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! 

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