Posts Tagged ‘Agents’

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Querying Blunders Take Two: Agent Stories

March 12, 2010

So, last week, the OPWFTers shared their personal querying goofs with you.  Now, it gets even better.  A group of fabulous agents are sharing some notable querying blunders they’ve found in their slush piles.  Our plan was to present them all at once, but I think we struck a chord.  Our participating agents had a LOT to say about querying blunders—as it turns out, too many to stick into one post.  So we’ll be breaking this up into segments.

These stories are guaranteed to do one of three things: 

1) Make others give you The Look because you’re laughing out loud in your little writing corner of Starbucks

2) Make you feel FIVE THOUSAND times better about any querying faux pas you’ve made and/or

3) Make you thank your lucky stars that you’ve remained anonymous if one of YOUR querying blunders is named below (and help you realize that you should never, ever, do it again.  Ever.).

Seriously, though–we all mistakes.  Hopefully, this will be a fun way to guide you through querying no-no’s.

First up!  Here’s what twitterific new agent Kathleen Ortiz of Lowenstein  Associates  (who just signed amazing Absolute Write YA writer Jennifer Walkup—WOOT Jenn!) had to say:

Worst offenses? Oy vey…

And I’m only allowed to list a couple? Hmm…  (our note:  is anyone else getting the impression that it was hard to only pick a couple?  Heads up, aspiring authors!  Your query is the FIRST impression an agent gets of you.  Try, try, not to stand out in a BAD way.)

– “Dear Sir” – I’m a girl, last I checked. But besides that, it’s just rude. Authors get offended when we “Dear Author” them on a form rejection, so please at least use our names in a salutation.

– No salutation – or query: some people send an e-mail with an attachment and a “Manuscript Attached” as their only message in the body of the e-mail. Instant rejection.

– Sending gifts – won’t lie: sometimes this is amusing, but it’s completely inappropriate. It’s almost as if you’re trying to bribe the agent, which is offensive. You wouldn’t (hopefully) bribe a prospective employer, would you? I’ve received tiaras, mugs, cookie cutters, boxes of cookies, you name it. And I, for one, won’t eat food from a random stranger – sorry. A friend of mine received a Starbucks cup with a bag of white powder inside. They later discovered it was flour (for a recipe), but seriously – what were they thinking? The entire agency could’ve gone into a panic attack.

– Rude responses – I get so many “You’ll regret when I’m a NYT bestseller!!!” e-mail responses to my form rejections. It doesn’t help your case, because I just block your e-mail from our system. We need clients who can accept constructive criticism and take rejection, because when you go on submission, chances are you’ll receive a couple of rejections.

– Asking for tips on who to send queries to – there’s this fantastic invention called GOOGLE with hundreds of blogs by authors for authors and by people in publishing for authors. Use your resources. Some agents get up to 100 queries a day. In addition to working with our clients, foreign rights, permissions requests, contracts, manuscripts on submissions and more, we don’t have time to sit and think “who would like this MS?” If we do think of someone, we’ll tell you in the rejection. Otherwise, it’s really up to you to do the homework on who to query.

And in case you don’t know which Starbucks cups story she’s referring to?  Here, it is, straight from the agent’s mouth!  Suzie Townsend of FinePrint Literary, and agent to Absolute Write YA authors Tracy Martin, Hannah Moskowitz, and  Kristin Miller):

The Most Interesting Query I Received…

In case anyone missed the conversation on twitter.  I got a query on Monday that came in a Starbucks cup.

Starbucks by mail? Hmmm.....

And when I opened it up, I was baffled to find white powder…

That ain't instant creamer....

Which was flour – not anthrax or drugs – and a query with bound pages.  O_O  This makes for an interesting/sort of funny story, but most of my colleagues were quite freaked out.  Sending white powder to New Yorkers = Not a Good Idea.

So, for a quick recap:  agents like you to know their gender, would prefer you didn’t reply to a rejection with a “you’re going to regret this cuz I am DA BOMB!” rant, and they never, EVER want you to send white powder in Starbucks cups.  Ever.

Tune in next week, when agents Laura Bradford and Lauren MacLeod chime in with blunders, and agent Jennifer Laughran gives some querying advice.

By Debra Driza

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Five Facts Aspiring YA Authors Should Know (A Conference Experience)

February 17, 2010

By Sarah Harian

This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 2010 San Francisco Writers Conference. I experienced a whirlwind of different emotions–anxiety from having to attend alone, fear of not being noticed or being rejected by all of the publishing professionals, relief when I met a handful of wonderful writers on the first day, and joy when I realized how confident I came off during my pitch sessions. These emotions made for a marvelous experience, one that I am very happy to share with the OPWFT readers.

YA Lit was a HUGE topic among conversations between writers, even though a lot of the writers at the conference didn’t write YA. YA was brought up in every single panel I attended, and here’s why:

NUMBER ONE: The amount of YA books on the shelves has increased 83% in the past two years.

You should have seen the faces of all the adult fiction writers when Regina Brooks (from Serendipity, LLC) spilled this little fact at a panel. Those were some numbers! Which leads me to number two…

NUMBER TWO: YA is the reason why a lot of publishing houses are still in business.

Daniela Rapp, editor at St. Martin’s Press, revealed this at a panel about turning your manuscript into a book.

If you’ve been into a Borders recently, you’ll know why. Recently, Borders has rearranged their shelves do display a “Borders Ink” section right at the front of the store. In the Borders in my town, this is the busiest section of the floor. There are always customers there, carrying around the newest Mortal Instruments or Vampire Academy book. Even in a recession, YA booms. Of course, the boom started a couple of years ago, but it took a while for editors to start admitting it was the main reason for the publishing world staying on its feet.

NUMBER THREE: The trend that you’re seeing now is two years old.

That’s right, folks. That’s how long it usually takes from Agent to Bookstore. Editors are no longer looking for Fallen Angels and Werewolves. This is ok though, because as a writer, you don’t want to follow a trend. You want to start one. So write the story that’s in your heart, not ones like those that are selling off the shelves.

Steampunk and Vampires are the exceptions though. The term “steampunk” became a running joke at the conference because either an agent was actively seeking it or had no idea WTH steampunk was. Every author decided on telling others that they wrote steampunk, even though they also knew nothing about the genre.

As for vampires… Well, as it was said many times over the weekend, “Vampires will never die”.

NUMBER FOUR: Publishers these days spend very little money building your platform.

Most editors, and even some agents will ask you this question before they take on your project: “What are you going to do to get the word out?”

It’s up to us, the writers, to advertise our projects and books. This was a HUGE topic at the conference this year. Don’t have a Twitter account? Get one. Don’t have a website? SERIOUSLY think about investing some money into buying a domain and getting a nice, clean layout. Don’t have a blog? Not only do you need one, but you also need to post every other day.

Some agents don’t care about whether or not you have already established some internet presence, but it was said by more than one agent that they do some research on a writer before signing them and see what they’ve already done to build a readership. Yes, if you are querying, agents are researching you. This means that it is VITAL for you to be polite and courteous while you are networking and actively working to get your name out there.

NUMBER FIVE: Read, Read, READ YA!

With the dawning realization that YA is such a popular market, a lot of writers with projects that had young protagonists started contemplating pitching their book as YA. This is fine and all, but I KNEW that many of these people had never picked up a YA book in their life, or at least hadn’t since the days of S.E. Hinton or Lois Lowry. The YA market has changed so drastically in recent years, and will continue to change. It is important for you, as a writer, to get your hands on as many YA books from all different genres as you possibly can. See what others are writing about. Take note of their styles. It will help you develop your own voice.

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Agent Survey – NaNo Style!

October 30, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I emailed several agents with the following question:

Do you see an uptick in year-end queries because of people’s participation in NaNoWriMo?

The results?

Eh. It was just about a 50/50 split between yes and no. But, there was a really good discussion post. Basically, querying comes after lots of editing, not after lots of writing.

I also had a few thoughts to leave you with:
1) Sample size is crucial in surveys…and my sample size was pretty small, given the total number of agents out there.
2) One agent speculated that the uptick she saw might be related to people having time off of work, therefore giving them more time to query.
3) My own theory is that an increase in year-end queries could also be attributed to people fulfilling their New Years resolutions. I know I never remember my resolutions until December…

Thanks to the agents who responded, and good luck to those of you who’ll turn into writing machines November 1, 2009 🙂

– Holen Mathews

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On the similarities between trying to land an agent and trying to land a job.

August 12, 2009

Your query letter is like your resume.  Both give you an opportunity to show off prior experience.  Relevant education also helps, and a good reference can make all the difference.   You should check both for spelling and grammar errors.  Your should keep them as short as possible while showcasing what you have to offer.  The idea is to get your foot in the door – get that interview or manuscript request.

Once you’re at that next stage, you need to make them want to work with you.  You do this by professional behavior and by bringing your best.  Sending in a manuscript that you know is flawed is like showing up in a wrinkled suit.  Give everything one last check before putting it in their hands.

Here’s a quick list of things not to do if you manage to reach this stage.  Don’t contact them before the time you’ve been told they’ll contact you unless it’s really important, as in an offer from someone else.  Don’t resort to bribery.  Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t want them hearing.  I’m sure that there’s an entire post worth of don’ts that could go here.

Now that you’ve landed an agent/job, the similarities continue.  You two are partnering up to make money.  You are not partnered to become BFF.  Be punctual.  Don’t whine.  And unless you no longer both believe in the wonderfulness of the product you’re trying to sell, you stick with it even after the sparkly newness wears off.

One last quickie.  Thanks to the internet, there are thousands of other people who are thinking the same way you are.  Many of them are wackos, wasting the agent’s valuable time that could be spent loving you.  Unfortunately, there’s not anything you can do about them 😉

– Holen

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Interview with Gretchen Stelter of Baker’s Mark Literary Agency, LLC by Sarah Harian

August 9, 2009

It is both my honor and pleasure to introduce Gretchen Stelter from Baker’s Mark Literary Agency. Baker’s Mark was established in 2005 in Portland, Oregon by both Gretchen, the Editorial Director, and Lead Agent Bernadette Baker-Baughman. Some of their main fiction interests are edgy YA, urban fantasy, classic stories re-imagined, and magical realism.

Q: First of all, I must ask. How was Comic-Con?

A: Ah, Comic-Con. It was capes, chaos, and comics, just like it is every year, but it was fabulous as well, just as it always is. Bernadette and I have begun to refer to it as Comic-thon, as it is four days of running from meeting to meeting, often from a booth in one section of the enormous SD Convention Center to a booth in another section, meeting with all the people that we only get to see at conventions. Going to the Con is like a really fun reunion with friends and colleagues where you also get to do business and see people dressed as Storm Troopers.

This year was very different from past years for us. Since Baker’s Mark has been agenting for four years this month, publishing schedules and the sheer amount of time it takes to produce a graphic novel means we have a lot of books under contract with only a handful out. This Comic-Con, we got to see two of our clients promote their book (Chris Ryall and Scott Tipton, who wrote Comic Books 101 for Impact Books) and three others get geared up for their October releases with their publishers. The buzz around Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (coming out from Abrams Image) was a literary agent’s dream, and it was a different experience for me to see the scuttlebutt develop with the public around the final product as opposed to with publishers around the pitch.

We also got to meet with Dan Elconin, who wrote Never After (coming out from Simon Pulse), and since he’s based in California, it was exciting to see him and for us all to see the ARCs of his book at the Simon & Schuster booth and hear what’s being said about it before its release date in October.

Overall, SDCC was fun, friendly, frenetic, exciting, and completely exhausting, and I don’t think Bernadette and I would expect anything less.

Q:Was being a literary agent always your dream? What inspired you to become an agent?

A: Actually, no. It had to be explained to me what a literary agent was when I was in grad school! I have a B.A. in literature from Ball State University, and I thought I was going to become a professor. I did a semester of grad school in the Master’s literature program at BSU, took my LSATs and considered law school, and actually ended up studying Writing, Editing, and Publishing at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. There, the program focuses a lot on the editing and journalism side of publishing, and while I loved Australia and the head of my department there, I decided to come back to the States and try to find a program where my editing and journalism experience could be put to good use dealing with book publishing instead of professional or journalistic editing.

I would have to give credit for the inspiration to become an agent to my life-long love of books and my business partner. Bernadette and I met in the publishing program at Portland State University, and she had already sold a book written by a fellow classmate to a small, local publisher. She was going to continue as an agent and wanted a partner. The idea of working with authors and being the advocate that helped them get published definitely appealed to me. I love reading, and I can champion books that I have nothing to do with except that I read them and loved them. I knew that writers need proponents, so the chance to work with Bernadette suddenly provided me the opportunity to spend my days doing just that; reading, editing, and convincing people to love the books I love, which is basically my dream job. Let’s just say, in spite of Bernadette’s ability to sell, she definitely didn’t have to rely on those skills to get me on board with Baker’s Mark.

Q: What are some of the benefits of being established in Portland?

A: The creative community is thriving here—writers, artists, designers, zines, literary journals, creators of all kinds. Amazingly, though, there isn’t a ton of publishing infrastructure to support such a vibrant, imaginative culture. As Bernadette and I were already here and working in the industry, we were aware of all these amazing writers and graphic novel creators who had no idea how to pitch an agent, bag a book deal, or negotiate a contract if they already had a contract. When we started the agency, we wanted to be sure that we were providing a partnership with our clients, not just a “service.” Living in Portland, scores of creators suddenly popped up once word got around that we were an agency taking on new clients AND that we were pitching publishing houses in New York. The idea that you can work with major publishing houses in New York without being based there was still a new concept when we started. While we love the editors we work with and wish we could see them more often than we get to, being near the majority of our clients in what is a relatively close-knit city that is so focused on books really fuels our own passion for everything literary. It’s not just the people who work in the industry either; this town is full of book lovers, readers, artists, libraries, bookstores, and people who just generally get having that passion for something creative. Maybe the rain breeds it in us; we’re forced to stay indoors while living out amazing worlds in our heads.

Beyond that, I just love Portland in general: The nature, the bike-friendliness, the general zeitgeist. It’s the only city town I’ve lived in where I’ve just fallen in love with the city as well as the people.

Q: Besides simply not being hooked by the story, what is one/are some of the main reasons why you turn down a partial or full manuscript?

A: Dialogue. I am a stickler for having believable dialogue, especially with YA projects. If you can’t write like a teenager talks, you probably aren’t really in their space and relating to them like you need to be. I can love the plot and feel that the prose is pretty solid, but weak dialogue just kills it for me. As the Editorial Director, I work with our writers to try and get their manuscripts as tight as possible before Bernadette takes it to publishers, and I’ve learned that dialogue is one of those things that you just can’t breeze through and “fix” in a manuscript.

Q: On the other hand, what makes you fall in love with a manuscript?

A: I love a plot that moves, a character I want to be or can at least relate to, and dialogue that is true to the characters. I also love tight prose that really shows the writer not only has talent and uses all the resources within their reach but also cares deeply about what they are showing me. Additionally, I really love a new take on an old story. I recently read What Would Emma Do? by  Eileen Cook, and I got quite a ways through it before I realized that it was a YA re-imagining of The Crucible. The editor who gave it to me didn’t even mention this fact, and it wasn’t so obvious that it hit me over the head, and I loved the subtlety in that. That was amazing, and we’ve had some great manuscripts come our way that do that.

Q: Baker’s Mark deals heavily with graphic novels. Are you a big comic fan?

A: Absolutely. I was a huge comic fan as a kid, mainly Archie, X-Men, and Spiderman. Now, of course, I still read tons, but I mainly read graphic novels, not comics as much (DMZ from Vertigo & Polly and the Pirates from Oni are two exceptions to that). If I put together a reading list for someone looking to get a good idea of what graphic novels are all about, or at least why I love them, I’d tell them: Scott Pilgrim, Pop Gun War, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Blankets, The War at Ellsmere, Persepolis, Maus, Jar of Fools, 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and Therefore, Repent.

Q: If you could design a dream YA protagonist, what would some of their traits be?

A: They’d be sarcastic, flawed, quirky, eccentric, lovable, real and have striking wit, good inner dialogue, interesting friends and relatives, and a certain amount of self-deprecating humor.

Q: What was your favorite book as a teenager and why?

A: Hmmm, favorite book as a teenager….just one? I’d have to say my tastes fluctuated quite a bit from the time I was 13 until I was 19. In my younger years, I started reading Lois Duncan books and I think I managed to read all the ones that were already published by the time I was done with my freshman year. I became a bit John Irving fan thanks to my junior-year English teacher, Mr. Olmstead (an amazing teacher). Once I got near the end of my high school years I was reading Dean Koontz and F. Scott Fitzgerald. As much as I want to say that I had a huge affinity for a specific YA novel, Lois Duncan’s writing was my only favorite who wrote YA. That’s why I love YA works now: They are true to the ups and downs, the hormones, and the drama—both real and imagined—of being that age.

Q: Do you have any new or upcoming releases from clients that you would like to share with us?

A: Absolutely. I touched on this when I talked about the Comic-Con, but I would love to repeat it! Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett will be coming out from Abrams Image at the beginning of October. It’s a fabulous illustrated book covering the exploits of the amazing Victorian era robot Boilerplate.

Later that month, we have Never After by Dan Elconin coming out from Simon Pulse. We’re really thrilled for this project as well. This is a dark re-imaging of the Peter Pan story written by a brilliant, college student.

Q: Is there any advice that you would like to give to unpublished and first-time authors?

A: This might seem somewhat clichéd, but for unpublished writers, don’t become disenchanted by rejection. It’s not easy on purpose. If you love what you do, do it well, and don’t mind promoting yourself; chances are that you’ll eventually get recognized. Also, it’s important to realize that you need to have someone who is a true advocate for you, someone who truly believes in you, so those agents or publishers that turn you down actually are doing you a favor; if they don’t really get your work, they won’t be doing your career any favors by aligning yourself with someone who isn’t facing the same direction as you.

For first-time authors, after you get a book deal, a lot of people will work on your book during the course of its birthing process, and they all have opinions of what should happen to your work, not necessarily in line with what you originally intended. Listen to your agent and editor because they know what they’re talking about but stand up for issues you think important to the integrity of your work.  You, after all, are the creator.

Just For Fun:

Q: If you were chosen to save the world from an impending doom and could choose your own superpower, what would it be?

A: I was always an X-Men girl myself, and while my brother always got to be Gambit and I was Storm when we were kids. Now, I would totally steal my brother’s idea and take Gambit’s powers. Manipulating energy and possessing hypnotic charm—not to mention the cool card throwing—how can you beat that?

Q: Tell us your favorite musical artist, favorite movie, and favorite television show.

A: Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Vampire Weekend and Kings of Leon, but I will always adore Van Morrison and Nina Simone, who I must consider my all-time favs. My favorite movie of recent watching is The Reader; my favorite movie overall is probably The Sting. How can you not love Paul Newman and Robert Redford in a good old-fashioned caper? Favorite television show is easy: Bones.

Q: Are you reading anything for fun right now?

A: Oh, I’m always reading quite a few books, and to be honest, I have fun reading things I “have” to as well, so I’ll give you the list of what I’m currently reading and you can judge if it’s fun or not: Johannes Cabal: The Necromancer by Jonathan Howard, Dear Mr. Mackin by Rev. Richard J. Mackin, and Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with OPWFT!

For more information on Baker’s Mark Literary Agency, their interests and disinterests, and how to submit, visit http://www.bakersmark.com

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Interview with Lucienne Diver, Author of VAMPED and Literary Agent Extraordinaire! By Jamie Blair

July 25, 2009

Lucienne

From Lucienne’s website, www.luciennediver.com, here’s a synopsis from her main character, Gina Covello:

Because I’m terrible with synopses, I’ll let my protagonist (heroine might be pushing it just a bit), tell you all about it in her own words:

Hey, all, it’s me… Gina Covello, fashionista of the damned.  Yeah, I know, I managed to get almost all the way through high school without cracking a book and now here I am immortalized in one.  Well, actually, the immortalization process might have started a bit earlier, like in the broom closet at the after-prom-party, somewhere around the time Bobby-freakin’-Delvecchio started gnawing on my neck.  Anyway, this is one book I’d maybe even phone a friend about, since it covers all my adventures going from chic to eek. Because, let me tell you, eternity without a mirror or tanning options—totally uncool. And they don’t tell you in, like, Vampirism 101 about crazy conspiracies, psycho-psychics and other hazards of unlife. But I will, so stay tuned.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with our readers, Lucienne.  Vamped is a funny, fabulous read deserving of all the rave reviews it has received since appearing on bookstore shelves in May.

Thank you so much!  You can’t see me, but I’m blushing furiously.

Q:  Gina Covello is quite the little spitfire!  Her personality is contagious.  How did Gina come to you?  What made you give her life, or unlife I suppose is more in context with Vamped?

A:  My stories always begin with characters talking in my head.  One day Gina started carrying the conversation.  I didn’t have a plot to associate with her, just a vignette, really, about an undead fashionista stalking her stylist.  But everyone who read it said, “This wants to be a novel.”  Gina agreed that a novel would be cool.  A series would be even better.  And if I’d just get out of the way and let her handle things, we’d be golden.  It’s like that.  The best characters kick me to the curb and I simply write out the stories as they’re told to me.  Sometimes, though, I have to wrestle the storylines back under my control so that they don’t meander this way and that.   (For example, Gina, if given the chance, might just spend all her time at the mall hunting hotties and couture.)

Q:  Is Gina anything like the teenage Lucienne?  Does her humor reflect your personality?

A:  You know, it’s funny but the only thing Gina has in common with the teenaged me is big hair.  (Hey, it was the eighties.  We barely knew about the ozone layer.)  My hair was about the only stylin’ thing about me.  I was a geek.  I played D&D, did chorus and drama, took extra art and English classes in lieu of lunch and study hall.  I was kind of the anti-Gina.  Her humor, though….  You know how you always think of just the right thing to say about five seconds too late?  Gina is maybe me on that five second delay.  She’s always got the snarky comment right at the tip of her tongue.  No one’s going to walk away from Gina without getting as good as she gave.  I have to respect her for that <g>.

Q:  Without giving spoilers of course, which scene is your favorite?

A: Wow, that’s so tough.  There’s a scene that didn’t even make it into the final draft that I dearly love – of Gina getting even with her ex.  Hmmm, maybe I ought to post that on my website as a little bonus at some point.  Second to that, I think there are two: Gina kicking major booty in a scene I don’t want to spoil, and the quiet moment she finally has with Bobby toward the end.  I share Gina’s weakness for Bobby.  He reminds me of my husband, kinda geek chic.  I’m not sure he’d find that flattering, but there it is.

Q:  Have you always been a fan of vampire fiction?  Who are some of your favorite vamps?

A: Oh, I’m a fan girl all right.  My favorite vamps…hmm.  I like Jean Claude from Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series and Dorian Black from Susan Krinard’s wonderful romance DARK OF THE MOON.  I love P.N. Elrod’s Vampire Files series, though I have to admit partiality for Jack Fleming’s human partner in crime(solving) Charles Escott, who’s very Sherlockian to me.  I’m also a big fan of Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires series and Chloe Neill’s new Chicagoland Vampires.  As for television series, I kinda love Spike from Buffy and I’m finding Bill in Charlaine Harris’ TrueBlood HBO series a little irresistible.  (If I could only get over the killing.)

Q:  Bravo for making Gina a tough, together heroine!  What are your thoughts on female main characters in YA books?  Do you prefer a strong female protagonist?

A:  Thank you!  I really love a character who can kick butt and take names.  I especially like that Gina doesn’t triumph because she’s super-powerful (vamp strength isn’t much of an edge in fighting other vamps), but because she is who she is.  In the right hands, even hairspray can be a very powerful weapon.  And spiked heels…don’t even get me started.  I guess the point is that most people don’t actually set their minds to becoming heroes.  They see a need to right a wrong and step up.  Or, as Gina would say, they put on their big girl panties and deal with it.

Q:  Revamped comes out next year.  Can you give us a hint about what’s in store for Gina next?

A: (cue evil laugh) Finally with Gina I’ve found a character I like to torture.  You can be sure that whatever it is, it won’t come with a clothing allowance.

For fellow writers, I’d like to ask a couple questions about your writing style.

Q:  How long have you been writing?  What are some of your other published works?

A: I’ve been writing since I was eleven years old.  Maybe even earlier, but that’s when I first remember actually finishing stories and showing them to someone else to read.  My fifth grade teacher was amazing.  I really credit him with helping me find my calling.  In addition to VAMPED this year, I’ve got a story coming out in Esther Friesner’s STRIP-MAULED anthology.  Next year will see REVAMPED published, as well as an adult vampire story in another Esther Friesner anthology from Baen Books.

Q:  Do you outline or wing it?

A: A little of both.  I’ll generally have a sense of where the story will go, but I only outline a few chapters ahead, because I find that so much changes as I write, as I learn more about the characters and their worlds, that there’s no point in plotting beginning to end early on.  I’d have to throw out all the latter material in any case by the time I got there.

Q:  Do you prefer to write in first person or third?  Present or past tense?  Why?

A:  Most of my stories come out in first person.  I think that’s because, as mentioned, my characters seem to come through and tell their stories personally and I more or less step out of the way.  I hope that’s what readers hear when they pick up my work — my characters’ voices and not mine.  Different stories, though, call for different POVs.

Past tense, definitely!  I find it very difficult to read, let alone write, present tense.  Some authors do it tremendously well, but most attempts I’ve seen at present tense are inconsistent and intrusive to the narrative.  Distancing even.

Q:  Did you or do you have a critique group?  Do you see a benefit in having one?

A: I had a critique group for a long time, including when I wrote the first draft of VAMPED.  Now I have a crit partner.  I can’t speak for all writers, but I know that for me it’s vitally important to get a second opinion on my work.  I need to be pushed sometimes.  It helps to have someone point out the flaws I’m hoping no one will notice (or those I didn’t even know existed) so that I can fix them before my work is ever submitted.

Q:  Writers sometimes struggle with bad habits, like using too many adverbs, or passive verbs.  Do you catch yourself having a writing habit that you try to break?

A: Bad habits are another great reason for critique partners/groups.  Many of us don’t even realize we have them until they’re pointed out.  But once you’ve worked with a group for a while, you start to hear them in your head and can avoid past pitfalls.  Yes, it gets crowded in here sometimes—my critique group, my characters, my mother telling me the dress I’m wearing is way too short….

I have to be careful with the word “just.”  I’ve also struggled a lot with action scenes.  I used to drag my feet whenever I approached one.  Now I just accept that my action scenes are going to take a few drafts, but I no longer fear that I won’t get them where they have to be.

Q:  Do you edit while writing, or leave editing until after the first draft?

A:  I try to write forward – a full draft from beginning to end before I allow myself to go back over what I’ve written.  However, there always comes a point (or more) in the course of the writing, where I have to go back and add something in or change it before I feel I can move on.  I’ve found that fighting that urge only keeps me from progressing.

Q:  Best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

A:  Writing is hard work.  I think that often the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the willingness to put the work in.  Yes, you should enjoy what you’re doing and yes it’s an art, but even artists hone their skills and improve from work to work.  Think artists don’t do drafts?  What about the sketches that come before the great paintings or the scale models that come before the sculpture?  No pain, no gain goes for writing just as it does for body-building.

Hand in hand with that is the willingness to accept criticism productively.  You can always learn something from an honest critique.  It may not be what you want to hear.  You may not even necessarily agree, but take it under consideration.  Try to see where the reader is coming from.  There may be things that are clear in your head that don’t come across on the page.  There may be things you like that don’t serve to further the story.  Lynn Flewelling, who is absolutely fabulous, once said that she throws out as much as sees print.  It’s not the fun part of the process, but if you’re only looking for fun, you’re probably not looking toward publication.

Q:  What kind of networking do you do, and how do you interact with your readers?

A: I have a wonderful street team who helped me get the word out on VAMPED (hey, guys!), a blog, a Twitter account, Facebook, MySpace, a website…whew!  I also answer all the fan mail I get.  It makes my entire day every time someone writes to say they’ve enjoyed the book.  (Gina always wants to take total credit, but I won’t give her my passwords, so I get to answer on her behalf.  Tee hee.)

Q:  As an agent, what makes you jump out of your chair and request the full manuscript?

A: A really wonderful voice, fresh ideas, and lots of suspense.  I want to be wowed with the reality and originality of the voice and the world.  I’ll read anything that hooks me and drags me along for a fast-paced thrill-ride.  The genre doesn’t so much matter to me—romance, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, I love them all—as the connection to the work.  If I stay up way too late reading and gush about the novel to everyone I come into contact with, I know it’s for me.

Q:  Any upcoming releases or announcements from clients that you would like to share?

A:  Oh, so many!  Looking just at July, there’s:

DYING BITES by D.D. Barant, a fantastic urban fantasy, first in a very original new series.

STRANGE BREW edited by P.N. Elrod, an anthology with stories by Charlaine Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Rachel Caine, Karen Chance, P.N. Elrod, Caitlin Kittredge, Faith Hunter and Jenna Maclaine

THE CALLING by David Mack, a dark fantasy thriller

SKINWALKER by Faith Hunter, the first in her excellent Jane Yellowrock series

DARKNESS CALLS by Marjorie M. Liu, the sequel to her bestselling uf THE IRON HUNT

SOUTHERN PERIL by T. Lynn Ocean, Southern-styled mystery

THE EDGE OF DAWN by Patti O’Shea, paranormal romance, newest in her Light Warriors series

WILD WOLF by Karen Whiddon, the latest popular Pack novel from Silhouette Nocturne

Then in August there’s a new Weather Wardens novel from Rachel Caine, a Dirk & Steele from Marjorie M. Liu, a debut mystery from Diana Orgain….  So much going on!

Just for the fun of it…

Q:  What is your favorite color?

A:  Cobalt blue.

Q:  Favorite flavor of ice cream?

A:  Dulce de leche!

Q:  Mexican, Italian or something else?

A:  It depends—which one of them has the fangs?  Oh, wait, you’re talking food!  Boy, is my face red.  Uh, after that I think I’d have to go with my husband’s bourbon and vanilla marinated pork and sweet potatoes.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with OPWFT.  We’ll be watching for Revamped to hit the shelves next year so we can catch up with Gina’s antics!

Thanks so much!  I really enjoyed the interview.  Have a wonderful summer, everybody!

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Agent Spotlight: Laura Rennert w/ Andrea Brown Literary Agency

July 22, 2009

Laura Rennert

Contest closed! Winner will be announced on Monday, August 3rd.

The Andrea Brown Literary Agency, Inc. was founded in 1981. The agency focuses on representation for children’s book authors and illustrators. Laura Rennert is a Senior Agent and has been with the agency for ten years. Some of her clients include Jay Asher, Ellen Hopkins, and Catherine Ryan Hyde. In addition, she has recently sold major and significant deals to Simon & Schuster and Scholastic.

Ms. Rennert looks for novels with a strong, fresh voice and compelling narrative. According to the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website, she is interested in middle-grade, young adult, and crossover novels.

To query Ms. Rennert or any other agent at Andrea Brown, please see the agency’s website at www.andreabrownlit.com. Keep in mind the agency only accepts e-queries and only one agent may be queried.

BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Recently, we interviewed Jay Asher, author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY (see July 13 posting). We are hosting our second book giveaway with a copy of the high concept, debut novel.

Please leave a comment on this post along with your name. The contest will close Friday, July 31, 2009. Good luck!

–Stephanie