Agent Monday: THE Hottest Trend

Businesswoman standing on a ladder looking through binocularsHappy Agent Monday, everyone! This past Friday I was excited to sit on the industry experts panel at the YARWA (Young Adult Chapter of Romance Writers of America) event held at the RWA annual conference in NYC. The panel included a mix of literary agents and editors and we were asked in a number of ways to share what was in…what were the hottest trends in YA lit right now…what was selling…what were we looking for most of all. So, since many of you didn’t get to hear what the hottest trend in YA lit is right now, I thought I go ahead and reveal it right now in this post.

The biggest trend in YA literature right now is…

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!

PLUS CYMBAL CRASH!

…A great fresh story well told.

Wait, what? What about selkies? Or dystopians? Or vampires? Or fantasy? Or sick-lit ala Fault in our Stars? Or contemporary? Or diverse fiction? Or, or, or…

A great fresh story well told. This is what editors and agents are looking for. That’s what folks on the panel said – every one of them.

So what’s that mean for you writers? That means be authentic and write what really matters to you. Make it original and perfect your craft so that it is the absolute best writing you can possibly create.

Send us THAT and YOU will be the trend.

Now you know!

*Marie is an Associate 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 by clicking on the Follow link located on her page on the upper left margin.

Agent Monday: Got Media? (Social Media, That is…)

Young Girl at School Holding a Computer MouseHappy sunny Agent Monday to you all!  Get a bunch of writers together and the talk quickly turns to…social media? Yup, that’s right. I find this is on plenty of writers’ minds these days. At conferences, Q&A’s quickly turn to this subject.  At the Writer’s Coffeehouse I ran yesterday at the Willow Grove Barnes & Noble, it dominated our talk. And rightly so. So today I’m going to chat a bit about the big question editors and agents will be asking if they are interested in your writing: Got Media? (Social media, that is…)

You may think why bother with that? The novel’s the thing, right? Social media takes time. It’s not your thing. You are a writer not a promoter after all. Etc. etc. etc. BUT here’s a sobering thought… The other weekend at the Lucky 13 Conference hosted by the MD-DE-WV branch of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, fab Bloomsbury Children’s Books editor Laura Whitaker told everyone an important truth: If you as an author don’t have any online presence at all, that hurts your book’s chances when she takes it to an acquisitions meeting.

Wow, right? An editor can love your manuscript enough to take it to an acquisitions meeting, and the fact that the author has no social media presence at all can make your book harder to sell to the publisher.  If that doesn’t make you serious about getting yourself out there online, I don’t know what will.

But this shouldn’t come as a shock to you by now. Authors must now take on some responsibility for their own book’s promotion. When I find a manuscript that I’m interested in, before I make “the call” to offer them representation I google that person to see if they have any online presence and if it is a positive one (cuz a negative presence where you are bashing writers, editors or agents on line is not going to help you appear professional…).  And when I do make “the call,” one of the very first things I then ask the writer is if they understand that they must be willing to help market their work and that this includes online stuff.  It’s a critical piece of the puzzle that makes up a successful author and book.

Trust me, Bloomsbury is not an anomaly – all publishers are looking for this from their potential authors.

So what does this mean?  It means that first of all you should google yourself and see what pops up. Do you exist “out there”?  Is what you find positive? At the minimum, you should have a website under your author name (not your book title, cuz titles can change and you’ll have more than one book in you in the future, true?), a facebook page that keeps things professional, and a twitter page.  Think of these as your online business cards and present yourself accordingly.

Don’t be intimidated by all this if it’s all new to you. Hey, got a teen in your life?  They’ll set you up in a matter of seconds on facebook and twitter. And websites aren’t the expensive scary things they used to be. The one you are looking at right now? I set it up free on wordpress, and I purchased my marielamba.com domain, setting it up so that when folks key it in, they are redirected here. Easy peasy.

So help yourself be seen, help you as an author be viewed as someone plugged in and ready to market your work. Take it one step at a time. We’ll all be glad you did.

 

*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.

 

Agent Monday: What’s Love Got to do with It?

From time to time, I’ve heard discussions among writers who have received rejections from other agents that basically said, “Sorry, but I didn’t fall in love with this.” One reaction writers then say is, “I don’t care if you love it or not. Just represent it and sell it!”  This often leads into writers saying that this whole need to “fall in love” with a project is a ridiculous notion. It’s just a form letter. It’s because they don’t know what else to say. So in today’s Agent Monday post I’d like to share my view of  “What’s love got to do with it?”

Now I’m speaking about FICTION here, since at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency I don’t personally represent non-fiction. So bear that in mind…  But with a fiction manuscript, yeah, I’ve got to fall in love with it.  Why? Because if I don’t finish that manuscript and feel my heart completely ripped out, or my world rocked in some way, I don’t want to invest myself in that book.  I need something I truly believe in.

I want to be able to convey my passion to an editor.  And I want that editor to feel, at the end of her read, that her heart is completely ripped out or her world is rocked in some way.  That’s kinda the point.

But what about the “meh” book that I know will sell because it hits all the marketing points? It’s steampunk, which is supposedly hot. Or talks about bullying, which is a book people will “gobble up?”  Well, if I’m not in love with it, I don’t personally believe an editor be in love either…and an editor must turn around and “sell” the book to the marketing committee and they must sell it to the world, and reviewers must feel the love, too.

What I’m looking for is a book that will sell because it’s exceptional. If it hits all those marketing points, groovy.  If it doesn’t, but it’s exceptional, it’ll find its audience and that’s groovy too.

From my agenting point of view, I have to live with this manuscript and this author.  If I’m not in love with their book, but I sniff dollar signs in the air for some reason, am I respecting that author? Am I excited enough to read through the manuscript over and over again and edit it? To create a passion-filled pitch and offer it up to top editors?  And if I think of it as “meh” but an easy sale for some reason, what if it doesn’t sell easily? Will I have the drive to continue to market it with passion? Will I feel like just giving up and cutting you loose? You see where I’m going with this?

I invest a ton of time in my clients, and I choose them carefully. I go with my gut, and believe that their talent will take them far over the course of their careers. They are more than one book, one quick sale to me.  I’ve passed over books that may have sold, but that I just didn’t care about. Why would I take that writer on, when I can invest my heart and soul and countless hours in someone whose writing I do care about?  I’ll also definitely take on books that may not be the easy sell, but that feel important and strong and that I believe HAVE TO BE READ. And I’ll work my tail off making sure that happens.

It’s important that I believe in your work and in you.  You deserve that and should demand it.  If I don’t “fall in love” with your novel, then I’m not the agent for you, and you should find an agent who will.  Because that is the person who will best represent your work. Who will champion you and all your efforts with energy and drive. Who will believe in you even when the world doesn’t seem to, and continue to submit your work with conviction until the world finally sees the light.

And who will eagerly await your next book, and your next.

*Agent Monday is a weekly post. To catch all of these, subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “Subscribe to Marie’s Site Here” in the upper left column.

Stranger than Fiction: Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?

To all writers out there who are dutifully following the rules laid out in guidelines and at conferences about submitting your work: getting frustrated much? How well I know that feeling.

If you play strictly by the rules, the whole process could take so long that you just might give up before your manuscript is seriously considered by an agent or an editor.  The following article is for anyone who has a tightly edited manuscript and wants to speed up the whole submission process without completely pissing off the gate-keepers to the publishing world.  I hope it helps you get closer to your dream of publication.

Stranger than Fiction:
Are Industry Lies Keeping You Down?j0402594
by Marie Lamba

Never send simultaneous submissions. Always tell you are multiple submitting. Never email. Do this, don’t do that. Yada yada yada. Guess what? Lot’s of this advice might be actually keeping you from getting ahead! Let’s sort some of this stuff out.

The Big Lie:
Never send simultaneous submissions. If you do simultaneous submit, you must tell the editor/agent.

The Big Truth:
Never send simultaneous submissions to two editors or agents in the same company. Other than that, all is fair in love and publishing. Hey, what other business expects you to do things one at a time and wait for months to hear anything? Makes for very poor marketing. And you don’t need to tell anyone it’s simultaneous. Just don’t mention it. Do you really think you are getting two offers from two different people at the same time? Seriously?

I know that if you talk to editors on a conference panel, they’ll tell you just the opposite. Think about it. Why would they want you to flood everybody with submissions? And if you were a buyer, wouldn’t you love to avoid all chances of competition? But talk to professional authors, and they will tell you to simultaneous submit. If they didn’t, they’d still be waiting by the mailbox for a response.

Caveat: Make sure you carefully target your submission to editors and agents who actually handle your type of work, or else you’re wasting everyone’s time. Also, if an agent asks for an exclusive read and you agree, make sure it is an exclusive or be up front if it isn’t. You don’t want to start things on the wrong foot.

The Big Lie:
Be patient.

The Big Truth:
Patience is sometimes stupidity. In every submission, include a SASE postcard with a check off that they’ve received your work in good condition. If after a month the card is nowhere in sight, email the editor or get on the phone and call to track it down. Otherwise you may be waiting for 4-6 months to hear about a book that they never even received. (Been there, done that.) Of course, if you’re multiple submitting, it won’t be a huge tragedy, but still.

Also, if you haven’t gotten a response to your manuscript in their promised reading time, do a follow-up by email, phone or mail to make sure you’re still in the queue and not lost in a junk pile. Be polite and no nonsense about it. Don’t waste everyone’s time chitchatting.

The Big Lie:
Never Email

The Big Truth:
Email is amazing. Email queries are fast. Agents love these. You can find most agent and editor emails by Googling “their name” plus “email.” Email is also great for a quick follow up on a return postcard that wasn’t sent, or if the manuscript is past the reading time promised. But I wouldn’t email a manuscript unless you got a go ahead for this first.

The Big Lie:
When going to a conference, leave your manuscript at home.

The Big Truth:
Okay, nothing screams AMATEUR more than hauling out that huge manuscript and foisting on an editor at a conference, but it is useful to have the manuscript tucked away just in case. When I was at a pitch slam and the editor liked what I said, he asked, “Could you quickly read me some of it?” I yanked that pile of paper out pronto and started off. Also, I like to bring to conferences a few stapled sets of my first chapter with a one-paragraph summary and contact info attached to them, just in case.

The Big Lie:
If an agent/editor doesn’t get back to you, give up.

The Big Truth:
Always hope. Agents and editors are swamped. They may say response time is 4 months, when in reality it could be 9 months to a year. They lose manuscripts, their computers fail, emails get lost in cyberspace. Always put in that SAS postcard to confirm receipt. If emailing a manuscript, ask for an email confirmation that it was received. Follow up every few months to make sure you’re in the queue and ask if you should resend. You’ll find that most feel really bad about making you wait and will be kind when you touch base with them.

The Biggest Truth of All:
If your manuscript is shoddy, nothing will work. If your manuscript is excellent, GO FOR IT! No one will turn you down, unless you are a complete jerk. So be professional and courteous. When these two qualities are mixed with an excellent work, it is the true formula for success. No lie!

Why Conferences? (Or, How I Got My Editor and My Agent)

It’s conference season. Tons of workshops with authors, editors, agents. Panel discussions. Pitch sessions. As you receive glossy brochure after glossy brochure, you’re probably wondering, is it worth it? Why go to a conference at all? Well, here’s an article I wrote a few years back, and I’m including it here in the hopes that it might motivate you to step out of your house, and meet some editors and agents face to face.  Some seriously great things can come from it.

Why Conferences? (Or How I Got My Editor and My Agent)
by Marie Lamba

Take the time to network with others in the writing biz.

Take the time to network with others in the writing biz.

Okay, none of the following can help you if your manuscript isn’t ready. I mean completely free of errors, completely interesting, completely wonderful. But what if it truly is? How can you get on the speedy (and speedy is a relative term here) road to publication? In a word: conferences. Seriously. Here’s how it worked out for me.

First I applied and was accepted to the amazing One on One Conference held annually at Rutgers University (children’s writers only). If you are writing for children, this is the ultimate place to be. The editors and agents there know you have some semblance of talent to be able to get in, and they are extremely available to talk with you throughout the day. You are paired up with an author, an editor or an agent who works in your genre and you get to talk with them one on one for 45 unbelievable minutes. Then you get a 5 on 5 round table discussion with your match plus four other pairs. Plus there’s chatting with anyone you dare to over lunch. Plus there’s a keynote and a panel discussion. Absolute heaven.

I was paired up with the very kind Alvina Ling, editor at Little Brown. Not only did she enjoy my first few pages and ask to see the whole ms (yeah!), but she also asked if I was interested in finding an agent. She recommended a small handful of agents she especially respected that dealt in my genre, and said I was welcome to say that she had referred me. I’d say that was the best $75 dollars I’d ever spent, wouldn’t you?

You know how they say never email an agent a query, especially one who says on her website “no emailed queries?” Well, ha! I decided to be bold, and I found out that when your message line says “Recommended by (insert the name of the editor or top author here…only if they’ve actually recommended you, of course),” that they would in fact read your query immediately. And if all goes well, that agent will email you back in a matter of hours asking to see your whole manuscript. It went well. So I jumped the queue, saving myself about 3 months of waiting just to hear a response to my query. So far so good.

I’d like to say that the response to the manuscript was as fast. You know. The agent waits with baited breath, reads your manuscript overnight, gets back to you immediately. Well, that didn’t happen. So I figured if I didn’t hear back in the next week, or at least the next month, then I was toast. One month went by. Two months. Three. I sent a cheerful little note to check on its status. Three and half months went by.

Blah. So, time for another conference. This time I decide to attend the BEA Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. The agent I’d hoped to get would be there. Perhaps we could meet? I email her. She’s too busy. Still, I’m hopeful about the conference. I tell her I’ll try to get on her line for the one-minute pitch session to say hi. There seems to be a large number of children’s editors on the roster, and I hope to talk to lots of them. Surely not every attendee will be a children’s author, right?

To my relief I am right about this. The lines for the adult fiction editors and agents snake out the doors and through the corridors. People in those lines are lucky if they can see one of their choices. In the room featuring the children’s editors and agents, the lines only have about 20-25 people on them. I’ll get to talk to as many of these folks as I wish. I’m the first in line at the desk of Jim Thomas, Editorial Director at Random House Children’s Books. The format is rigid. The organizers ring a bell, and you race to a seat and give your pitch. After one minute, the bell rings again, and it’s time for the editor or agent to talk with you and ask questions. One minute later, the bell rings again and you have to evacuate the seat for the next person. The hope is that by the third bell you’ll have that person’s business card in hand with an invitation to mail your manuscript to them.

I had practiced my pitch ahead of time, driving my whole family nuts in the process. I felt ready. I even had my manuscript with me in my bag (something they tell you never to do…but still). So the bell rings, and I start my pitch and Jim reacts with shock and interest at the topic, and then, to my total surprise, asks if I could read the manuscript to him. (See? It’s a good thing I had it, right?) I fumble through some papers and yank the book out and start reading in a fast and steady pace. DING! Times up. Jim is smiling. “You see that person on the end? That’s Lisa Findlay. She works with me at Random House. Get on her line. I think she’ll like this.”

Wow! Another referral. So I jump onto Lisa’s line. Tell her Jim sent me. Pitch her the book and she hands me her business card asking me to mail sample chapters. Things are really going great here.

I get on the long line leading to Jennifer DeChiara, my sought after agent, and finally get my chance to chat with her. She seems tired but attentive, and I tell her she’s already got my book, but I just wanted to say hi. I discover that even though her website says she responds in 3 months to manuscripts, 6 months or even a year are more realistic dates. Good to know.

Flash forward several months. I haven’t heard from Jennifer DeChiara or Lisa Findlay. Sigh. That’s okay, right? I start working on a new book. I try not to think about it. BUT NOTHING SEEMS TO BE HAPPENING. Then something happens. It’s September and it’s like the publishing world has returned to work from a long long summer break. Lisa Findlay asks to see my entire novel, so I send it. Great!

Then I get an email from Jennifer DeChiara. Something to the effect of: I am reading your manuscript tonight. Okay. Is this one of those form emails or something? I try not to read too much into this.

Then, THE phone call comes. It’s Jennifer, in person, saying all these incredible things we writers only dare to tell ourselves in our deepest slumbers. Would I sign with her? Would I?

So now I’m absolutely floating. I dare to dream and all that stuff. But it gets better.

Within a week, Lisa Findlay gets in touch. She loves the book, has some suggested changes, but would love to sign me at Random House. Me? Me! Okay, after I get up off the floor, and call my husband who seems to only be able to say, “You’re kidding. You’re kidding,” I immediately contact Jennifer to deliver the amazing news.

So both of my pursuits for an amazing editor and an amazing agent were successful, and within a week of each other. Pinch me!

And sign up for conferences. Lots of conferences.