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Literary Agent Interview: Natasha Mihell Interview and Query Critique Giveaway

Today I’m thrilled to have agent Natasha Mihell here. She is an associate literary agent at The Rights Factory.

Status: Open to queries during the month of January each year only

Hi­ Natasha! Thanks so much for joining us.

About Natasha:

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

Thank you for inviting me to take part in this, Natalie!

I came to agenting through writing. I’ve played a lot of different roles in the literary industry and outside of it, and one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I deeply value the opportunity to empower artists: to uplift the voices of storytellers so their stories can make an impact on our world. I love this work because it gives me the opportunity to support people in following their dreams, and that is immensely fulfilling.

I’ve been an agent for nearly a year and a half now. I’d actually wanted to start my own agency during the pandemic, but through networking, ended up having conversations with the brilliant Karmen Wells at TRF as well as our CEO, Sam Hiyate. Sam generously offered me the chance to join an environment that was welcoming, mentorship-focused, and author-centric. Still having so much to learn about contracts, editor-agent relationships, etc., I took the leap.

 I started as an Editorial Assistant with TRF in 2021 and was promoted to Assistant Agent in 2022. In January of this year, I became an Associate Agent, based upon my two two-book deals in the year previous. As for what I’ve been doing: a lot of editing, pitching, career guidance, meetings, and learning. It has been a great adventure!

About the Agency:

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

The Rights Factory was founded by Sam Hiyate in 2004. It has transformed much over its nearly twenty years, and now hosts editorial agents based around the world. We are driven by the relationships we maintain with our authors and the editors and publishers we work with. We also provide internship opportunities to those interested in getting involved in the literary industry.

As I mentioned, we do have a mentorship focus. We converse about our different experiences, our successes, and challenges, and support each other as needed through the submission process. This mentorship extends to our clients, as well. We support our clients editorially and provide the best professional advice we can. Authors can (and should always!) expect to work with partners who are passionate about their work and their creative journeys.

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?

When I am open to queries, I look for all age groups, including PB, MG, and YA. I primarily represent adult fiction currently. Where kidlit is concerned, I only represent PBs at this point.

I’m looking for…

 

PB: Enthralling magic, vivid colour, and beautiful musicality. Lots and lots of heart, whether in fiction or nonfiction.

 

MG: Compelling fantasies with human or animal or other (!) protagonist(s). Mermaids. Smartly told historical allegories. Select genres not typically seen in MG, such as horror and cyberpunk.

 

YA: Bold, break-the-mould, change-the-world sci-fi. Fantasy with dark queens, powerful witches, and redemption arcs. Historical fiction with richly developed settings and characters or plots that empower us to remember and do better.

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

Witches and mermaids and queens, please! And for PBs, anything classical music or musical theatre related would be wonderful.

What She Isn’t Looking For:

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

I am not interested in stories that are too didactic or, obviously, those that are racist, misogynistic, or fueled by any other sort of hate. Otherwise, I am open to considering most stories, depending upon how they are told—which is to say, every choice that is made, no matter how hard a sell it may be, should be integral to the story and motivations of the characters.

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?

Honesty, open communication, and fun are all essential. I believe in building meaningful and long-lasting relationships with those I represent, because their creative journeys are as much personal as they are professional. Every step matters. I do my utmost to support their career and empower them creatively.

As for the books I represent, I generally like depth, mastery of mood, and a good understanding of the emotional palette one is painting with. My tastes vary widely, but all in all, I go for books with heart.

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 am an editorial agent, and work with each client depending upon their project’s needs. We work on a project until each of is 100% certain it is where it needs to be (this might involve several rounds of substantive, line, and copy edits), and then I build a list of editors to approach, carefully curated to the project. Throughout this process, my clients and I meet or speak regularly to ensure we are both on the same page and, once again, 100% happy with where we’re at. When we’re ready, we submit.

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?

I take queries through QueryManager and referral only and am open to queries one month of the year, from January 1st through January 31st. I do this because I value giving personalized feedback as often as possible—and as I look for science fiction and fantasy, among other genres, I receive many hundreds of queries in that month! It takes me some time to read and respond to each query individually.

The query letter itself should, generally, be concise and capture the intrigue of your book. Show me the irony. Make me fall in love with what could happen. Show me that you are confident in what you’ve written.

N.B. There’s no need to tell me what an amazing writer you are, or that I’ve never seen anything like your project before. I understand where this inclination comes from, but I need to find out just how amazing and distinctive your work is for myself, through your writing.

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

I have no dislikes, but I do have some advice. Submitting a query letter is a writer’s first opportunity to build a relationship with their agent. As such, how you write your query, and answer an agent’s questions, matters. Your query informs your prospective agent whether you are prepared to move on to the next step in your writing career.

Response Time:

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

As I remain open for one month of the year, those who query me will hear back from me within three weeks of their query—likely much sooner. I do try to be prompt. If I request a partial or full, I ask for three months from the date of request.

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 am, though I only represent previously unpublished work. When querying an agent as a self-published author, be 100% confident in why you are now choosing traditional publishing.

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?

Yes, absolutely. The editorial side of agenting has become far more valuable in recent years in part because of this. Projects need to be at their very best for a publisher to wish to take it on.

Technology plays a role, too. I believe that the biggest lesson of AI right now, for this industry (and perhaps for art, in general), is that it’s the journey that counts and not the destination. That’s part of why I love doing what I do—I get to go on that journey with my authors and support them as they enjoy being freely creative.

Things will change, always, for all literary professionals… However you choose to get your story out there, let it be how you want to do it. And if you do go the traditional route, ensure you are working with someone who wholly believes in you and your work. It can be such an awesome adventure!

Clients:

13. Who are some of the authors you represent?

The whimsical Sylvie Cathrall and the whip-smart Nicholas Pullen both have books coming out with Orbit UK/US in 2024! Keep an eye out for those. I also represent six more fab creatives: Joe Frye, C.C. Graystone, Taryn Herlich, Ana Toumine, Vani Varshney, and Fatemeh Zarei.

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.

This is my first interview! I do have a growing list of resources on my website re: craft and being a storyteller. I highly recommend STORY by Robert McKee and, for some hearty meat and potatoes reading, SAVE THE CAT… though in all things, read critically!

Links and Contact Info:

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

My website is natashamihell.com. When I am open to queries, I have an #MSWL on there for those #amquerying. All queries should be submitted through QueryManager or referral; if not, I unfortunately will not see them.

If you’d like to connect, you can also follow me on Instagram @natashamihell, though again, I do not respond to queries anywhere but QM.

Additional Advice:

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

As a writer, I have received hundreds of rejections—a few personalized, many more form. As an agent, I have also rejected hundreds of authors, many of whom were great storytellers, but whose work was not editorially ready for an agent, or did not pull me enough, for any number of reasons. A rejection is NOT a sign you should stop writing. It simply means that we are not a fit for each other at the time of querying or submission.

If it is your dream to be an author, then keep the faith in your work and in yourself. Keep working, keep studying your craft, and keep enjoying what you do! Remember that if it was easy, everyone would do it. Even if we are not a fit for each other, I believe in ambitious artists and disciplined dreamers, and, as I mention in most rejection letters, I truly hope you find the right representative for you and your work!

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Natasha.

­Natasha 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 June 3rd. If your email 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 follow me on Twitter or 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 email 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.


 

 

37 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Keeping faith in yourself and your work is great advice, for sure! Nice interview, Natalie.

abby mumford said...

For a first interview, you slayed it, Natasha!

Jayme Inman said...

I love how she mentions "fun" in her interview - so few agents do! Her "open one month per year" approach is interesting and unique. I'd love to work with her.

Nalicia Sawh said...

Such a great interview! Thank you for your encouraging words and advice to aspiring authors!

-Nalicia S.
(nalicia.sawh@gmail.com)

Anonymous said...

The journey really is *so* important! Thank you for the reminder. Another wonderful interview, thank you Natalie and Natasha!
-Andi Chitty
Chittystone@gmail.com

Valinora Troy said...

Another really interesting interview! Thanks, Natalie!

Catie said...

"ambitious artists and disciplined dreamers" - very inspirational

Ken said...

This was a great interview! I loved Natasha's honesty and advice. Great!

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

Great interview, thanks! katiebono3 @ gmail.com

Kamilla said...

I love your descriptions of what you love in PBs and MGs! Thank you for the interview. kamillab@gmail.com

Laddy Lau said...

Great first interview!

Sandy said...

Thank you for the interview Natasha and Natalie. Natasha, so glad to hear you believe in dreamers.

Sebpbwriter@gmail.com

Sarah Rose said...

Thanks for another wonderful blog, Natalie! I enjoyed reading it. I love that Natasha likes musicality in PB's. Thanks for sharing. sarahkrose3@gmail.com

Rose Cappelli said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie and Natasha! I'm drawn to Natasha's interest in music. I also retweeted your tweet, Natalie.
ryc1011@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you both for this informative interview. It's always so helpful to hear what agents have to share.

Anonymous said...

Dianna WilsonSirkovsky
Thanks to you both for this interesting interview. It's always so helpful to hear what agents have to share.

Dianna Wilson Sirkovsky said...

Thanks again for this interview! Sorry I forgot to leave my email with my comment. Followed on twitter.
Diannasirko@gmail.com

Tanya Elchuk said...

Thanks both for a great interview!

Ann Harrell said...

Terrific interview! I appreciate your supportive and encouraging words for authors. Following and shared on Twitter.

Nina Snyder said...

I'll have to mark my calendar for January :)

Margaret Aitken said...

So interesting to learn about Natasha's story and MSWL!

Sandra Cox said...

I'm glad you've found your agency niche.
'Lo Natalie.

Judith L. Roth said...

Interesting choice, to only be open one month a year. I admire the focus. Thanks for another great interview!

ptnozell said...

Thank you Natalie & Natasha! Lovely to meet a new-to-me agent and agency.

Lauri Fortino said...

So nice to meet you, Natasha!

Emmarose Alef said...

A great interview! Thank you Natalie and Natasha! I am intrigued and delighted by the mention of musicality in PBs.

Rosi said...

Another wonderful interview. Thanks, Natalie. Now, if I can just keep the faith!

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Kellie Byrnes said...

Another great interview! Thanks for sharing. Always so helpful to hear what agents are and aren't looking for and the way in which they work.
kelliejanebyrnes@gmail.com

DMS said...

What an interesting interview and I love the advice. :)
~Jess

Matt said...

Thanks for sharing the interview!

Sara Therese said...

Wonderful interview, Natalie. I especially appreciated what you had to say about your philosophy as an agent and how that relates to the relationship you have/want with authors. It should be honest and fun! I would love to work with you.

Kevin said...

Great interview! Loved the extra insights into what the agency's environment is like, too.

Lauri Meyers said...

Love hearing about the mentorship vibe at the agency. And Picture Books- Squee!

LRH said...

Wonderful interview. I look forward to querying this author... in January! Winning the Query critique giveaway would be awesome!!

Chelly Writes said...

Another great interview! Thank you!