Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Agents Like Us - Holly McGhee

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Holly McGhee of Pippin Properties, Inc. is here!

Holly continues to look for projects she can't resist, from picture books (not rhyming), middle-grade, and young adult novels (the YA books she in drawn to usually star real people in the real world) to graphic memoir and graphic novels, as well as books about her favorite sport, baseball. On occasion, Pippin also represents adult crossover books. 

You can find query information herethe Pippin Facebook page there, and tweeting under @LoveThePippins. Holly's personal thoughts as writer Hallie Durand, including her NaNoWriMo 2013 pep talk, can be found on her website. She'll be appearing at the Metro New York SCBWI in February and in Seattle in April 2014.

Holly's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!

Holly on Agenting
Photo Credit: Kamille Snell.
  • When writers query me, I really wish:
    • For exclusive queries, because in those cases, I can take my time and give full consideration to the body of work. Most of my clients have come to me exclusively and that get-to-know-you period of quiet time has been the basis for very productive, happy, and financially rewarding relationships. Don’t. Rush. Ever.
    • That the potential writer would send just a short pitch for the book and then a note about why they are especially keen on Pippin, a pitch that shows an understanding of how we are different as an agency. And then let the work speak for itself.
    • That there be no mention of what any friends, authors, neighbors, or children think of the work—no field testing in classrooms, please!. (Again, let the work speak for itself—it’s all in the execution.)
    • When the writer uses lie lay lain, lay laid laid correctly and “different from” as opposed to “different than” my heart hums a little bit (Granny McGhee was an English teacher).
  • My favorite part about being an agent is building big careers for really extraordinary writers and / or artists who are willing to work hard, and who are humble, open, and funny too. (Big wish!) And I love closing a deal and celebrating—I’m very patient, but I’m a closer. I like to place every project I send out. And I’ll go the distance to make that happen.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is that my heart be touched by pain, joy, recognition, or humor (or maybe all of these), but most of all I look for an authentic voice, or a sentence or two (or an image) that I can’t get out of my head. I want to feel richer for having read a story.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I am not proud, I am satisfied! I love making deals in creative ways too—I let the plan for the deal unfold as the project unfolds, no formulas.
  • I really wish I saw more savvy writers who have done their due diligence on the agency in the slush. If you are asking us to consider you seriously, do your homework first. At Pippin, there is an actual person reading your query deciding whether to ask for more or press delete. Do whatever you can to avoid that trash can icon!!

Holly on Clients
  • My ideal client would be extremely talented, extremely hard-working, grateful, and with a big sense of humor and a bigger heart. I’m very interested in writers and artists who want to break boundaries and try new genres. I hate rules of any kind! 
  • What I love most about my current clientele is I know who they are and they trust me and understand that I love their work and that I want what’s best for their long-term careers. 
  • What I want most for any client is to do the very best work they are capable of at any time in their life, and not to stop working, no matter the circumstance, till they can look in the mirror and know they have given the world their best.

Holly on Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a full-time writer or a cook (not a baker, a cook). If I had better moves, I’d be a dancer.
  • My favorite (non-client) book is I have new favorites all the time, but Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is an amazing tool for writers, and funny too. For other books, I’ll try to plug some quieter titles: Picture Books—Barney Saltzberg’s Good Egg (I have no idea why this book isn’t famous—just a reminder of what a crap shoot this whole game is!), Middle grade: Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (beautiful beautiful book), Graphic: My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (makes you think about Dahmer and wish you could have been there in his childhood), Young Adult: / Adult—Wintertown by Stephen Emond (how important it is for human beings to be “seen”), and I’m also going to plug an oldie, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde—I think this book works perfectly for middle school / high school and should be required reading!
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bumblebees and riptides.
  • My secret boyfriend is Christopher Guest, because he is brilliant and hilarious and dorky at the same time. 
  • I have a total girlcrush on Christina Aguilera cause her voice can do anything.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I like to iron napkins. It’s so easy to get them perfect and crisp.
  • My favorite drink is sauvignon blanc with a splash of crème de cassis.

Don't miss the entire series! 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Book Convention Dos and Don'ts

I'm back from ALAMW14 and completely booked-out. Not only did I get to meet some awesome publishing people, but I got to hang out with all my favorite blogger friends! A big thank you to Hannah and Jen who took me under their wings and showed me the ropes for my first convention. 

Rather than do a recap, I compiled a few Dos/Don'ts from everything I learned (plus a fun giveaway!). 

Do prep ahead of time and know your floor plan. Also, highlight and laminate it like Hannah. I found myself asking, "Wait. Where is the Harper booth again?" five million times.

Don't forget to gush to Matthew Quick about Sara Zarr when you wait for him to sign your book. Unless you want to feel really embarrassed later.

Do talk! I have the hardest time talking to people I don't know (introvert, holla!), but book people can talk forever about books! So I asked lots of questions, but the one I found most effective was: "Which books are you most excited about?" 

Don't forget to include your agent's name on your business cards (like I did and then fought the urge to write it in with Sharpie). Also, if you want publishers to send you anything or put you on their lists, make sure your address is on there too (lesson number two for me!). If giving out your address to everyone makes you feel uncomfortable, some bloggers said they had two sets of cards. 

Do dress in layers. It was freezing and snowing outside, but a sauna inside the convention center. 

Don't forget to bring an extra tote. I thought I was good having two, but really needed three. And luckily Hannah had an extra I could snag on the way home. Plus, those books get heavy and you'll need to redistribute the weight. (Also, DON'T judge my ugly orange carpet!)

Do gush about all the writer friends you know who have ARCs out on display. I seriously fangirled when I saw agency brother Robert Lettrick's FRENZY at the Disney Hyperion Booth. 

Don't forget to check out the other booths! It was really cool to talk to people who published non-fiction and audio books. I even picked up this cool memoir by Jennifer Buhl about her life as a paparazzi.

Do ask the marketing and PR people at the booths for the titles you want--even if they aren't sitting out. It never hurts to ask (super, super politely!). 

Don't take more than one of each book--or any books you know you aren't going to read. I know they are just sitting out EVERYWHERE, but it's important that they get read and are reviewed. They're meant to build buzz for the book. 

Do pass on the book love! That's why I'm giving away an ARC of E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS and Leila Howland's NANTUCKET RED! Enter the Rafflecopter below! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Agents Like Us - Lucy Carson

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Lucy Carson from The Friedrich Agency is here!

She’s always on the lookout for YA and MG fiction (though nothing younger), but is also actively build her narrative non-fiction list, as well as upmarket fiction for adults, especially upmarket suspense. You can find her submission guidelines here and tweeting under @LucyACarson.

Lucy's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!

Lucy on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish they would dispense with the bestseller promises and movie speculation and just focus on the book itself and why a READER would connect to it, what makes it fresh and special. It's always tempting to oversell (with words like "guarantee") when pitching, but these are empty (and silly) promises which detract from the purity of a good pitch.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is calling an author to announce that a publisher has made an offer. There's nothing like the unadulterated joy that broadcasts back to me on the phone line-- never going to spoil that by writing an email! I'd like to think we're both excited when we decide to work together in an official capacity, but the moment when an offer arrives is the moment when the author's life is forever changed. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is being surprised. Whether it's a plot twist, or a narrator that I trust who is later revealed to be unreliable, or simply the kind of profound character development that takes an unexpected turn-- I want to be changed in some way by the literature that I read. Learning counts, but surprise is the ultimate delight.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I savor the sound of the happy author's voice. Hug my colleagues, especially my Mom. And finish the day with a glorious fried chicken dinner (but I do mix it up for restaurant choice).
  • I really wish I saw more non-fiction in the slush. A lot of agents approach journalists with non-fiction book ideas and grow the project from scratch. I'm not good at that, but I know a strong idea when I see one, and I work extensively with the writer to make it an airtight submission every time. I wish there were more non-fiction writers who submitted proposals without waiting for an agent to find them and convince them to write it. I'm of the opinion that the best projects start with the writer's desire to tell a story, rather than the writer feeling obliged to follow an agent's request.

Lucy on Clients
  • My ideal client would be someone who takes the writing profession as seriously as he or she expects me to take my profession. I'm not interested in one-shot deals, my entire agenting style is designed to build a career for a writer long-term. Since this goal directs my strategy, it wouldn't make sense to build one-book authors into my personal list. The value of commitment, the degree of loyalty, the respect for one's time-- these are all elements we should mutual agree upon.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is that though they are a diverse and varied group of writers, they are each and every one of them determined to succeed, ready to learn, and above all invested in building careers that last.
  • What I want most for any client is the best possible treatment from their publisher. Once the book is out in the world, it's up to readers and reviewers and word of mouth to generate an audience for it. But before that happens, we CAN work together to put everything possible in place for a strong entry into this market. Anyone who thinks the work of an agent ends at the publishing contract is either talking to some unfortunate writer friends OR badly misinformed. I would say that the most important moments in a book's life are the 4 months prior to its publication-- what I want for every client is that during those 4 months, no possible stones are left unturned, and every effort is made from every angle to give their book its best chance.

Lucy on Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a high-school guidance counselor. Some of the skills are pretty similar! And one of the things I love about agenting is that no two days are the same, it's full of surprises and challenges and it requires both deep sympathy and bold decisions that can have long-term effects. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl, at least for this year. I love suspense novels that are in their own league, free from convention and filled with complexity and nuance. I waited, along with other Pessl fans, a long time for this novel and it was well worth it!
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bone-cracking noises. I read a lot of genre fiction and have an over-active imagination, so when someone cracks their knuckles near me, it sends grotesque shivers down my spine.
  • My favorite drink is Bulleit bourbon and ginger beer, on ice with two limes.

Don't miss the entire series! 
Next week: Holly McGhee from Pippin Properties, Inc.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Agents Like Us - Natalie Lakosil

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Natalie Lakosil of Bradford Literary Agency is here!

She's actively looking for children’s literature (from picture book through teen and New Adult), romance (contemporary and historical), cozy mystery/crime, upmarket women’s/general fiction and select children’s nonfiction. You can find her blogging here, query information there, and tweeting under @Natalie_Lakosil.

Natalie's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!

Natalie on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish they'd open with a strong hook. This doesn't mean a question (please, no) and yes, I do want to read if we have a connection first (conference, met me, referral) but with the pitch - keep it simple and hook me in!
  • My favorite part about being an agent is loving what I do. From book deals to negotiation to reading to editing to even the challenging moments...I love my job and you can't ask for more than that.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is excitement. I don't care what it is really, but if it gets me so excited I want to skip the polish (I won't, don't worry) and send it out asap just to babble on about how much I love it and then awkwardly gush about it to my husband and at a dinner party (apparently chapter books aren't great dinner conversation with non-writers and agents...who knew)...that's what I want to represent.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I tell the author. Tell my boss. Tell my husband. Tell my cats. Jump up and down. And then think about how I'm going to make it even BETTER. ;) It's as exciting for me as authors...every time! 
  • I really wish I saw more adult romance or upmarket fiction in the slush. Everyone sends that to Laura Bradford and I want it too!

Natalie on Clients
  • My ideal client would be a prolific bestseller who never becomes entitled or "above" others and trusts, appreciates, and has a fabulous relationship with her editor, publisher, and agent.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is the diversity and talent. I adore all of my clients and love their spirit and passion.
  • What I want most for any client is to be published well. That doesn't have to mean the biggest advance, or a big 5 publisher, or incredible marketing support; it can (and hopefully does) mean those things, but primarily, it means a steady, solid career with growth and good sales with a house (or houses) that treats both the books and the author well (for editing, marketing, contracts, option works - all of it), direction, and diversity of subsidiary markets and/or genre of books that also has all of the above.

Natalie on Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a software engineer. Or a psychologist. I'm fascinated by code and like to think I'm a good listener with emotional intelligence. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is not possible to pin down.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of the dark. And monster hands grabbing me from under the bed. It can totally happen yo.
  • My secret boyfriend is David Tennant.
  • I have a total girlcrush on Natalie Portman. Except in THOR. Because I couldn't stop staring/drooling at Chris Hemsworth.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I nap. Read a published book. Watch cat videos. GLORIOUS. 
  • My favorite drink is also impossible to pin down. But I'll say a dirty martini as that's my bar go-to.

Don't miss the entire series! 
Next week: Lucy Carson of The Friedrich Agency.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What's Up Wednesday - 1.8.14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Is What's Up Wednesday back yet? If not, I'm scheduling this post anyway. I NEED a What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading
E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS! I was shocked when I managed to get a copy. It's really good, and really different, from any book I've ever read.

I realized I have a bit of a book problem...in that I've bought/been approved/was gifted way too many. My TBR shelf looks like this right now.

So, I'll just be over here DROWNING in books.

What I'm Writing

I feel like every time I get to this section, I'm like, "Yep. Still doing that." I'm trying to buckle down and settle in for some serious writing time this winter. I have two things I'm working on: one story that is about halfway done and one that I wrote over the summer/fall and need to go in like a wrecking ball and rewrite completely.

What Else I've Been Up To

I feel like I did all my fun stuff last week. I was in NY for NYE and got to cause trouble at The Strand and find (non-diseased) ticker tape in Times Square.

This is my first full week back at work too so I'm trying to adjust back to a full schedule of day job and night writing. I decided that I would set aside time at night to write.

This week, I'm just buckling down to work, which is just a different type of fun, but the alone kind.

Oh! Also, my Agents Like Us interview series is back. I have interviews lined up for the next 4 weeks. Pass it along to anyone you know who is querying, please and thank you!

Have an awesome week!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Agents Like Us - Andrea Somberg

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Andrea Somberg of the Harvey Klinger, Inc. is here!

She's actively looking for literary, commercial, women's fiction, romance, thrillers, mystery, paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, historical, young adult, middle grade, and nonfiction. You can find her website here, query information there, and tweeting under @AndreaSomberg.

Andrea's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!

Andrea on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish to fall absolutely in love with the project. 
  • My favorite part about being an agent is finding a manuscript that I can't put down - and that I can't wait for the rest of the world to read. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is whether the voice and the characters resonate with me. 
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I call the author and we rejoice. 
  • I really wish I saw more historical mysteries in the slush.

Andrea on Clients
  • My ideal client would be someone who is passionate and excited about their work but also recognizes that this is a business.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is how awesome they are. Literally, every one of them is awesome.
  • What I want most for any client is to find success and happiness in their publishing career.

Andrea on Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a ….. I'm not sure. Maybe a nurse? But I probably couldn't hack it. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is parenting books of all types. I find them oddly relaxing. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bees. I found out a year ago that I'm allergic.
  • My secret boyfriend is …… I honestly don't have one. Is that weird? 
  • I have a total girlcrush on all of my awesome girl friends. 
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I talk out loud to myself.
  • My favorite drink is a triple (beer).

Don't miss the entire series! 
Next week: Natalie Lakosil from Bradford Literary Agency.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Currently Reading - January 2014

Happy New Year!

BFF Kelly and I spent the holiday hunting down books at The Strand. We almost died on that ladder by the way. Some of their bookshelves are hiiigh up. 

We scored a ton of fun stuff, including this signed copy of Zoraida Cordova's THE VICIOUS DEEP. Kelly loves fantasy so I think she'll really like this one! She also picked up Robin McKinley's SUNSHINE.


This morning, we moseyed on by Times Square to check out the post-New Years festivities. I even picked up some (clean, non-diseased) ticker tape. I love the feeling of a brand new year. Absolutely anything can still happen. 

No joke, I got this tiny (no, really huge) thrill when I got to set my GoodReads Reading Challenge Goal (at maybe 12:01 AM last night). Like any good book nerd, I started strategizing my reading for the year months ago. I went through my shelf and PURGED. I got rid of everything I knew I wouldn't read (to donate, of course). 

And then I pulled some books aside to be my Gap books--books I know I bought at one time because I thought I *should* read them. Usually this is anything non-fiction or educational or literary. For me, this is usually anything non-YA.

So my plan is to keep with one book a week and to always include one Gap book in my mix. So for January, I'm planning to read...

Carrie Arcos' OUT OF REACH

 P.S. Say hi to Nelly sleeping on the floor!

I hope everyone has a great start to 2014. I can't wait to read together.

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Valerie has read 1 book toward her goal of 55 books.
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