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Interview with literary agent Sara Megibow.

Today, we have literary agent Sara Megibow of KT Literary Agency on the blog. Thank you so much, Ms. Megibow, for being here with us!

 Sara

AN: You’ve joined a new literary agency. Can you tell us a little bit about the objectives, goals, and/or aspirations you have at KT Literary?

SM: Thank you for inviting me here today – such a treat to share time with writers! *waves*

Yes, of course – I’d be happy to share some of my thoughts and goals and I’ll start it off with a big YES – I am currently open to submissions and actively acquiring! (more on that later) J

I have enjoyed working in publishing for almost 9 years – I love bookstores and authors, readers and editors, publishers and librarians. I love hunting for new talent and forming long-term relationships with authors and I especially love watching those authors earn loyal fans.

I had the best possible training at Nelson Literary Agency and will forever be grateful for the opportunity and experience gained with that team.

So, what’s next? I have two main goals for 2015 now that I’m at KT Literary Agency. The first (and most important) is to continue to grow the careers of my current clients. I represent New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors including Roni Loren, Jason Hough and Juliana Stone and it’s vitally important to me that these authors continue to succeed both artistically and commercially. 80-90% of my time each week is spent managing strategy for my current clients – that was true in 2014 and will continue to be true in 2015.

The second goal is to offer representation to new clients. In order to find new clients, I read query letters, sample pages and full manuscripts and then make “the call.”  I’ve read over 2,000 queries since January 1 and I’ve already signed four new clients, so this part seems to be going very well so far!

My agenting motto is “Art. Patience. Discipline.”

That’s a short and easy way to sum up my goals and objectives.

 

 

AN: What genres will your new agency rep? What are you specifically looking for right now?

SM: I represent:

middle grade like THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY by Jaleigh Johnson

young adult like  BREATHE, ANNIE, BREATHE by Miranda Kenneally

New Adult like ALL OF YOU by Christina Lee

romance like NOTHING BETWEEN US by Roni Loren

erotica like THE SIREN by Tiffany Reisz

science fiction like THE DARWIN ELEVATOR by Jason Hough

fantasy like RADIANT by Karina Sumner-Smith

I am looking for debut authors with a complete and not-previously-published manuscript. As long as the book is done and in a genre of work I represent, I read everything – it can be historical, paranormal, contemporary, steampunk – whatever. I read and love it all.

 

 

AN: Ms. Megibow, I see that you are looking for debut authors. Can you define “debut” for us?

SM: As for debut, I think what I’m trying to say is if someone is in the slush pile, a debut author with no bibliography at all – don’t be scared! You are exactly who I am looking for and yes, please send a query! Anyone is welcome to query – self published, previously, published, never published. But, my specialty/ my niche is in the debut author. So many times, an author might feel worried because it’s their first book and they have no track record. Well, worry no more – that’s perfect for me!

 

AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

SM: Great question! In general, an author/agent relationship should feel like a warm business partnership.

What can an author expect after they sign with an agent? The most fundamental thing is that the agent should have a clear plan on how to make money on that author’s book(s). Not all books sell and not all book deals result in tons of money, but that goal is where the relationship starts. Above and beyond submissions, all agents are different and all authors are different so it’s hard to generalize. The author can likely expect some combination of these things: editorial guidance, answers to questions on publishing process and expectations, submissions strategy, advice on next books, publicity and cheerleading, contracts negotiation and subrights sales.

Personally, I try to answer my clients’ questions quickly (2-5 days for an email even if that’s to say “I’m swamped and will get back to you on this soon”). I also try to be proactive in communicating strategy and quick on my reading. But, I’m less of an editorial agent than some. Each relationship will be different but both author and agent should be able to say, “I’m glad you are part of my team.”

 

AN: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

SM: My husband is a full-time beat-boxer in the vocal rock band Face (this actually won’t be too surprising to those of you who follow me on twitter as I share their videos sometimes). My philosophy on agenting comes from being married to a guy in a band. Music and books are similar– the hopes and disappointments, the unpredictability and heartbreak, the ups and downs, the passion and frustration. I try to communicate with my clients and keep them posted on the business side of their career so they can focus on writing great books. I know my work doesn’t negate all the nerves (nothing ever will), but I can honestly say that I understand the emotional arc of publishing from the writers’ perspective because I live it at home daily.

 

AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

SM: Master your craft

Do your research

That’s two pieces of advice, sorry. J

Remember: “Art. Patience. Discipline.”

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

SM: Yes, I am open to submissions!

The submissions guidelines for KT Literary Agency are posted here:

http://ktliterary.com/submissions/

A writer can submit a query to me if their book is 100% complete, not previously published and in a genre of work I represent.

To submit a query send a one page query letter and the first three pages of the manuscript to saraquery@ktliterary.com  A query letter should sound like the back cover of a novel and writers interested in reading successful queries can research at these sites:

Kate Testerman’s extensive “About My Query” blog posts:

http://ktliterary.com/category/ask-daphne/about-my-query/

Writers Digest Successful Queries:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

Query Shark:

http://queryshark.blogspot.com

Evil Editor:

http://evileditor.blogspot.com

Happy writing everyone and Happy 2015 to all!
Cheers,
Sara

Twitter @SaraMegibow

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Interview with literary agent Patricia Nelson.

Today, we are lucky enough to have literary agent Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency on the blog. Patricia Nelson is a literary agent with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She represents adult and YA fiction, and is actively building her list. For more about what she’s looking for, check out her agency page or her manuscript wish list, or follow her on twitter @patrician​els . Thank you, Ms. Nelson, for being here with us!

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AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

PN: The agent/author relationship is a unique, multi-faceted one. Your agent is your business partner, advisor, cheerleader, and champion. They’re in your corner and have the connections and knowledge to offer guidance, not just for one book but for building your career as an author long-term. This means it’s a relationship built on mutual trust from the start. Your agent will expect you to be professional and dedicated to your craft; you should be able to expect that your agent will be engaged with your work and available via email and/or phone. Throughout the process, they should keep you updated about next steps, and you should feel comfortable approaching them with questions.

 

AN: 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?

PN: I would love to see more women’s fiction, adult romance (both contemporary and historical), magical realism (both YA and adult), and YA contemporary with a unique hook and beautiful, literary writing, Also, send me more diverse books, please! On the flip side, I tend to get a whole lot of dystopian, paranormal, and urban fantasy queries, especially for YA – these genres are currently quite tough sells, and so I’m not tending to request many of these kinds of stories right now.

 

AN: There’s a lot of talk about “high concept” fiction lately. Can you define it for us? Do you feel that it’s become more and more important for books to be high concept?

PN: “High concept” means that a book can be described effectively and compellingly in just a few words – you know exactly what you’re signing up for based on concept alone. The first example of this that comes to my mind is the book GREAT by Sara Benincasa, which I was seeing described pre-release last year as a “YA lesbian Great Gatsby retelling.” With five words, I knew exactly what that book was going to be, how the concept was unique, and that it was something that I wanted to read. Having a high concept is appealing because it helps a book stand out in a crowded market and reach readers, but isn’t the be all and end all if the writing is amazing. I wouldn’t call ELEANOR & PARK high concept, but it’s wonderful and became a bestseller—people recommended it to others because it’s a fantastic novel, even though it’s a more difficult story to sum up in a single sentence.

 

AN: As an agent, you see a lot of manuscripts from beginning writers. If there was one area you could tell a writer to focus on, to work toward improvement in, what would it be?

PN: I would advise all beginning authors to read at least one craft book about plot and pacing when starting out – I frequently recommend Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT. There’s so much about writing that’s somewhat intangible – for example, I can’t coach an author into finding a compelling and unique voice – but there are certain things that readers consistently find satisfying in the way that plots unfold. Learning what makes a plot work makes a huge difference in taking your writing from “promising” to “can’t put it down.”

 

AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

PN: Consume all the culture you can – that’s where ideas come from. Read recent fiction in your genre and in other genres, read classics and bestsellers, watch studio movies and indie movies, listen to podcasts, read nonfiction and journalism and cultural criticism. I get a lot of submissions that are good but just don’t feel quite fresh or different enough, and sometimes I think that it’s because the writer is only reading within their genre. The more kinds of things you take in, the more you’ll be able to pull from in crafting a story that feels original and exciting.

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

PN: Yes! Send me a query letter at patricia@marsallyonliteraryagency.com. I do my best to reply to queries within four weeks, so if you don’t hear from me in that time frame, yours might have gone astray and you should try again.

 

More agent interviews in the coming months.

Hi, everybody. I just wanted to let everyone know that the agent interviews are on hiatus until the start of the new year. Rest assured, I’m busily putting together some great new information for all my fellow writers and am tentatively planning to start posting them in January. In the meantime, I have a question for all my readers. I know you love the agent interviews, but is there anything else you’d like to see this blog tackle, or anything you’d like to learn about in the next few months? Drop me a line and let me know! I’ll see what I can do!

Interview with literary agent Julie Gwinn.

Today, we are lucky enough to have literary agent Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency on the blog. Thank you, Ms. Gwinn, for being here with us.

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AN: How did you become an agent?

JG: I have been agenting full-time since July. I have been involved in the publishing industry for more than a decade, as a trade book marketing manager, editor and finally as fiction publisher. After the fiction line was shut down at my previous publisher, I began working freelance to help edit, consult and manage authors and their projects. My transition to agenting seemed to happen organically from the consulting business.

 

AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

JG: The relationship between author and agent is a business relationship first. It is the author’s responsibility to write a good story that the agent can then sell. There is teamwork involved. If the agent asks the author to tweak content or invest in a website, the author should take this into consideration. If the author tells the agent they can only write one book a year, the agent needs to listen. There needs to be open, honest and clear communication and expectations should be set early on.

 

AN: 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?

JG: I represent all romance (contemporary and historical and romantic suspense), speculative, fantasy, straight suspense, true crime, YA and NA and some non-fiction.  I do not represent horror as this is not a genre I read and so I’m not familiar with what makes a great horror novel. I would love to see great romance with smart, witty banter (either contemporary or historical). I would like to see smart suspense that leaves me questioning ‘who dun it’ until the end. Cozy mysteries. Sports romance. Military. Unique ideas or plots with twists. I’ve seen a lot of dystopian, angels and demons, novels where the protagonist suffers from multiple issues (alcoholism, bulimia, abuse, homelessness).

 

AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

JG: Research. Research who you are querying. Research how they want submissions. Research who your audience is (hint: it won’t be everyone). Research comparable titles (who is your writing similar too? What novel is similar to yours and yet different). Research your grammar and editing.

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting? JG: Yes I’m open to submissions. Julie@TheSeymourAgency.com

 

You can find Ms. Gwinn on Twitter here.

You can find her on Facebook here.

Interview with literary agent Mark Gottlieb.

Today, we have literary agent Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group on the blog. Thank you, Mr. Gottlieb, for being with us!

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AN: Sometimes, an agent/editor will reject an author’s manuscript because they feel that they didn’t connect with the author’s voice/it wasn’t strong enough. How do you define voice in fiction? And do you have any tips for a writer about how to make their voice stronger?

MG: With fiction, the voice or the writing itself is just as important as the meat of the story being told. In nonfiction it is less so the case since nonfiction is subject-driven.

It can take a long time for an author to build a voice in fiction, whether it be the voice of the narrator or the voice of the character. I find that reading one’s work aloud really helps. One author I know actually takes it a step further, in that he dresses up as the characters from his novels and speaks before a mirror, to get into the voice of his characters. When I heard that I thought it was a really nifty idea and true to the story form which began in the oral tradition by fireside.

 

AN: Another common reason for rejection is not connecting with the author’s characters. What makes a reader care about an author’s characters? How can a writer make their characters stronger?

MG: Cardboard cutouts of one-dimensional characters are not relatable. Often a character that does not have any personal growth by the end of the novel is not relatable.

There’s a lot of talk about “high concept” fiction lately. Can you define it for us? Do you feel that it’s become more and more important for books to be high concept?

High concept fiction would be more like what I like to call “big idea fiction.” An example of a big idea in fiction would be from the forthcoming graphic novel by William Neal McPheeters:

On the lower level of an eight-hundred-year-old building, among the cannibalized scraps left over from the robot war, is discovered a crated, unassembled, untested time machine that the robots were building at the time they were defeated. Among other oddities, there’s an assembled, but inactivated, very human like “Companion Robot.” In secret, the city’s best scientific minds assemble and test the time machine and finally establish that it is designed to transport robots only—humans, or any living organism, will not survive transportation through time. 

Low concept fiction would concern more of the day to day life of characters in a book, so that robot’s interactions or life drama with other characters.

 

AN: As an agent, you see a lot of manuscripts from beginning writers. If there was one area you could tell a writer to focus on, to work toward improvement in, what would it be?

MG: A few things:

-Learn to speak of your work in one breath or two sentences. This is also known as the elevator pitch.

-Starting out, a writer should focus on keeping their work at 80,000-120,000 words.

-Include a one-paragraph author bio with your queries that contains relevant writing experience.

 

AN: How did you become an agent?

MG: I’d like to say that I was publishing from the womb, but that’s just not the case. Truth be told, both my parents got their start in publishing. Currently, my father is the chairman at Trident Media Group, the literary agency where I work. My parents fostered in me an interest in storytelling and publishing from a very young age. While at Emerson College, where I studied writing, literature and publishing, I established a small press called Wilde Press. They publish four chapbooks per year now and are a mainstay of the Undergraduate Students for Publishing.

 

AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

MG: Every experience for a writer with an agent can be different as this is a subjective business and every work of writing is unique in what its need are. I could share a couple of pieces of advice, though…

Sometimes the submission/editorial process can be long and arduous since publishing is often slow-moving. Patience is a virtue.

In terms of what to expect from a good agent, their work should be entirely commissionable (instead of fee-based) as to keep their interests aligned with the author. That is why our work is commissionable, as opposed to a lawyer charging an hourly rate. In the lawyer’s case, it’s oftentimes in their interest to drag matters out since it’s more billable hours for their firm. In the case of an agent, their work is a service they do for their clients so it is entirely performance-based. Also make sure that your literary agency choice is legitimate and based in NYC, as book publishing is New York-centric.

 

AN: 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?

MG: I am looking for more military science-fiction and epic/military fantasy. I enjoy comedic writings from most every genre. I’d like to do some more celebrity memoirs, horrors, and thrillers.

I am getting too much dystopia, urban fantasy, paranormal romance/paranormal women’s fiction and personal memoir. The market is also tired of vampires and zombies at the moment, unless it’s a fresh new take on the genre.

 

AN: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

MG: I am a practitioner of kendo (Japanese fencing) at the national level and hold a black belt degree. Much of the tenants of the martial art, which are grounded in bushido (code of warrior ethics), have informed my book publishing outlook as a literary agent.

 

AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

MG: Don’t be discouraged by rejection and be prepared to ride the wild wave that is book publishing.

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

MG: I am open to submissions and Trident prefers to be queried via our site:http://www.tridentmediagroup.com/contact-us

 

You can follow the Trident Media Group Literary Agency on Twitter here.

You can learn more about Mark Gottlieb here.

You can follow Trident Media Group Literary Agency on Facebook here.

Interview with literary agent Cassie Hanjian.

Today, we have literary agent Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency on the blog. Thank you, Cassie, for being here with us!

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AN: How did you become an agent?

CH: I started out as an international literary scout working with foreign publishers to help them acquire US-originating projects for translation. Being a literary scout is a lot like being a consultant: you’re constantly advising clients about the state of the US market, telling them which books match up with their lists and which books might not be the best fit for their program.  As my former colleague Andy Kifer has already said below, it’s a great first job: you have a bird’s-eye view of the entire marketplace at a given time and learn the ins and outs of what each publishing house, each imprint, and each editor is looking to acquire. I specifically learned a lot about the submission process and developed an editorial eye for commercial and genre fiction during my time as a scout, both of which have helped me tremendously in my role as an agent.

My time as a scout just happened to overlap with the release of 50 Shades of Gray, and, post-50 Shades, foreign publishers really started paying attention to self-published fiction. I spent a lot of my time after that culling self-published projects and using other resources to find indie authors that might do well in translation, often discovering potential projects before they had an agent attached. Finding that I was often ahead of the game, I started thinking that my knack for finding new and upcoming talent could be put to better use on the agency side of the industry.  It was also during this time that the indie community really started to explode with diversity, and it was exciting to experience this shift first-hand. As a scout, I also couldn’t specialize in the genres and areas I loved most — you have to report back to clients on the marketplace as a whole — so I felt like I was really following my passions by transitioning to the agency side.

After I made the switch to the agency side, I specialized primarily in foreign rights (because of my scouting background) and author support before moving to work at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.

 

AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

CH: To me, the ideal author/agent relationship is one that feels like a partnership. Both parties are collaborating and exchanging ideas about what could make a project better, how to tap into their audience, and how to develop an identifiable author brand. Of course, with any partnership, each person has a clearly-defined role, to some extent. The author’s main job is to write and revise, and the agent’s main role is to sell the project and act as the author’s advisor during every step of the publishing process. I think the best agents want to be as involved as possible once they’ve signed an author.

It’s also important that you and your agent are on the same wavelength. Even if you don’t always agree with your agent, do you at least understand where they’re coming from when they make suggestions on your manuscript or offer advice on how to handle a certain situation? Do you feel they really understand your content and the market for your book? Are they speaking “your language” when they explain things to you? Having someone who truly understands you, your vision, and your content will make them a more effective advocate for you in the long-run.

 

AN: 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?

CH: I’m incredibly passionate about commercial fiction of all types, especially New Adult and commercial women’s fiction. In New Adult, I’d love to see something with a little bit of an edge that’s not afraid to depart from what’s currently considered New Adult. I will say, however, that I think of New Adult projects as genuinely commercial novels with an amazing story at the center. My favorite New Adult novels also include a strong romantic element (whether it be sexy or sweet) that tugs at the heartstrings. In commercial women’s fiction, I also want something plot-driven that focuses on overcoming some sort of really difficult issue and will hopefully make me cry in the process.

I’m also looking for upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, contemporary romance, cozy mysteries, and psychological suspense. On the nonfiction side, I’m interested in seeing projects in the categories of parenting, mind/body/spirit, inspirational memoir, narrative nonfiction on food-related topics, and a select number of accessible cookbooks.

I seem to be getting a lot of traditional thrillers, science-fiction/fantasy projects, and literary fiction in my submissions box. I’m only representing psychological suspense and cozy mysteries in the suspense world, which both have very different definitions from a traditional thriller or espionage thriller. I also don’t represent science-fiction, fantasy, or literary fiction at all. I highly suggest authors thoroughly research each agent they plan to query. Agents build their areas of specialization by thoroughly understanding that segment of the market and cultivating relationships with editors who are also passionate about those areas.  If it’s not listed under their areas of interest or representation, don’t query them.

 

AN: As an agent, you see a lot of manuscripts from beginning writers. If there was one area you could tell a writer to focus on, to work toward improvement in, what would it be?

CH: A lot of beginning writers spend too much time in the first few chapters setting up their story with exposition. When I start to read a manuscript, I want to be sucked in by an active beginning that’s not just setting up the protagonist’s environment or background. The protagonist and other characters should be engaging in dialogue and doing something active in these first few pages. We can get to all of the nuts and bolts later in the novel, but the reader needs to be really engaged in your story from the start to keep them turning the pages.

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?

CH: I am! If your project fits in any of the categories listed above, please send me your query letter along with the first 5-10 pages of your manuscript or proposal in the body of the e-mail to cassiesubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com.

 

You can follow Cassie Hajian on Twitter here.

Interview with literary agent Ginger Clark.

Today, we have literary agent Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown, LTD. on the blog. Thank you, Ms. Clark, for being here with us!

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AN: How did you become an agent?

GC: I worked as an assistant at a literary agency and after a year and a half, I started taking on my own clients. I’ve been agenting since 2001. I worked briefly at a publisher before that, and I am better suited to being an agent.

 

AN: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?

GC: It’s a combination of having a lawyer, an accountant, and a manager. I’m always worrying about your contracts, your royalty statements, and your career track. Some people have said it’s similar to a marriage, but I would disagree with that assessment. Every agent is different, but an author should expect prompt responses, answers to all their questions (big and small) and aggressive advocacy of their manuscript and during deal and contract negotiations. Also, the agent is the employee—not the author. The author hires the agent. Authors should not forget that.

 

AN: 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?

GC: I have said this for years, but—a female-driven space opera or military SF would be wonderful. Also, I’d love to see more middle grade. As for what I’m seeing too much of: there are certain trends in YA that are played out, like paranormal and dystopia. I still see a high percentage of queries in those subgenres.

 

AN: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?

GC: I do yoga. Trust me, if you knew me you would find this surprising. Oh, and I don’t drink carbonation—the bubbles make my nose itch. (People find this really weird).

 

AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?

GC: Before you send that query, print it out and proofread. Make sure your name is spelled properly. Make sure my name is spelled properly! Do a test email by sending it to a second email address of yours, or to a friend. Make sure there are no weird formatting changes that happen because of your email program or server, and through no fault of your own.

 

AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting? GC: Yes. Send me a query letter (no more than a page) to gc@cbltd.com. I respond if I am interested in seeing more.

You can find Ms. Clark on Twitter here.