Agent Monday: New Agent Marlo Berliner!

marloheadshot

Happy Agent Monday, and happy April everyone! Phew, we made it through March. Okay, I KNOW it’s April Fools day, but I promise this is a REAL post.  I’m excited today to introduce you all to one of our newest literary agents at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency – Marlo Berliner! It’s also very real and true that new agents are vigorously seeking new clients, so if you are a writer seeking an agent, I hope this info is helpful.

So let’s kick off our chat with Marlo!…

Q: Thanks for stopping by, Marlo! Tell us, how did you get into agenting?

A: Thanks for having me! I was originally an accounting manager for a Fortune 500 company, but I’ve been involved in publishing now for over twelve years, as a writer, the chair of a major publishing conference, a published author, a freelance editor, and finally a children’s lead bookseller for Barnes & Noble. As a freelance editor, I’ve always enjoyed helping other writers develop their stories. After a while, I realized I was able to recognize which stories in my inbox had much more potential than others. So when I saw an opportunity to intern at The Bent Agency, I jumped at it. I learned a great deal from that first year-long internship with Molly Ker Hawn, and then even more from my second internship with Colleen Oefelein at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I will always be grateful for what I learned from both of these amazing agents.

Q: Can you share some details about yourself, and how these have shaped who you are as an agent and as someone working with authors?

A: Being an agent is a great fit for me because I’ve had a nearly 360 degree view of publishing – as author, agent, editor and bookseller. As an author myself, I just love working with stories to make them stronger, and I also understand firsthand the trials of this profession, so I love being an advocate for writers.

Q: What types of projects are you representing? Anything you are especially hoping to find in your inbox?

A: I’m interested in all genres of MG and YA fiction, with particular emphasis on adventure, psychological thriller, suspense, mystery, paranormal, urban fantasy, horror, speculative, and romance. I enjoy magic, magical realism, unusual settings, pirates, dark elements, gothic tone, secrets or secretive characters, treasure hunts, and unreliable narrators. On the adult side, I’m looking for mystery, thriller, suspense, women’s fiction, and all genres of romance, except inspirational, historical and erotic. I’d love to find a richly layered, historical mystery in the vein of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale.

Q: Can you give us an example of one of your favorite books in each category that you represent, and why it’s your favorite?

A: So, so many I could mention but here are a few. MG – the Nevermoor series, love the magic and wonder of these books. YA – One of Us is Lying, love the way the story is told through multiple POVs and yet seamlessly moves the plot forward. Mystery, Thriller, Suspense –  The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Bring Me Back, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Give Me Your Hand, love the dark, twisty, page-turning plots and complicated characters. Women’s Fiction –  The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, so many feels! Romance – The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang, so heart-warming, fun and original.

Q: To help folks understand your point of view, what are some of your favorite TV shows and Movies?

A: I don’t watch too much TV, but when I do I tend to binge watch an entire season or series at once. Some of my favorites are Stranger Things, You, Bird Box, The Passage, Supernatural, Arrow, and Ghost Adventures (as fodder for my own series, The Ghost Chronicles). I’m a huge movie buff, so I could list hundreds of movies as my favorites, but I’ll give just a few old and new – Practical Magic, Titanic, Avatar, The Woman in Black, La La Land, The Greatest Showman, and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Q: What’s in your reading pile?

A: I love to read widely across ages and genres. Right now, I’m looking forward to diving into some new middle grade – The Friendship War by Andrew Clements, Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner, and The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I’m also reading All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda.

Q: What makes a successful query to you?

A: To me a successful query begins with the title, genre and word count, so I know what I’m supposed to be considering. It’s an added bonus if you can add some personalization of why you specifically queried me (i.e. you met me at a conference, saw something I mentioned on #MSWL, read an interview about me, etc.) From there, the query should clearly describe who the main character is, what the dilemma is that they’ve been thrown into, and what the stakes are. This is the ‘meat’ of the query, so be sure to show me the hook, or what makes your story unique. End the query with a short bio that tells me a bit about yourself, particularly your writing pursuits, publications and any accolades. Then attach the most sparkling first twenty pages you can – show me a well-thought-out original concept, with memorable characters, a great voice, and solid, polished writing. Draw me into your story, your world, and your character’s dilemma immediately. Make those first twenty pages so great I simply have to ask for more. And if I do, then send me a full manuscript that has all of the above through to the very last page.

Q: What are some common query mistakes that will result in an immediate rejection?

A: I sometimes can forgive a muddled up query letter, one which doesn’t follow what I’ve outlined in the previous question, but it usually puts me on alert that the pages may not hold up either. In most cases, I will still read a few pages of the writing to give the writer a chance. But if the writing doesn’t wow me by page ten, you’re done. One of the more common mistakes is writing that feels too distant and doesn’t make me feel as if I am taking a journey along with the main POV character. Also, secondary characters that are cardboard – they’re given a physical description, a minor purpose for being in the story, and little else. Another mistake I see quite frequently, particularly in fantasy, is throwing me in a first scene with tons of action, but no depth to the characters, setting, or context. For instance, manuscripts which begin with an ongoing sword fight that could be taking place anywhere, any time period, on any planet. I need to at least know a bit about the setting to ground me, and a bit about the characters so I’ll care. Head hopping within a scene will also make me reject quickly. Telling a story through multiple POVs is fine; head hopping is not. And if a writer doesn’t know the difference between the two, then it makes me question how much they really know their craft.

Q: Are you a very editorial agent? What does that mean to you?

A: I am very editorially hands-on with my clients. I will work hard with my authors to get their work 100% ready for submission to editors, through multiple revisions if that’s what it takes. I thoroughly enjoy editing at all levels, from big-picture right down to line-editing, and would want to be sure we are sending out an author’s very best work.

Q: What is your idea of an ideal client?

A: An ideal client is one who reads voraciously, writes consistently, and wants a career as an author. An ideal client will also show patience, be open to critique and revisions, and always be seeking to improve their craft.

Q: Where can folks go to follow you online?

A: I’m active on both Twitter and Instagram: @marloberliner

Q: Your link for submission guidelines?

A: The best place for my most up-to-date guidelines is on The Jennifer De Chiara website here. : https://www.jdlit.com/marloberliner and you can query me here.

Thanks for stopping by Marlo!  You can also meet some of our other new agents by visiting some of my past Agent Monday postings. And don’t forget to check back for more Agent Monday stuff here in the future. Happy April to you all. 🙂

 

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: New Agent Zabé Ellor

Zabe Ellor

Happy Agent Monday, everyone! Today I’m so happy to introduce you to another fine new Associate Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency – Zabé Ellor! So let’s get this Q & A started!

Q: Hi Zabé! Thanks so much for joining us here. How did you get into agenting?

A: When I got my first publishing job out of college, I was very unsure of what I wanted to do, but I knew I loved working with authors and helping them achieve their goals. Listening to an interview with agent Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch helped me realize that agenting would be a career that could fit well with my passions. I sought out agency internships and, after interning for a year, received an offer to join JDLA.

Q: Can you share some details about yourself, and how these have shaped who you are as an agent and as someone working with authors?

A: Books have always been my guiding passion! I was a voracious reader growing up, and my favorite kids’ books will always have a special place in my heart. When I take on a project, it’s because I feel it has the potential to leave just as deep a mark on readers.

Q: What types of projects are you representing? Anything you are especially hoping to find in your inbox?

A: I represent all genres of YA (except for category romance) adult SFF, graphic novels, and select nonfiction (preferably history/science). If you’re a science journalist with a strong story to tell about an under-explored topic, I’d love to see your proposal in my inbox!

Q: Can you give us an example of one of your favorite books in each category that you represent, and why it’s your favorite?

A: In YA, I’m really enjoying A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney—an action-packed, fun, voice-driven Alice in Wonderland retelling. I love YA books that really feel like they were written with teenagers in mind! In science fiction, I really loved An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon—a dark, literary tale that seemed to perfectly capture the feeling of hanging adrift in space. In graphic novels, I absolutely treasured Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge, a beautifully drawn tale of family, friendship, and belonging. Finally, in nonfiction, Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean B. Carroll is one of my favorite pieces of science writing. I love how it takes a complex subject and distills it for a mass audience.

Q: To help folks understand your point of view, what are some of your favorite TV shows and movies?

A: I’m a sucker for classic comedies—my all-time favorite is The Princess Bride—but while I love humor, I find it very difficult to pull off in a novel!

Q: What’s in your reading pile?

A: Too many books! Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James is at the top of my TBR right now, as is Kingdom of Copper by S. A. Chakraborty.

Q: What makes a successful query to you?

A: Get me excited by showing me you have a unique, cohesive story to tell in a genre I represent.

Q: What are some common query mistakes that will result in an immediate rejection?

A: Not telling me about the project. The goal of the query is to tell me what the book is about. Your publication credits, platform, the themes of the book, potential market are all secondary.

Q: Are you a very editorial agent? What does that mean to you?

A: Every project needs a different level of editorial input. To me, being an editorial agent means I meet the project where it is and help shape it into what it has the potential to be.

Q: What is your idea of an ideal client?

A: Someone with an interesting book that’s a good fit for the market, and someone interested in a collaborative partnership to bring that to life. It’s incredibly important to me that I have a diverse base of clients.

Q: Where can folks go to follow you online?

A: I’m best reached on Twitter, where my handle is @ZREllor

Q: Your link for submission guidelines?

A: Please send a query letter, 1-2 page synopsis, and first 25-30 pages to http://queryme.online/ZabeEllor

Q: Anything else you’d like people to know about you or what you are looking for?

A: I have a pretty eclectic MSWL, but if you can relate your story to one of my tagged tweets, I’ll be really excited to see it!

Thanks so much for letting us all get to know you a bit better, Zabé!  Folks can also visit Zabé’s page over at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency by clicking here.  And pop by again for another Agent Monday post!

 

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Cover Reveal! A DAY SO GRAY

Gray cover

You guys!  I am so delighted to share the cover of my newest picture book A DAY SO GRAY!!!  Illustrated by Alea Marley, it comes out through Clarion on October 29, 2019, but it’s available for pre-order now here.

If you belong to Goodreads, would you kindly add it as “to read” there by clicking on this link? That way others will see it too. Thank you so much!

What an amazing job Alea has done with this book. The images are absolutely stunning throughout…Honestly, I’m just humbled that she has brought such beauty to my words. To learn more about this fabulous illustrator and see more of her work, definitely visit her site here.

A DAY SO GRAY follows two friends as a day transforms from bleak and gray to full of beauty and joy, just by taking the time to notice colorful details everywhere. It’ll be coming out just before the holidays, ahead of those gray days to follow.  And I hope this will offer mindful and cozy inspiration for families everywhere.

The idea for this book came from my father, Santo Busterna, who, as an artist himself, always pointed to colors within the landscape, encouraging me as a young child to notice and appreciate the lovely details. To this day, I can’t drive past a winter field without picking out licorice red twigs, or golden poofs of wild grasses.

Thanks SO MUCH to my wonderful editor Anne Hoppe, the great team at Clarion, and to my fabulous agent Jennifer De Chiara for bringing this vision to life! And to each of you folks reading this for always being such wonderful advocates of books for children. 🙂

If you’d like more info about the book, I’ll be updating its page on my website here.

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: New Agent Savannah Brooks!

SavannahHappy Agent Monday, everyone!  Did you miss me? 😉  It HAS been a busy time here, with lots of exciting goings on.  Part of that excitement? The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency has welcomed some terrific new agents. Today, let’s get to know more about new Associate Agent Savannah Brooks…

Q: Hi Savannah! Thanks so much for taking the time to visit.  How did you get into agenting?

A: When I started my MFA program back in 2015, I wanted to get as much experience in as many avenues of publishing as possible. So when I heard about the opportunity to intern for JD Lit, I jumped on it. I interned with Damian McNicholl for a year and a half before officially coming on board. I loved (and still love) the way agenting blends manuscript editing with author and editor facetime. It’s the perfect mix.

Q: Can you share some details about yourself, and how these have shaped who you are as an agent and as someone working with authors?

A: This isn’t anything new, but I’ll say it anyway: being a writer myself really informs the processes I create with my authors. I write creative nonfiction, mostly personal essays pretty heavily influenced by research (though I dabble in fiction as well). The last essay I had published I started writing two years prior. It’s an essay I wrote a few drafts of then had to put away for a while. I worked on other pieces, I grew as a writer, and I made it better with time. So when I look at an author’s career, I’m not just considering this one book; I’m considering the ways that writing and revising this one book can inform all the books that are to come.

Q: What types of projects are you representing? Anything you are especially hoping to find in your inbox?

A: I didn’t exactly mean for this to happen, but I’ve found myself focusing pretty heavily on YA fiction. By its nature, YA is extremely voice driven, and I’m most intrigued by characters. Weird, obsessive, smart, unforgettable characters. That being said, I’ve been keeping an eye out for funny, voice-driven adult fiction that isn’t afraid to tackle big topics but knows how to do it and entertain at the same time. Think An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.

Q: Can you give us an example of one of your favorite books in each category that you represent, and why it’s your favorite?

A: I’ll do some category bending here. Starting with one of the main players in the “what the heck is YA anyway” category: the His Dark Materials series. I’ve read this series countless times over the years, and each time, I’m floored by three things: how much I adore Lyra as a character, how real the worlds feel despite jumping around in them so frequently, and how layered the narrative is. As I grew up, the main focus of the story bounced around: adventure, love, religion, quantum physics, war. This is a book accessible and intriguing to readers of practically any age, which is, to put it simply, a feat.

For very similar reasons, I’ve also always gravitated to the Chronicles of Narnia series. I remember being crying-level devastated as a child by the fact that I could never actually get to Narnia. The world felt that real to me. Again, a feat, especially in children’s and middle grade writing. (That the film producers cast Ben Barnes as Prince Caspian certainly didn’t hurt my continued obsession into my teenage years, though I think I would’ve stuck with the series regardless.) I’m not a religious or spiritual person, but I’ve always been fascinated by Lewis’s allusions to Christianity. You can either read to be entertained or read to solve a puzzle. That level of engagement is powerful.

Q: To help folks understand your point of view, what are some of your favorite TV shows and Movies?

A: I don’t actually watch a ton of TV/movies, but this seems like a good opportunity for some psychoanalyzing, so why not? The shows I tend to turn to are Criminal Minds (again), America’s Next Top Model (again), Rick and Morty (again), Riverdale, and Planet Earth II. (Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I want anyone to read too deeply into that selection, but here we are.) As far as movies go, I’m always a sucker for Pixar and Marvel. I’ve seen Moana more times than I’d like to admit. I would say listening to “How Far I’ll Go” doesn’t still make me tear up (yes! girl power!), but that would be a lie. Continue reading

Webinar for YA Writers – with Critique and Q&A!

MP910220840Hot summer tip time… Attention writers of YA novels! Literary agent Cari Lamba and I (we’re both from the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in NYC) are teaching the live Writer’s Digest Webinar “Write And Sell Your Young Adult Novel – Must-Know Info For Getting Published” on Thursday July 12th at 1 p.m.

This 90 minute webinar will help you craft and sell a novel that literary agents, publishers and readers will love. It covers the YA market (including the 10 things the top NYC editors are asking for right now), tools that will help you craft a strong and focused YA novel, and details on how to create a professional and artful query letter that will impress literary agents.

The webinar includes a Q&A plus a personal critique of your query letter and your YA novel’s opening pages.

A bit about us… Cari and I are both agents at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York.  We represent authors of fiction for children through adults, pitching their novels to all the major publishers. In addition, I’m an author of picture books and young adult novels (including the Random House novel WHAT I MEANT…, and the novels DRAWN and OVER MY HEAD), so along with our literary agent point of view, I’ll bring my YA author perspective to this webinar as well.

*Can’t attend the live webinar? Registration still entitles you to a copy of the on demand webinar, plus the critique. So you can still go for it!*

Interested? Act quickly, the webinar is SOON! Eep! For info and registration click here.

 
*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: Fix Your Middle Grade Novel

Rear view of class raising handsHi everyone!  Happy Agent Monday!  Okay, YES, it’s Tuesday, but it’s never too late to learn about how to fix your novel. Today’s focus?: the middle grade novel. As an agent, I see so many submissions that are instant rejections because they don’t fit into that middle grade category in a fundamental way.  That’s a book I can’t sell. So is your middle grade missing the mark, and how can you make it really shine?

This Thursday, Agent Cari Lamba and I will be teaching a live webinar through Writer’s Digest called WRITING AND SELLING THE MIDDLE GRADE NOVEL: MUST-KNOW INFORMATION FOR GETTING PUBLISHED. It starts at 1 p.m., includes a Q&A with us, as well a personal critique of your query letter and the first 5 pages of your middle grade novel. There is still time to sign up! For more info, and to register click here. (Note that even if you can’t attend this webinar live, you can still register and get the recorded webinar, as well as get your personal critique.)

In this webinar, Cari and I cover the many ways that writers unwittingly ruin their chances at publication. We realized that there is a lot of need-to-know stuff – A LOT! So if you are writing in the middle grade category, DEFINITELY do your homework before submitting to any agents, whether by attending our webinar, or through extensive research. It’s simply a must.

For example, middle grade novels are geared at 8-12 year old readers, yet, because kids “read up” they are typically about characters aged 10-13 or so. So if your main character is only 8 years old, that’s too young! Also note that middle grade is not synonymous with middle school readers. Those readers are typically reading young adult novels, which is a whole other ball of wax.

Middle grade novels are of a certain length. Go too long or too short on the word count range and you’ll be hurting your story’s chances of acceptance.  Another vital thing to keep in mind?: subject matter and how it’s handled. Can you handle tough stuff? Sure. But the way it is handled in a picture book, vs. a middle grade novel, vs. a young adult novel is vastly different. In the webinar, we’ll cover how to handle tough subjects for this market in an age-appropriate way.

Young Boy at School Raising His Hand to Answer in Class

Study up, writers! The webinar includes a Q&A

There is a lot of ground we’ll be covering, but one important tip to keep in mind is that you must understand where kids are developmentally at these ages. Look that info up, and you’ll find a range of great themes and concerns that can help appropriately shape your story and your character’s point of view.

Also – are you up to date on current middle grade novels? If you are only reading classics, or ones you remember from your childhood, then your own novel may not be up-to-date enough when it comes to pacing and themes and voice.  We’ll cover what elements are essential in great middle grade fiction today, as well as share the top 10 things top editors have personally told us they are seeking in middle grade right now. We’ll also cover how to put together a strong query letter for your novel, and we’ll include examples of queries that actually led to representation and then to book deals.

So is your middle grade novel a good fit for its audience? Or are you creating a manuscript that won’t fit on any shelf because you are mixing up elements, subject matter and point of view? I often have to reject MG novel submissions because of this, so please do your homework, and make sure you understand what a middle grade novel is, and what it isn’t. This will help your novel become one that will make agents and readers alike take notice.

Maybe I’ll *see* you at the Webinar!

Happy writing!
Marie

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site.

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Agent Monday: Fix those Pitch and Query Mistakes!

yes - notepad & penHappy Agent Monday, everyone!  Conference season is heating up, and New York publishing is back in full force after a sleepy end of summer.  That means it’s time for writers to put their manuscripts in front of agents! Whether through a query or through an in-person pitch, you only get a short time to impress an agent. Are you spoiling your chances by bungling this or are you pitching and querying like a pro? If this is your first time out there, or if you aren’t getting the responses you’d like from agents, it may be time to fix those pitch and query mistakes!

Pitch times with agents are brief – anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 minute.  Yet a frequent mistake I see is a writer who eats up that time telling me WHY they wrote this story, or HOW it is told in first person or through alternate viewpoints, or…  Mistake!  Have you ever picked up a novel and bought it for those reasons? It’s all about the story – at least at first. So guess what you should focus on in that brief pitch? Yup – the story.

As a literary agent, I’ve seen, oh, thousands of queries. What’s a frequent mistake writers make? Their description of their book goes on and on for paragraphs. I don’t have the time to read so many long queries, but the real turn off for agents is that these long descriptions are often full of unneeded info, and tend to lack zing. This is writing that needs tightening, and that makes a plot feel unclear and unexciting. So if your book description in your query goes on for several paragraphs, it’s time to give your query letter a serious edit.

These are just a few important changes to your pitching and querying skills that might make a big difference when you try to interest an agent in representing you. If you would like to learn more, Associate Literary Agent Cari Lamba and I are offering a live Webinar through Writer’s Digest called HOW TO PITCH AND QUERY LIKE A PRO: TIPS AND TECHNIQUES THAT MAKE AGENTS TAKE NOTICE. Register for this, and you’ll attend our webinar online where we will show the ins and outs of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to pitching and querying agents. The webinar also includes a live Q&A with us where every question asked by participants is answered. And it includes a personal critique from us of your own query letter and the first 5 pages of your novel.  The cost for all of this is $89.99, and it’ll sharpen your skills before you spend far more on conferences or waste any more valuable time with an ineffective query letter. Be sure to register before the October 19th date! Note that although the Webinar begins live at 1 p.m. on the 19th, you don’t have to attend it live to view it and have the critique – so no worries there. Webinars, of course, are great because you don’t have to travel to attend, can attend in your jammies if you’d like, and you’ll have the recorded session after the live event to refer to again and again. If you’d like to find out more about the HOW TO PITCH AND QUERY LIKE A PRO Webinar, or would like to register for this, click here.

Hope to “see” you then!

*Marie is a Literary Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City. To keep up with all her Agent Monday posts, subscribe to her site.

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