Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • All Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated as of 7/15/2020, and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for them to be fully updated in 2023.

Guest Post: Agent Allison Hellegers and Debut Author Sam Taylor and We Are the Fire and Query Critique Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Sam Taylor and her agent Allison Hellegers here to share about Sam’s debut YA We Are the Fire. It sounds like a story with fantastic world building and a unique magic system. I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a burb from Goodreads:

As electrifying as it is heartbreaking, Sam Taylor's explosive fantasy debut We Are the Fire is perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and the legend of Spartacus.

In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place.

Pran dreams of one day rebelling against their oppressors and destroying the empire; Oksana only dreams of returning home and creating a peaceful life for them both.

When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves.

Now here’s Sam and Allison!

Sam’s Story


My journey to traditional publishing is anything but traditional, because I signed with my literary agent (and for a different book!) after I had my book deal for WE ARE THE FIRE.

I’d tried querying WAtF with agents and while there’d been some interest, I didn’t receive any offers of representation. But I still believed in this book and wanted to give it another chance—and my critique partners and beta readers had loved it. I thought, “Readers enjoy this book, maybe readers can help me get it published.” And they did! I posted WAtF to the Swoon Reads website, where readers could rate and comment on manuscripts… and stories with positive reviews could grab the attention of an editor. Mine did, and Emily Settle, an editor with Swoon Reads (and its parent imprint, Feiwel & Friends) reach out to me saying Swoon Reads wanted to publish my book!

So I had that book deal I’d been chasing for years, but I knew I still wanted an agent partner: someone experienced in the business side of publishing, who knew contracts, markets, and the right questions to ask to ensure that my books received the best support. When I had another manuscript ready, I was back to querying… and it was thanks to my Swoon Reads contacts that I finally found and signed with my (amazing!!) agent, Alli Hellegers.

A few months after joining the Swoon Reads team, one of my fellow authors mentioned that a longtime

friend of hers, who’d been in publishing for 17 years at the time, had decided to become a literary agent (and with Stimola Literary Studio, no less). Though Alli was still a couple months away from officially opening to queries, any of us Swoon Reads authors were invited to query her in advance.

Yes, please! I’m a big believer in taking any opportunity that comes your way, no matter how unusual, because you never know where it might lead. I queried Alli with my new manuscript, an Icelandic historical fantasy packed with witches and Viking-age magic. Turns out Alli adores Iceland as well (yes!!!) and quickly asked for the full. A few weeks later, she made that unicorn offer I’d chased for years: agent representation.

Though Alli is new to agenting, because she’s been in the industry for so long, she has the experience I’d been looking for: she’s well-versed in the market, she has both US and foreign connections, and She. Knows. Contracts. While I can craft entirely new worlds from a blank page, with magical characters and wild adventures, pouring through a 20+ page contract full of legalese is overwhelming. There, I wanted someone who knew what they’re doing.

And even though my partnership with Alli began with a different book, she’s still been amazingly helpful when it comes to WE ARE THE FIRE, joining in conversations with my team at Swoon Reads, especially when it comes to the all-important marketing and publicity. That’s a good agent! I’m beyond lucky to have Alli on my team.

Alli’s Story

Thanks, Sam for those comments! It was such a pleasure to get Sam’s YA novel, WICKED IS THE WITCH, previous to opening up widely to submissions in North America. Most of my background in publishing has been in foreign sales, having worked in rights for the majority of my publishing career. Scandinavia was one of the markets I sold in directly for my previous job, Rights People, and I had the opportunity to travel to all countries there, including Iceland. I fell in love with the country, the nature, and the magic of the landscape. On top of that, I’ve always had a love for all things witchy, so it felt like Sam’s story was made just for me (and also for that younger version of myself). She was one of the first clients I signed, and it’s been such a pleasure to represent someone so creative, hard-working, and focused on always growing as a writer. I could read her fantasy worldbuilding, including her descriptions of baked goods from said world, all day!  


Although I’ve been working in rights for 20 years, I didn’t make the switch to agenting authors directly till I joined Stimola Literary Studio in August 2019. While I adored getting to know the foreign market and helping to launch so many author’s careers around the globe, I also was so drawn to representing authors myself. I had been working on behalf of UK, foreign, and Australian agents and publishers to sell rights back to North American editors, so I was fortunate to know the landscape before I made the switch. Rosemary Stimola (who I knew since my job as a literary scout) happened to be an agent whose career and perspective I greatly admired, and I was over the moon when she asked me to join the Studio. I’m also delighted to be helping other Studio clients with foreign rights as part of my new role.

So far, I’ve been selling mostly middle grade and YA novels, and I’m taking on a few picture books and also adult fiction and non-fiction. It would probably be easier if I specialized in one thing, but my passions are broad, and I love to fall for projects that I’m not expecting to arrive in my inbox. I’m a big fan of voice-driven, boundary-pushing fiction that can fit in multiple categories and cross age-groups, but I still need to have a vision for how it will fit in the current marketplace. I’m drawn to things that are joyful and offer meaning, but I don’t stray from darker storylines and genres. So, twisty mysteries, thrillers, and horror are fine – but the writing has to evoke multiple feelings and emotions, including humor and/or joy in order to appeal. As a very visual person, I always enjoy unique storytelling structures, graphic novels, and novels in verse, as they tend to work well for my way of processing story. And with so much competition to devices these days, I’m excited to help find creative ways to captivate children, including my own videogame obsessed eight-year-old boy.

Overall, I strive to have a nurturing and transparent relationship with my clients. I can provide both editorial and/or big picture notes, depending on client and need, and it would be a big joy to also sell my own client’s works widely around the globe. Mostly, I’m looking to help good people make good books, and if I can help propel diverse and #ownvoices creators, then it’s just all the more rewarding!

Sam on Instagram: @jsamtaylorauthor

Sam on Twitter: @jsamtaylor

Sam’s Website: www.samtaylorwrites.com

Buy WE ARE THE FIRE!

Alli on Twitter: @allidhellegers

Stimola Literary Studio: www.stimolaliterarystudio.com

Giveaway Details

Sam’s publisher has generously offered a hardback of We Are the Fire and Allison has offered a query critique for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by March 6th. If you do not want to be included in the 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 the contest. Please be sure I have your email address. 

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. The book giveaway is U.S. and the query critique giveaway is international. 

Upcoming Interviews and Giveaways

Tuesday, March 2nd I’m participating in the Let’s Get Lucky Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, March 3rd I have an interview with debut author Tirzah Price here to share about her YA historical mystery Pride and Premeditation and my IWSG post

Monday, March 8th I have an interview with author Donna Galanti and a giveaway of her MG fantasy Unicorn Island

Monday, March 15th I have a guest post by debut author Merriam Sarcia Saunders and her agent Caryn Wiseman with a query critique giveaway by Caryn and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Trouble with a Tiny t by Merriman

Wednesday, March 17th I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Herrington and a query critique giveaway

Monday, March 22nd I have an interview with debut author Christina Li and a giveaway of her MG contemporary Clues to the Universe

Wednesday, March 24th I have an interview with publisher Maria Dismondy of Cardinal Rule Press

Monday, March 29th I have an interview with debut author Jessica Olsen and a giveaway of her YA fantasy Sing Me Forgotten

Hope to see you Tuesday, March 2nd!

 

 

49 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great author/agent story! The books (both We Are the Fire and Wicked is the Witch) sound great! Congratulations, Sam!

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  2. Glad you found the representation you were looking for! Congratulations on the release. :)

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  3. Congratulations on the release of We Are the Fire. Hope you have a lovely week Natalie.

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  4. Sounds like agent and author were made for each other.

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  5. I always wondered how it worked when you get the deal first then the agent. There was another author I know that did that (I can't think of their name right now.)

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  6. Winderful post Natalie, appears to be a great book.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Take care.
    Yvonne.

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  7. Good lineup, Natalie. I always wonder how you keep it all organized!

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  8. Wow - that sounds like an intense story! Congrats!!

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  9. This book looks amazing! (Not entering the giveaway :) )

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  10. Fascinating story. Love it.Congratulations. Now I must read it.

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  11. Wow! We Are Fire sounds interesting and so does the story of its path to publication. Congrats to Same! :)
    ~Jess

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  12. There are so many unique ways authors and agents connect.

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  13. Spartacus is one of my favorite movies! And what an interesting road to publication!
    Thanks for another insightful interview, Natalie.
    I'm going to pass on the giveaway this time.

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  14. Congratulations! The book sounds amazing.

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  15. Both of these books sound fabulous! I love the way Sam and Allison found each other. Very encouraging. :)

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  16. Thanks for this post! Sounds like a great author/agent partnership!

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  17. Love to read the personal stories of authors and agents.

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  18. Very interesting path for Sam to publication! I love that she didn't give up and she worked an angle that worked for her! I will check out Swoon Reads. I'll also tweet this article and would love a query critique.

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  19. Great interview. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. Terrific sounding books and a great interview. Please put my name in the running for the query critique. I'm in Canada so the books I will track down on my own. Thanks again.

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  21. It's so interesting how much paths can vary!

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  22. Oh yes, I too love the intrigue of Iceland ... its geology, people, history, culture, food - freshest sushi ever. Interesting to read about your author/agent path. Thank you for sharing.

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  23. great interviews! I have shared on Twitter.

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  24. These books sound like a great way to be transported into a world of magic--count me in!

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  25. I'm currently seeking agents for representation and I enjoyed reading about your publishing journey and then getting an agent. Thank you for the interview and chance. I am a follower of Natalie on Twitter and shared this post on tumblr: https://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/643928300528517120/guest-post-agent-allison-hellegers-and-debut

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  26. It was interesting to read about Sam's journey. I also follow you on Twitter.

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  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  28. What an incredible journey to publication, Sam! It definitely gives one hope. I'm so glad you and Allison found each other!

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  29. Interesting to read about Sam and Allison's journey!

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  30. These sound like great books! I'm glad Allison is joining the agenting side. I follow Natalie on Twitter.

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  31. Enjoy hearing about debut authors reads, sounds like a good one. Would love to get a copy!

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  32. Yum! I'm rereading Ember in the Ashes, so We Are the Fire sounds great. Would love to get a copy and am curious if Allison has an interest in other cultures?

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  33. Thank you for the interviews! I love a non-traditional publishing tale. Query critique entry, please.

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  34. Fascinating path-to-publishing story. Serendipity at work. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act

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  35. Wow. Intriguing premise. Nice job on the intereview too.

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  36. Great post! Love hearing about Sam's success posting her manuscript on Swoon Reads. Would love to be entered in the giveaway. I tweeted about the contest, and followed you Natalie. Thanks so much for all the work you to do promote authors and their books.

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  37. Fascinating interviews. Thanks for sharing.
    We Are The Fire sounds like a page turner.

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  38. It's good to know there are so many possible routes to publication, and that doing things in a different way from how we'd expected doesn't automatically mean we won't get the result we wanted in the end.

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  39. Great dual interview! Thanks for sharing!

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  40. Another book to add to my very long list! Thanks, Natalie :)

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  41. Really interesting to see both perspectives in one interview.

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  42. Thank you! Enjoyed the post and the back stories!

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  43. Such an encouraging story! Swoon Reads is fantastic and I'm definitely thinking about posting my manuscript there.

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  44. Always fascinating to read about an author's unique path to publication - and wonderful to have found such a great match with your agent - congrats on that Sam.

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  45. Thanks for the insight and advice! Fingers crossed for a critique! Donnellytim9@gmail.com

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  46. Congrats to both! Follow and shared on Twitter @akilley. Would live to be entered into the book giveaway. Akilley123@gmail.com

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  47. great interviews! would love a query critique.

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  48. What a cool path to publishing! I'd love a query critique and I'll share on twitter as well.

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