Update for Querying Writers & Illustrators, Feb. 2017

Oh, dear. Remember the days when we all used to regularly update our blogs? Clearly, I'm not so good at it as I once was (you're more apt to find me on Twitter)! But a few housekeeping updates: 

1. Last month marked my one-year-iversary of the Agenting Life. Thanks for being here with me.

2. If you queried before 2/25/17 and have not had a personal response requesting a full manuscript, I'm sorry, but I've concluded that I'm not the right agent for your work, so it's a pass for me. 

3. This also means that Query Mountain has, for but a fleeting moment, been vanquished! (That's about 5K queries over the course of 13 months, for those who like stats.)

4. If you're waiting to hear from me on a requested full, I'm sorry! I read every query and full manuscript myself (no interns, no assistants, no outside readers, plus client needs always take precedence) and so I can only read at the speed of, well, my eyeballs. But I am working very hard to catch up. You'll hear from me soon. 

5. And if you're in the querying trenches, do take heart: a full half of the offers of representation (including both authors and illustrators and author/illustrators) that I made over the last 13 months have been to writers/illustrators who arrived in my submissions inbox otherwise entirely unknown to me. And every time the process works successfully like this, I absolutely cheer, so please do keep your queries and submissions and portfolio shares coming.

6. If you're the conference-attending sort, I've recently updated my Events page with some places I'll be in 2017. I'd love to meet you at one of them 

7. Captain Von Smooch sends greetings to all who have taken time to acknowledge him in their queries. He'd add a personal note here, except that as of late he's been spending his time obsessed with the artistic practice of breaking the fourth wall and with discovering new endings. Literally. 

Happy writing and art-making, friends! 

 

Update for Querying Writers and Illustrators #2

Hi friends, just a quick note: if you queried me on or before APRIL 1, and have not received a request for a full manuscript, I am sorry, but I have determined that I am not the right agent to represent your work. If I have requested a full manuscript but have not yet responded, know that I am still reading, and you will receive a direct response, no matter my decision. My current reading time on fulls is slower than my reading time on queries, but I'm hard at work, catching up. Thanks to all of you for your patience as I've worked to find the rhythms of my agenting life over the past few months. Thanks, too, to all who have chosen to query me--I'm sincerely sorry that I cannot say yes to all of you (but since Query Mountain has now grown in excess of 2,000 queries in 4 months, I'd need about 600 extra sets of eyes and hands to make that happen)!

All-time favorite posts/articles on Craft

Today in short order, I sent several different writers to my top three favorite/most useful blog posts about the craft of writing. And I realized that I have been sending writers to these same posts year after year after year, because they're just that great. So I figured, hey: Why not share them more widely? Thus without further ado, enjoy:

1.  Hot Dog, Katsa by Kristin Cashore (writing for The Horn Book): Six-plus years after it was first written, this remains one of the best things I've ever read about the intricacies and unspoken rules of being a builder of worlds, i.e. a fiction writer of any sort, but especially genre-style storytelling. I highly, highly recommend it.  

2.  The Backpack: Back before she was a household name (or even had a book deal!), Veronica Roth was writing smart, savvy blog posts that I suspect I'll be pointing writers to for years to come. "The Backpack" is one of the simplest and most well-articulated pieces of writing advice I've ever read, tackling one of the easiest mistakes to make as a novelist. It's especially relevant if you're writing fantasy or sci-fi or similar genres that give you enormous license to make up details, but it can really be applied to any kind of storytelling, even real-world contemporary stuff! 

3. "Thoughts on Universals": Last but definitely not least, once upon a time, before she became a stellar YA author, Hilary T. Smith wrote a blog called THE INTERN which explained all sorts of mysteries about the worlds of writing and publishing. INTERN's post about universality remains gold-standard in my mind in terms of unpacking what it means to write a story that is as resonant as possible for readers everywhere. (And then go check out the most up-voted quotes from Wild Awake on Goodreads, and see how excellent a job she did, sculpting her own universals!)

P.S. If you're so inclined, share links to your own all-time favorite posts/articles about craft in the comments or your preferred social media outlet . . . because it's a Monday, and we can all use inspiration on a Monday, no?

Update for Querying Writers and Illustrators #1

Hello, authors and illustrators! And my, but there are a lot of you creative folk out there! Since opening to queries two months ago, I have received over 1,300 queriesThat's rather a lot of reading (especially when you add in sample pages and portfolio perusals), but I am grateful for the chance to consider each project, and I've been diligently attacking Query Mountain each day. 

To that end, here's an update: if you queried me on or before MARCH 1, and have not received a request for a full manuscript, I am sorry, but I have determined that I am not the right agent to represent your work. If I have requested a full manuscript but have not yet responded, know that I am still reading, and you will receive a direct response, no matter my decision. My current reading time on fulls is running about 8-12 weeks, and occasionally longer. And if you queried after March 1, I'll get to your query as soon as I can! I will also continue posting regular date-by alerts like this to my blog, to help you know (in the collective sense, at least) whether your query is still under consideration.

And, while I am unable to respond personally to each query due to the sheer volume, please know that I am inspired by each of you who makes the effort to connect with readers by sharing your creative talents. It has likewise been a delight to be reminded by many of you of conversations had and connections made while at writers' conferences or via social media. And to those of you who don't have a personal connection with me, I promise that you're in no way at a disadvantage: in fact, the last two clients I've signed arrived as cold queries in my inbox, and I am now delighted to be working with each of them to further their publishing careers. And lastly, my feline assistant, Captain Von Smooch, has been delighted by the leagues of writers/artists who have paid him homage in their letters. 

More here soon, including an updated Manuscript Wishlist! But for now: back to reading, reading, reading!

That Publishing Life

Thirteen years ago, on the day after Martin Luther King Day, I started my first full-time job in children's publishing as a marketing assistant and wide-eyed new arrival to New York City. In the intervening years, I set up a whole lotta conference booths; made friends with a myriad of librarians, educators, booksellers, and book creators; marveled over countless books; mailed out approximately a-zillion-and-three advanced copies to readers and reviewers; became an editor; spoke at a bunch of conferences; discovered and published some phenomenal authors and illustrators; acquired and edited #1 New York Times bestsellers and award winners and movie-makers; and took a temporary adventure into the world of tech and start-ups. Thirteen years later, I'm a richer (and incredibly lucky!) human, thanks to all of those experiences. 

And thirteen years later, on the day after Martin Luther King Day, I'm starting again: this time as a literary agent, eager to contribute to the publishing industry in a whole new way, and to help guide the careers of authors and artists I haven't even met yet. I'm so excited. (And ready to read, and read, and read, your submissions.)

Here's to delightfully-circular career anniversaries and life pivots, friends! 

MG/YA/PB wishlist, January 2016 edition

"So. What are you looking for?" Every agent or editor answers this question thousands of times, across their career. Here's my first stab at it as an agent! (Note: I'll be updating this list regularly, as my list grows; you can search via the "Manuscript Wishlist" tag for updates.) 

In picture books, I gravitate in three directions (though not necessarily all at once): sweet and gentle, wittily subversive, or outright silly. I also have a strong appreciation for well-written picture book biographies that combine a vivid sense of personality and character intertwined with the facts and historical details that make their life unique. I'm rarely, if ever, drawn to snark, or picture book manuscripts that are primarily lists or descriptions of a character's day, rather than fully-developed stories. 

In all stories (but particularly MG/YA fiction), I get excited by:

  • A careful balance of universal elements and specific details: making any reader feel a sense of connection between their life and your story, while also presenting a highly memorable read.

  • Strong depictions of place, whether real or imaginary: where the richness of the setting/world-building has powerful influence on character/plot development. (I have an especial fondness for Southern voices, having grown up in Texas.)

  • Friendship stories: in picture books and middle grade, of course, but also in YA (since the teenaged sense of self is so often shaped by friends). "Band of misfits becomes a family" is a favorite trope of mine, as are books that might best be described as "the love story of a friendship" (rather than a romance).

  • Stories of heartbreak, heartache, and heart-healing. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, humor! In short, I'm looking for books (and characters!) with the power to make a reader laugh, cry, think, or feel, deeply. 

  • Stories that are fresh, inventive, or ground-breaking in their structure, format, or plot, while also having a strong emotional core. (Think: re-tellings, genre mashups, speculative fiction, and other stories based on a compelling "what if.") I get excited when an author finds a new, utterly unexpected way of telling a seemingly-familiar tale, or builds a world that diverts from history, science, or reality as we know it, alongside of a character we can't forget. If it's never been done before but you're convinced that you're the person who can pull it off (whatever it is!), then I want to read it. 

  • Cinematic writing: if readers are dream-casting in their heads while they read because your vibrant storytelling, sweeping settings, amusing worldplay, and vivid characterizations, it's a good thing.

  • Magical realism: I can't get enough of stories with worlds that appear much like our own, but that have a touch of the fantastical or extraordinary. (Note: magical realism is different than fantasy.)

  • Action & adventure balanced with richly-developed characters: If you can keep readers rapidly turning pages, but also make them care about who your plot is happening to, chances are you'll quickly have deeply-invested readers. 

  • Diversity in all its facets. Our books should represent our readers. All of them.