Today, we have an interview with Alyssa Eisner Henkin, literary agent and pitch judge for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest! WriteOnCon will be open to submissions March 10th. To find out more, please visit their website. To find out what Alyssa will be looking for, read our interview!
Me: How did you become an agent?
Alyssa: I started my career in editorial at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. While I loved being an editor, my very favorite part of the job was making deals with agents and authors, and often involved me giving an author a story concept that I felt had a niche in the market. After six years on the editing side, I sought opportunities to become a children’s book agent. And over a year after that, Trident posted a job for such a position on PubMarketplace. I applied, was totally blown away by the powerhouse that later hired me, and the rest is history.
Me: What will you be looking for when you read pitches for WriteOnCon’s Pitch-Fest?
Alyssa: Voices that make me keep turning pages are always of interest. Story-wise, I’m very intrigued by middle grade novels that are full of hope, and that have crossover potential in the adult market. I always enjoy stories that ooze regional flavor, are laugh-out-loud funny, and contemporary YA’s with a story hook that either re-imagines a classic or goes beyond girl meets boy in some interesting way. I’m perennially a sucker for school-based stories, historical novels, and mysteries that surprise me.
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
Alyssa: I am always looking for more middle grade that I am receiving. I’m always looking for more mysteries than I’m receiving. I’m still seeing a lot of dystopian and sci-fi, although I don’t think the need in the market is quite what it was for them two years ago.
Me: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?
Alyssa: Too much back-story that feels like an information dump, a feeling that I’m not caring about this character enough, chapter breaks that happen long after they should.
Me: What is the best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
Alyssa: Don’t let the industry’s projected image of knowing what sells deter to you from writing what you’re born to write. Many books and trends that people in publishing think will be huge are not. And often times the most profitable books are the sleeper hits, the ones that weren’t manufactured to be bestsellers but turned out that way, not because they were over-hyped, but because people just love to read them.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
Alyssa: YES! Please submit a query letter and 5 pages in the body of your email for a novel or a query letter and a complete picture book in the body of the email. Please do not submit attachments unless I request that you do.