Thursday, August 27, 2009

The state of the business, from the people who know it best.

Yep, that's right. More SCBWI. I know, I know, you're all thinking, "Geez, girl ... don't you have anything else to talk about?" But I feel like I can't stop until I've shared it all. It's a sickness, I know. I can't help it. :)

BRANDA BOWEN, SARAH DAVIES, STEPHEN FRASER, DAN LAZAR, KELLY SONNACK, & MARIETTA ZACKER—Agents Panel: The State of the Business

(1) Marietta Zacker

About submitting:
-Nancy Gallt Agency
-Accepting manuscripts—snail mail is better, but email is okay
-Represents every age group and genre
-Send: query + synopsis, via snail mail or email

On the economy: editors are not taking anything for granted; i.e., they’re having deep conversations, etc., to find out exactly what they’re looking for prior to taking it on.

Willingness to edit: agents are not scared to work on a manuscript with an author.
-Authors should expect editing to happen during the agenting process, as well as a heck of a lot more editing after that.
-An agent is trying to edit the work to a point that he/she is confident that it can sell, since editors now want books at a more ready state before considering them for acquisition.

(2) Kelly Sonnack

About submitting:
-Andrea Brown Agency, which specializes in children’s literature
-Specializes in children's books (PB, MG, and YA)
-Send: query + first 10 pages, via email

On the economy: the market is hurting a lot less in the children’s market than in the adult market. When there’s a dip in the market, debut PBs (picture books) tend to get hit first, but these are still being sold.
-Andrew Brown Agency sold 16 books last month (July)
-There is no crisis, but publishers are being more selective and are less likely to take on risks than before. Things are changing, but people are handling it.
-Adults are reading YA, which helps the children’s market.

Willingness to edit: does a lot of editing to help authors get the book as good as they can to get as good of an offer as possible. Doesn't want to send something off a week early if it means the offer will suffer for it.

(3) Dan Lazar

About submitting:
-Writers House, senior agent
-Represents mostly MG, but more YA now.
-List = “weird kids in small towns” theme
-Loves graphic novels, which are being embraced more by the children’s world now
-Send: query + first 5 pages, via email

On the economy: books may be selling for less, but great stuff is still selling.

Willingness to edit: will go through 6 months+ revisions with an author if the book needs that kind of editing, prior to sending it out. This helps sales go more quickly.

The most successful queries are the ones that don’t harp on themes and ideas. Specific details are what’s interesting.
-Include what a character says or what he/she looks like in the query.
-E.g., from a query he received (and I directly quote, so the F-bomb to follow)—“Young Nicole and her museum of fucked up things” made him want to read more.
-Present yourself in the best, most evocative way possible.

(4) Stephen Fraser

About submitting:
-Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency—boutique agency
-Represents children’s lit and teens
-Unpublished submissions welcomed.
-Looking for careers they can cultivate, not just people with one book in them.
-Looking for real/fresh ideas—“dazzle us”

On the economy: believes things are starting to turn back around.

Willingness to edit: will thrash out ideas with existing clients and act in an editorial capacity as much as he’s able to.

“Every good book has a home. There is a place for your good book.”
-Agents want to fall in love with your work. The thrill of finding/discovering new talent is what they’re looking for.

(5) Sarah Davies (p.s. this woman is amazing; more on her to come later, so stay tuned)

About submitting:
-Greenhouse Literary Agency—launched in Jan 2008
-Willing to assist in editing if she sees a great voice, but make your work the best you can before submitting.
-Represents Lindsey Leavitt—Princess for Hire
-Being a literary agent is her passion and her vocation; it’s not just a job.
-Send: view greenhouseliterary.com for submission guidelines. Send e-query + first 5 pages.

Willingness to edit: she’s looking more for potential with writers than completion. She can work on plot, but she can’t create a voice for an author.
-She has gone through complete rewrites with authors before.
-She does this to get an author the best deal she can.

An awesome quote from her (it must be said in a British accent to get the full awesomeness effect): “Squeeze the juice from your fruit. Take your characters. Take your plot, and wring every ounce of juice out of them for me.”

(6) Brenda Bowen

About submitting:
-Sanford J Greenburger Associates Literary Agency
-Represents Dan Brown and author of “Fancy Nancy”
-New agent—for about 5 weeks now (as of the date of the conference)
-She started an Imprint at Harper Collins, which was thereafter axed.
-Represents PB and MG (never stated whether she reps YA, so check website prior to submitting).
-She’s looking for strong voices, creative use of language, and confident writing.
-Send: email materials; see website for submission guidelines

General info from panel: (i.e., I have no idea who said these things b/c my note-taking got kind of shoddy near the end):

Publishers want as finished a book as they can get from an agent/editor. The work needs to be very finished and polished before submission.
-Publishing houses are under pressure b/c of flat sales/downturn.
-Books are still selling, including books by new authors, so remain optimistic.

Focus on your craft—learn to write and create great voice and a fresh premise.

Things to look for in contracts:
-Option clause
-High discount royalties (the higher the discount your book is bought at, the more likely you are to have reduced royalties).
-Out of print clause (protect the second life of your book)
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That's it for now. Hope this helps at least one of you!

5 comments:

Lisa and Laura said...

Awesome info, Jess!! It's so great to hear that debut authors are still selling. Gives us hope!

Little Ms J said...

One of my dream agents is on this list, so thanks for sharing! Granted, I suck at querying, so maybe DREAMY won't love me, but every lil bit helps!

storyqueen said...

Thanks, Jess. I was not able to go to SCBWI and this was one of the panels I was most interested in. You gave lots of great details.....I almost felt like I was sitting right there!

Shelley

ElanaJ said...

Thank you for posting! I so want to be there, and I can't. So thanks thanks thanks! Great information. :-)

jessjordan said...

LiLa: I thought the very same thing every time I heard it. Yay for all of us!

LMJ: Querying isn't my thing, either, so I feel your pain. We should have a query party.

Storyqueen: It was a great panel with lots of amazing info. I took down as much as I could, and my poor little hand was exhausted by the last day!

Elana: You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome! Wish you could've been there :)