous golf course in the world.

Ben might be going a little crazy, but escaping Hilltop, Alabama, sounds like a darn good idea. (And just maybe it will make that lump go away.) As he makes his way to Augusta, Ben partners up with a mysterious runaway named Noni, and they embark on a journey full of strange and wonderful surprises—and possibly magic—at every turn.

Now here's Jessica interviewing Tina!


Selling Past Book One:
Finding Your Niche As A Children’s Author
(Waiting for Augusta & Query Critique Giveaway)

My third book, Waiting for Augusta, came out last week and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Having a first book published was a dream come true, and it doesn’t get any less exciting with subsequent titles. Still, there comes a moment after that first sale or second sale when we writers start thinking, “How can I make that magic happen again? How do I find my niche in children’s literature?”
I think there can be a concern that we writers have to market ourselves as being consistent and reliable within a specific genre. Some authors are great at writing beautiful, dynamic stories that fit very nicely into a specific category—contemporary/realistic, mystery, fairy-tale retellings, etc. They’ve got their sweet spot and they write the heck out of it. Agent Tina Wexler didn’t get so lucky with me. My ideas are kind of all over the place.

So far, her sales for me include a retelling of Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
(The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher), a period mystery set in England with slightly over-the-top characters (Nooks & Crannies), and a historical journey story w/ hints of magical realism that incorporates themes of racism and grief (Waiting for Augusta). How the heck did she manage to do that for me? I suspect she has superpowers.

But really, what happens when our ideas and manuscripts don’t play nice in terms of being consistent? How important is it for an author to find their marketable “niche,” and how do authors and agents work together when forging ahead with what both of them hope will be a lengthy career?
There’s just one way to find out—please welcome Tina Wexler, Agent Extraordinaire!
Read on for Tina’s thoughts and advice about finding your niche as a writer. Just leave a comment to be entered to win a hardcover of Waiting for Augusta and a query critique from Tina!

When you pitch an author’s second, third, fourth books, how aware are you of building a consistent platform with that author’s work? What if your author wrote a historical/realistic novel and now wants to write about irritable/mischievous car gnomes or dragons (note: my 7YO daughter is constantly asking why there aren’t dragons in my books)?

I’m always aware of how an author’s new book will build on what’s come before, though I’m less concerned with consistency in genre than I am with maintaining that special something that marks each book as being written by that author. Your three books have several fundamental qualities that make them “Jessica Lawson” books: they are wickedly funny, they have distinct narrative voices, and they are grounded in a very specific time and place. They explore what is gained and what is lost by trying to fit in, what it means to be a good person, and the various ways one can define “family.” They introduce kids who have suffered big losses and are trying to find their way. They include a good amount of adventure, danger and mystery. And they tug very, very hard at my heartstrings. These are the things I’ve come to expect in your books, though your books come at these various themes in completely original ways. So when I’m pitching your next idea, I’m pitching both the ways in which it offers your readers something new---new premise, new characters, new setting, new voice---but also the ways in which it gives them exactly what they know and love about your stories. And maybe one day, dragons.

When you offer representation for a manuscript and ask about other works-in-progress, do you like to see a pattern in the writer’s ideas—is your agent brain already thinking of how this writer might be branding themselves? Along that line, do you brainstorm manuscript ideas with clients based on how you see their career being maintained or advancing?

I do look for commonalities that will help brand the author and I pay close attention if the author wants to write for many different age groups and/or in many different genres. I try to envision what her publishing map will look like. (You know how I love maps!) But mostly I’m hoping to hear original and ambitious ideas that I’ll be interested in reading, that speak to one another in some way, and that I feel confident I can sell. Sometimes, I’ll help an author brainstorm or figure out which project would be best to pursue next, though I tend to subscribe to the “write the one you’re most passionate about/scared to write” selection process.

What happens if book one is published, but doesn’t do great in terms of reviews or sales—does that limit your ability as an agent to submit a similar genre or storyline? Does it present any challenges that authors should be aware of as they prepare to write their next manuscript?

Low sales or negative reviews can limit my ability to get a second book the attention it deserves, and may mean the author needs to consider a different genre or age group. But if the author delivers a second book that has a strong premise, engaging characters, big ideas and powerful themes, I can speak to the author’s potential and growth and the likelihood of an upward sales trajectory. For those editors looking to build authors, that’s a solid place to work from. 

Is there any other advice (other than “write a great book”) you would give to both querying and agented writers in terms of finding their own unique voice within children’s literature?

Write the story only you can tell.

Thank you SO much for having us on Literary Rambles—I’ve been a follower for years and it’s an honor to be able to participate with posts like this!

JESSICA LAWSON LINKS:

Jessica has generously offered a copy of WAITING FOR AUGUSTA for a giveaway and Tina is
offering a  query critique. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 21st. If you do not want to be included in the query critique giveaway, please let me know in the comments. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. Both giveaways are international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on her blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Next  Monday I have an interview with debut author Lindsey Klingele and a giveaway of her YA fantasy THE MARKED GIRL.

Then I'm off the following Monday for Memorial Day. My first Monday off since the first of the year!

Wednesday that week I have a guest post by Fauzia Burke, who has spent her career working in book promotion and marketing and has worked with authors like Sue Grafton, Tim Burton, and Deepak Chopra, and a giveaway of her book, ONLINE MARKETING FOR BUSY AUTHORS: A STEP BY STEP GUIDE.

The following Monday I have a guest post by Cassandra Brown, a freelance editor, with a query, synopsis, 10 page manuscript critique, or 30 minute consultation--winner's choice.

Thursday that week I'll be participating in the Debut Author Book Giveaway Hop. I'll have both YA and MG debut books to choose from.

The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Jen Bishop and a giveaway of her MG contemporary THE DISTANCE HOME.

Hope to see you on Monday!



64 comments:

Greg Pattridge said...

This one sounds like another great story from Jessica. I spent some time teaching in Augusta so can't wait to read a book using this iconic place as the setting. Superb interview with many unique insights into the publishing journey beyond the first book.

Brenda said...

No need to enter me in the giveaway, just wanted to say congratulations to Jessica. Can't wait to read Waiting for Augusta, sounds like another winner! Hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

Reverie said...

Loved the interview. Always great to hear an agent's point of view. And the book sounds great! I am always looking for books with humor.

Vandsmedia(at)gmail.com

Ambiguous_A said...

Great interview, and thanks for the giveaway! I tweeted about it :) https://twitter.com/Ambiguous_A/status/732226426816974848

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Tell a great story in your own voice and the rest will follow.
And I don't need a critique either.

Dorine White said...

Great Interview. I love to see the inner workings.

louisianabook said...

Wonderful interview. This was just what I need to read this morning, because my books and book ideas are all over the place too. I'm published in picture books and have several picture book manuscripts, but am also working on two middle grade novels which seem as different as day and night. One is a very serious Civil War MG novel and the other is a magical MG novel. After reading this interview I realize that the heroines in the two novels have the same type of spunk and off-hand sense of humor. Please enter me in the giveaways. louisianabook@yahoo.com

Eric Steinberg said...

With so many writers focused on finding an agent and getting that first book deal, it is fascinating reading about what happens next. Ms. Lawson's book sounds like a great read to add to my list. (I tweeted: https://twitter.com/ericgsteinberg/status/732238209040539648)

cleemckenzie said...

Loved reading this. It's a great insight into another aspect of what a writer's life is about. The books sounds wonderful.

ssoderbee said...

Thanks for an interview with that's interesting and also useful. This is such a great resource.

Kathleea said...

Would love a critique! Book sounds great too!

Alice said...

Thanks for sharing this post!

Anita Rowe Stafford said...

Waiting for Augusta sounds like a MG hit, congratulations, Jessica.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

An excellent guest post! Thank you. I've loved Jessica's first two books and I'd love to win either WAITING FOR AUGUSTA or the query critique. I tweeted: https://twitter.com/JoanneRFritz/status/732276791361085444

Weaver said...

Great post. It must be a challenge sometimes in selling subsequent works--depending upon how well the first one did.

abnormalalien said...

Beautiful post; I've repeatedly wondered how much agents like/dislike writers who are a bit more unpredictable in their genre.

Karen Lange said...

It's so nice to meet Tina and Jessica. Waiting for Augusta sounds like a great read. :)

I'll pass on the giveaway this week. Enjoy the rest of the week!

Jill said...

Sounds like Jessica has an agent who really values her work. This was a great topic. I'd love to enter the giveaway: molloymatkins at gmail

Suzanne Warr said...

This interview made my heart sing, as I suspect I may be one of those writers whose work needs a map in order to put them all together. Thanks so much for the wise thoughts and encouragement!

I will gladly accept the query critique (as it happens I could use one just now) and will cross my fingers I can win Waiting for Augusta!
Email, just in case you don't spot it elsewhere, is spartan_writer (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Unknown said...

Great interview! Brings up a question I think about often--if I want to write multiple genres, will my agent be willing/able to sell them? Thanks for sharing. :)

Kelly said...

Thank you for this interview. I need to file this away in my writing/publishing tips.

I'd love to have a query critique, and I'm definitely going to put WAITING FOR AUGUSTA on my to-read list. :)

Dawn Simon said...

Great interview, and I plan to read WAITING FOR AUGUSTA! I like the "write the one you're most passionate about/scared to write" advice.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Great interview, I had queried Tina for one of my manuscripts, I found her a such a sweetie and so approachable. Jessica's books sound amazing. I have to hop over to Amazon and buy them.

Please include me in the query critique giveaway. I have a new MS.

Chelly Writes said...

Great interview. Congrats on the new book. It sounds fabulous.

Jarm Del Boccio said...

Thanks, Jessica and Tina! Always fascinating to see what goes on behind the scenes in an author-agent relationship.

Creel Family said...

What a great interview! This book sounds lovely and the query critique does too :)
Taracreel@gmail.com

Barbara Watson said...

WAITING FOR AUGUSTA sounds like a delight. Please enter me in the book giveaway but not the query critique. I'm not quite there yet.

Judith L. Roth said...

Sorry to piggy-back on your comment, Kathleen, but I can't find a comment box otherwise....I would also love a critique. And how wonderful that Jessica's books tug very, very hard on Tina's heartstrings! Natalie--do you know why it's difficult for me to comment on your site? Does this comment count? Thanks....

Angie Quantrell said...

Great interview! Thanks for sharing with us. :)

Unknown said...

WAITING FOR AUGUSTA sounds like a wonderful read. Best of luck with the release!

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, you are entered in the contest, Judith. At the end of the post there is an "Add comment" link that should work. Hope that helps.

Michael G-G said...

I love the sound of all of Jessica's novels, and must add them to my TBR list. Please enter me in both drawings, Natalie. gilmartin_michael@yahoo.com

Penanggalen said...

Very informative. Thank you!

Penanggalen said...

Thank you, sincerely! This was very interesting.

Unknown said...

This sounds really good and I would love to win this book! I'm not sure what this query critique thing even is, to be honest, so I would not like to enter that giveaway. notmaida@gmail.com

S.P. Bowers said...

I used to live not too far from Augusta. Fun to see a book featuring it.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I like the "next book" map idea. I hadn't really thought of that. Hmm. Thanks for the interview and the information!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview and chance to win a copy of the book. I don't have a query for review at this time, so please opt me out of that part of the giveaway. I shared on tumblr:
http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/144516121152/literary-rambles-agent-tina-wexler-and-jessica

Nick Wilford said...

Great post, I enjoyed meeting both Tina and Jessica. Jessica's books sound great and I'm glad to hear Tina encourages authors to try new things!

Susan Thumm Paxton said...

Waiting for Augusta sounds like a great read (love the title)! And Tina sounds like an awesome agent. Posted on Twitter

K. said...

Thank you for a great interview! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Fascinating interview! A great team!

Valerie Bodden said...

Great interview and insight! Great to know it's possible to find success in multiple genres. Congratulations! valbodden(at)gmail(dot)com

Rosi said...

Wonderful, useful interview as usual. Thanks so much for it. Please let someone else win, though. I'm way behind on things.

Crystal Collier said...

“write the one you’re most passionate about/scared to write” I agree with that. Those usually make for the most interesting reading adventures.

Bethany13 said...

love this interview. fingers crossed for query critique.

mary said...

Thanks for this interview, since I write middle grade it's especially interesting and informative for me. My favorite take away: “write the one you’re most passionate about/scared to write”
Mary

Cherie Reich said...

What an adorable cover! Congrats to Jessica! I enjoyed the interview. This is so true: Write the story only you can tell.

Johnell said...

Wonderful info. Thank you. I'd love to be entered for either give away. Thanks.

M Pax said...

Waiting for Augusta sounds amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Melissa said...

Great interview! I'll put Waiting for Augusta on my TBR. Thanks for offering the giveaway-I tweeted about it!

Mary Malhotra said...

I love the way Tina describes what Jessica's books have in common. I tweeted about this post and the contest -- every querying writer wants a critique from Tina Wexler!

Mary Malhotra said...

I love the way Tina describes what Jessica's books have in common. I tweeted about this post and the contest -- every querying writer wants a critique from Tina Wexler!

Unknown said...

Waiting for Augusta sounds very interesting. I also hope to see Tina Wexler at another conference. Sign me up!

Rebecca E. Bailey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca E. Bailey said...

I really appreciate how the agent interviews handle different aspects of the business. I use this information on my editorial job. I'd be grateful for a query critique--and I did tweet about this as well. Have a great day!

Penanggalen said...

Wheels in the head turning now. Thanks!

DMS said...

What an interesting post! Waiting for Augusta sounds like an awesome read. What a great cover! It was very helpful reading about an agent's perspective on pitching a second or third book by an author (in the same genre). Thanks for sharing!
~Jess

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
feecaro said...

Thanks for the insight into agent-author relationship. Posting to my followers on Twitter.

Nas said...

Write the story you can tell sounds awesome advice. Great interview and I learned. Made notes too.

Unknown said...

yAHoo my friend Jessica!!! It seems like ages since we were at RMFW together and here you are livin' the dream! SO AWESOME! Can't wait to read this one.

Amy Makechnie said...

I'm a big fan of Jessica Lawson AND Tina Wexler. Both of them are terrific professionals who also have huge hearts. I can't wait to read Jessica's new book! Great interview.

Leah Henderson said...

Thank you for such a helpful interview. I truly appreciated Tina's comment that "maintaining that special something that marks each book as being written by that author," is what's important.