Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

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  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Literary Agent Interview: Roma Panganiban Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Roma Panganiban here. She is a literary assistant at Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

Hi­ Roma! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Roma:

1. Tell us how you became an agent, how long you’ve been one, and what you’ve been doing as an agent. 

Like many agents, I was once an English major who thought editing books sounded like a pretty cool way to make a living. Also like many agents, I spent a few years applying to editorial jobs with very little idea of what I was doing; unsurprisingly, I didn't get very far. I got the foot in the door I needed when I had an informational interview with a Big Five editor, who held onto my resumé and generously let me know whenever an entry-level job opened up somewhere. When another editor (who didn't hire me, but no hard feelings) passed my information on to a literary agency that was looking for a new assistant, I went in for an interview knowing only as much about the work of a literary agency as Google could tell me, i.e. not very much. Though I didn't get the job, that introduction to agenting redirected my job search, and an incredibly hands-on internship at The Gernert Company convinced me I was headed in the right direction.

 Since starting a full-time assistant position at Janklow & Nesbit in 2019, I've been mentored by three incredible agents in-house, as well as by others in the industry. After gleaning invaluable experience from riding in the passenger seat on dozens of deals over the past four years, I'm now representing my own literary/upmarket fiction and nonfiction clients writing for both the children's and adult markets. Agents have the freedom to rep only books that they love and clients whom they believe in, and I'm grateful that my list reflects just that.

About the Agency:

2. Share a bit about your agency and what it offers to its authors.

Janklow & Nesbit is a full service literary agency, which means that while I focus on helping my authors shape and polish their writing; developing relationships with editors, film agents, and scouts; positioning my clients' books for critical and financial success; and otherwise being the #1 supporter and advocate for my writers, they can rest assured that my colleagues are expertly managing the legal and financial aspects of their careers, as well as subrights like foreign and audio deals. I always tell clients that I'm their point person, but working with me means they have a whole team behind them.

What She’s Looking For:

3. What age groups do you represent—picture books, MG, and/or YA? What genres do you represent and what are you looking for in submissions for these genres?

I'm currently considering subnissions of YA & MG novels; most nonfiction comes to me by referral or request. I gravitate toward realistic contemporary and historical fiction in the vein of Kelly Loy Gilbert, Angie Thomas, and Mary H.K. Choi, but I get really excited about otherwise grounded stories with a twist of magic, mystery, or eccentricity, e.g. Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson (and everything else) books, Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society. I'm always hoping for stories by and about people of color.

4.  Is there anything you would be especially excited to seeing in the genres you are interested in?

It may be an unusual way to think about fiction, but I'm eager to read books that not only tell a great story, but incidentally also immerse me in a niche interest, culture, or experience and teach me something about a subject I'd never thought much about before—e.g. in my own early days as a reader, I learned about the Met from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, frontier life from Little House on the Prairie, and the difference between raspberry cordial and currant wine from Anne of Green Gables, and all of that knowledge has since become a part of me in some way.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

5. What types of submissions are you not interested in?

I'm not the best fit for romance (including rom-coms), horror, straightforward action/adventure, or fantasy/sci-fi that takes place in a world totally different from our own. I like a strong sense of humor, but anything that could be called "silly" or "goofy" probably isn't for me. I don't tend to enjoy stories about bullying, parent/child relationships, death by suicide or terminal illness. As much as I enjoy retellings of fairy tales, mythology, and classic literature, I'm not the best agent for them.

Agent Philosophy:

6. What is your philosophy as an agent both in terms of the authors you want to work with and the books you want to represent?

Because I read so widely, I look for clients with some range, i.e. the interest and ability to write books with different themes, settings, structures, and character archetypes, even within the same genre. I want writers who are excited to keep trying new things, but I want to see quality over quantity, and the ambition to do more than just tell an entertaining story: I want each book I send out on behalf of a client to be one that we genuinely think will make the literary world a tiny bit better—more diverse, more thoughtful, more compassionate, more interesting, more hopeful, more fun—than it was before. My authors and I are a team, and we're on a mission.

Editorial Agent:

7. Are you an editorial agent? If so, what is your process like when you’re working with your authors before submitting to editors?

I'm very heavily editorial, which is a strong selling point for the writers who sign with me. My goal as an editor is not to tell you what story you should tell, but to help you effectively communicate what you mean to say, while perhaps nudging you to consider what else you could say that's even truer to your heart than what's already on the page. That starts with a conversation about character, setting, theme, plot, and pacing: the "what" of the book.

Then, because I approach all writing with a "literary" perspective (i.e. the belief that language matters, and that word choice, sentence structure, punctuation, etc. all make a meaningful difference in what the reader takes away), I'll do at least one round of nitty-gritty line edits for style, voice, and consistency: the "how" of the book. I love working with writers who are just as excited about this part of the process as I am, whether they have formal experience, e.g. via an MFA program, or just the passion and dedication to think deeply about how words work.

Query Methods and Submission Guidelines: (Always verify before submitting)

8. How should authors query you and what do you want to see with the query letter?

Please send a query, synopsis (if available—I do read them), and first 10 pages in the body of the email to submissions@janklow.com with my full name in the subject line. The best query letter is one that gives me just enough information to know that I want to read the manuscript, so I hope authors keep in mind that the worst thing a query letter can do is oversell or misrepresent the book. The best thing to ask yourself isn't, "Is my query good?" but "Does it match the book I'm pitching?" A successful query isn't one that results in a full request 100% of the time, but one that gets your book in front of an agent who will fall in love with it.

9.  Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you?

Most of the time, a pass means that I'm not interested in the book for some reason, not necessarily that I disliked the query—which, again, is just a step toward me considering the book itself. I might miss out on a great book, however, if the query is too vague: if it sounds like something else I've already read without adding anything new, or there's no clear goal or conflict that the book aims to address, I won't feel compelled to read more to figure out those fundamental details.  

Response Time:

10. What’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?

It really can vary, from less than a day to a few months, and the speed of my response is dependent only on when I get the chance to look at the query, not my level of interest. I have days when I'm raring to look at queries, and days when I'm not in the right state to evaluate them fairly, so I look at them in batches at irregular intervals, and at that point I make a decision on each one quite quickly. That's probably frustrating to hear, and I'm sorry! But I'd rather take a little more time to be sure in my response than be too hasty in rejecting a book someone's worked so hard on, or requesting and then not being the right person to read it after all.

Self-Published and Small Press Authors:

11.  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've had the pleasure of working with a few authors with previous books not published by a Big Five or major indie publisher, and I think that kind of experience is invaluable if it's helped them keep developing their craft. Traditional publishing is a different ballgame than micro-press or self-pub, though, and I'll pass on a writer who seems like they either aren't versed in that distinction or aren't interested in understanding it—including pitching a book that's already been published elsewhere.

12. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?

An agent's job is already different now than it was just a few decades ago, let alone when the profession was first invented, but the basic role is always to be an advocate for the author. These days, that might mean being more hands-on editorially, doing more deliberate outreach to editors outside the New York bubble, keeping closer tabs on other ways that someone's writing might be adapted (remember when Netflix and podcasts didn't exist?), etc. Books and culture are always changing, so agents should be changing, too.


13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

I represent a number of authors who haven't yet announced deals, but I'm proud to have sold THE STARS TOO FONDLY by Emily Hamilton, a queer adult speculative rom-com set on a once-abandoned spaceship that mysteriously launches with an accidental crew of four friends and a hologram of the ship's former captain who have to figure out how it happened and what they can do to get home; and a YA novel called THE NOTES, along with an untitled second YA novel, by Catherine Con Morse: a coming-of-age story about a Chinese-American pianist at a competitive performing arts boarding school in the South, her fellow pianist who's a little more charming and talented, but a lot more reckless, and a glamorous but challenging new teacher whose influence leads them both to question who they really are and want to be. The common theme is that my authors write about characters whose stories we haven't heard before in sharp, smart, often funny voices, and each of them has written a book that almost made me cry at least once.

Interviews and Guest Posts:

14. Please share the links to any interviews, guest posts, and podcasts you think would be helpful to writers interested in querying you.

My full MSWL is at https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/roma-panganiban.

Links and Contact Info:

15. Please share how writers should contact you to submit a query and your links on the Web.

Submission guidelines are at https://janklowandnesbit.com/submissions

Twitter: @romapancake

Additional Advice: 

16. Is there any other advice you’d like to share with aspiring authors that we haven’t covered?

Always be learning—or, alternatively, think of everything you do as a way to learn. Read books, but also magazines at your doctor's office and board game instructions manuals and tweets and group texts from your friends; watch movies and TV and TikToks and your child's soccer game; attend panels and conferences and workshops as well as poetry readings, political rallies, dinner parties; walk away from your notebook or computer and discover something worth writing about.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Roma.

 Giveaway Details

­Roma is generously offering a query critique to one lucky winner. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment through April 22nd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. If you do not want to enter the contest, that's okay. Just let me know in the comments.

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

Have any experience with this agent? See something that needs updating? Please leave a comment or e-mail me at natalieiaguirre7@gmail.com

Note: These agent profiles and interviews presently focus on agents who accept children's fiction. Please take the time to verify anything you might use here before querying an agent. The information found here is subject to change.


Elizabeth Seckman said...

What great advice! I especially like the idea of walking away to find something to write about!

Margaret Aitken said...

I love the idea of learning through the fiction we read. I'll never forget the Rasberry Coridal scene! And yay! for eccentric stories--I love those too. Thanks for sharing this interview!

Jayme Inman said...

Roma was already on my list of top agents, and I'm thrilled to learn more about her. I'd love for her to review my query!

Ashlee said...

Love the idea of letting everything we do be a learning experience, and "walk away from your notebook or computer and discover something worth writing about."

Anneliese Schultz said...

What honest and thoughtful answers, all revealing what a good agent she must be!


Mary said...

Thanks so much for this opportunity, Natalie & Roma! It's always exciting to read agent interviews and learn a bit about them.

Elizabeth James said...

I always love these get-to-know-you interviews! Thanks for this opportunity.

I subscribe by email (helloelizabethjames at gmail dot com)

Carol Baldwin said...

I shared to FB and Twitter. Mary's "likes" are similar to mine so I'd like the opportunity to connect with her. Thanks, Natalie! Carol

Carol Baldwin said...

Oops, I meant to say Roma-not Mary!

Amy Hillman said...

This blog is always so helpful. Thanks for the chance.

Ilona Bray said...

I enjoyed Roma's description of what frame of mind she needs to be in to review queries. Always wondered about that!

msanchez said...

Thank you so much for these agent interviews! They're really helpful to show writers the agents as more than a name and a MSWL. Best of luck to Roma in her agenting career. Sounds like she has some fabulous books/authors already! :)

Alison said...

Thank you for this agent interview. And for the opportunity to win a query critique. Fingers crossed

Kimberly Solis said...

I really enjoyed this interview! I also appreciate the opportunity to win a query critique.

Kim said...

Thanks so much Roma! These interviews are so helpful in determining which manuscript I should send!

Tonja Drecker said...

Wonderful interview. Although I'm not headed for a query, yet, Roma sounds amazing and is going onto my future list.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Anonymous said...

Great advice, thank you!

C.C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.C. said...

Thank you for the amazing advice and interview! I'd love to enter for a chance at a critique!

Nina Snyder said...

Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I subscribe to the email.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your story, Roma! Great interview. hello@michellemullen.net

Mark Morton said...

Great to hear the perspective of someone who is fairly new to the field of literary representation!

Alicia J Novo said...

Such an insightful interview. So interesting to hear about the mindset needed to review queries! aliciajnovo@gmail.com