Agent Monday: Senior Agent Stephen Fraser

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Happy Agent Monday to all!  Today I’m honored to be hosting at Q&A with Stephen Fraser, Senior Agent at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Stephen is a wonderful and kind agent with an acute eye for spotting talent! So let’s get to know a bit more about him here.

Q. Stephen, thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions! How did you get into agenting?

A. Happy to be here! I was an editor for 25 years at seven different publishers, working on everything from a children’s magazine, two children’s book clubs (both hardcover and paperback), and trade books (both paperback and hardcover imprints). When I left HarperCollins, there were no more jobs at the executive editor level available at that time – in fact, a lot of executive positions were eliminated – that was when Jennifer De Chiara asked me if I’d be interested in joining her agency. Interestingly, I had been the first editor she’d made a deal with when she had started her agency.

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. I was an English major in college and I did a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature. Because I was an editor, I have a lot of experience working one-on-one with writers.

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

A. I represent everything from board books to picture books to chapter books to middle grade and young adult. Both fiction and nonfiction. I have done a few books for adults, like a couple of photograph collections and some Hollywood books. I have one adult novel I am shopping around. But children’s and teen are my primary focus.  In fact, the books that have won awards are all middle grade novels, like HEART OF A SAMURAI by Margi Preus which won the Newbery Honor; GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams, which won a PEN grant; and ICEFALL by Matthew J. Kirby, which won the Edgar.

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. One of my favorite picture books is THE GREEN UMBRELLA by Jackie Kramer. I love the circular structure of the narrative and the wonderful read-aloud quality. I love Janice Harrington’s touching verse novel, CATCHING A STORYFISH, which tells the middle grade story of a girl who finds her own voice. PURE GRIT by Mary Cronk Farrell is an outstanding nonfiction story which is true ‘narrative nonfiction.’ It reads like a novel. THE CHOSEN ONE by Carol Lynch Williams is a riveting story of a teen girl who runs away from a polygamist community. Guess what – I sold this story just one day before that news story broke about the Texan polygamist community!

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

A. I love movies – I see at least two movies each week – and I like a variety of genres. EIGHTH GRADE was an honest and touching portrait of middle grade kids. INTO THE SPIDERVERSE was a hip, contemporary story for teens. Loved-loved-loved AT ETERNITY’S GATE, the recent film about Vincent Van Gogh starring Willem Dafoe. It really conveyed a sense of how Van Gogh saw the world. For TV, I am currently enjoying Season 7 of Homeland; I love my half-hour of silly with Will & Grace; and the series The Crown is TV perfection, in my mind.

Q. What’s in your reading pile?

A. I make myself read for myself for at least ½ hour every night. I’m currently reading a biography of Claude Debussy that came out last year and the latest historical novel by Louis Bayard about Abraham Lincoln. Plus a new book about Virginia Woolf, someone about whom I can never read enough.

Q. What makes a successful query to you?

A. I like a short description of the book – format,  genre, basic story line. And I like to know if the author has been published before (I need to know what publisher).  A good query is not too long and doesn’t include TMI.

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

A. If someone begins, ‘Dear Agent’ or ‘To Whom It May Concern” I immediately delete it. A writer needs to be doing their research and to have the courtesy to address an individual agent.  Typos don’t make a good first impression. I guess the biggest mistake is a query for the kind of project that I am not interested in. And send one title at a time – I have gotten five picture books all banded together, which is too much.

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

A. Yes. Because I was previously an editor, that is always my instinct: to see the potential in a manuscript and figure out how to bring it to full flower. I am glad to toss ideas around with a client, read a partial, or give feedback on a full manuscript. Not all agents work that way. I won’t let a manuscript go out until I feel it is right. I am especially fussy with picture books.

Q. What is your idea of an ideal client?

A.  A writer who stays in touch every six weeks or so.  Agents aren’t paid until they sell a book, so clients need to be respectful and appreciative of an agent’s time. I don’t mind chatting on the phone or communicating via e-mail. I don’t generally meet with clients who may be in Manhattan on vacation or for other business – I just don’t have the time.  If there is some event at a publisher which involves my client, that, of course, is different. And you know every writer is different. Some work very independently; some need more hand-holding. And that is okay.

Q. Where can folks go to follow you online?

A. Our website of course has a page about me here. I am also on both Twitter and Facebook. Or come to one of the writers conferences I participate in every year around the country. I am always looking for fresh talent.

Q. Your link for submission guidelines?

A. Please check our website for my guidelines here. E-mail queries only, please.

Thanks for taking to the time to chat with us today, Stephen! And for you fellow writers reading this, do check out the other Q & A’s featuring agents in past and future installments of Agent Monday. Stay tuned for more Agent Monday insights soon!

 

*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: Looking Back over the Year

YLast Thursday, I sat around a table with folks from The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, feeling so at home as together we celebrated our year of achievements. So in this Agent Monday’s post, I thought it’d be fun to reflect on 2012 from my own perspective as an Associate Agent there.

This was definitely a huge year at the agency. So much going on, but with Christmas around the corner, let’s start with the amazing success of ELF ON THE SHELF. Last year, the animated Christmas special premiered, and this year, this book’s success has grown so much that it actually became a balloon at the Macy’s Day parade. WOW. That’s all I can say.

Among the other many successes at the agency, soap star Jeanne Cooper‘s memoir NOT YOUNG, STILL RESTLESS has been cruising through The New York Times bestseller list. And amazing author Matthew J. Kirby’s mid-grade novel ICEFALL has won both the 2012 PEN Award and the 2012 Edgar Award. Also in 2012, filming just wrapped up on the movie GEOGRAPHY CLUB based on the book written by our acclaimed author Brent Hartinger! And this year we welcomed to our agency Associate Agent Roseanne Wells, who is awesome.

During our agency celebration we also raised our glasses to the many deals made and the great clients who have become part of our agency family. There’s excitement in the air, and tons of stuff happening, but above all, I’m struck by how smart and decent people at this agency truly are. And how happy I am to belong to this special group.

As for me? In 2012 I read hundreds upon hundreds of queries. I took pitches and spoke at conferences. I’ve read a healthy number of requested full manuscripts, and passed on most of them, but not all….

This year I went from having 0 clients, to a great list of 7 clients. I’ve sent novels on submission, deals have been made (note to you folks researching on Publishersmarketplace.com to see which agents are making which deals…some deals that have been made take months to appear on this site until contracts are officially inked and finalized…just something to keep in mind!).

And I’m so pleased to tell you about my own posse of talented clients:

Tracey Baptiste: Her debut novel ANGEL’S GRACE (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2009) was named one of the 100 best books for reading and sharing by NYC librarians. Her newest novel GROWING MAGIC is a stunning and dark middle grade based on a Haitian folktale, and is sure to give readers the shivers.

M.P. Barker: Her debut A DIFFICULT BOY (Holiday House, 2008) was called, “a memorable tale of friendship and a fascinating glimpse into mid-19th-century Massachusetts” by School Library Journal.  Her newest novel, MENDING HORSES is a gorgeous historical that follows an orphan boy, newly freed from indentured servitude, as he struggles to find his place and a home.

Jon Price: Jon is a a commercial, television and film editor whose credits include Nickelodeon’s series The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, and feature films The Ant Bully, and the Academy Award nominated film Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. His debut middle grade novel CREEP VIEW ACADEMY is the hilarious adventure of Kevin Lester, liar extraordinaire, who accidentally gets shipped off to a school for monsters.

Jim Kristofic: Jim’s debut is the highly praised memoir NAVAJOS WEAR NIKES (University of New Mexico Press), and he’s also author of the audio book COYOTE TALES (Blackstone Audio). His new project is an exciting middle grade fantasy called THE FIRE TREE CLAN where a boy battles against all too real Native American mythological monsters.

Carmella Van Vleet: Carmella is a versatile author of children’s non-fiction, including Nomad Press top-sellers  SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD: DISCOVER AMAZING MONUMENTS TO CIVILIZATION and GREAT ANCIENT EGYPT PROJECTS YOU CAN BUILD YOURSELF. Carmella’s hilarious and touching debut middle grade novel is ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER about a girl with ADHD who must prove she can stick with something to the very end.

Harmony Verna: Harmony has worked with all media facets: radio, television, magazines, newspapers, public relations, advertising and marketing. Her debut is the dazzling historical novel FROM ROOTS TO WINGS, a sweeping saga in the tradition of THE THORNBIRDS, that explores passions, love and loss against the backdrop of harsh early 1900’s Australia.

Stephanie Winkelhake: Stephanie’s debut is the passionate and engrossing YA novel FOLLOWING YOU, about a dying girl who follows her dead boyfriend instead of the heavenly light, only to learn there is hell to pay. Her novel was a 2012 finalist in RWA’s  prestigious national GOLDEN HEART AWARDS.  Stephanie also has a story in the new anthology CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: I CAN’T BELIEVE MY DOG DID THAT! 

It’s truly been an exciting year, and I know that 2013 will be even better. Looking into my crystal ball, I see book deals, exciting new manuscripts arriving in my inbox, and the fun of meeting new editors, authors, agents and book lovers. And I see a number of conferences in the future, as well (no crystal ball needed for this). For starters, you’ll find me at the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, at the Liberty States Fiction Writer’s Conference, doing a full-day agent workshop at Push to Publish, and a two-day query/pitch clinic at The Word Studio. More stuff will surely pop up, so check in at my Appearances Page for up-to-date info and details.

I wish you all a New Year full of creativity and productivity. Dream big, everyone, and go for it!

warm wishes to you all,

Marie
*Marie is an Associate Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York City.  To keep up with all her posts, subscribe to her site by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s site here” link located on her page on the upper left margin.