The WNBA-NYC is gearing up for Query Roulette 2016, on Wednesday, March 9th, where a writer’s rough query letter can be fixed and turned into a gateway towards a successful book deal! Attendees have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with several agents in one night and get advice on their query letter and current writing project. To get to know participating agents better a little better, I’ve asked them a few questions relating to their genres, background, query letter preferences and the opportunity to offer other additional information that would pique the interest of our readers and writers. —by Rachel Feldman
SARAH YOUNGER (Nancy Yost Literary Agency)
“Thank you to my wonderful agent, Sarah E. Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency, who went above and beyond to make sure my dream of being a published novelist became a reality. I could never thank her enough.”—Julie Brannaugh Acknowledgements, Blitzing Emily: A Love & Football Novel (Avon)
Sarah represents all varieties of Romance (including Historical, Western, Paranormal, Modern, and YA), as well as select Women’s Fiction and Non-Fiction. She particularly enjoys cross-generational plotlines. For non-fiction projects she would love to see anything involving animals, specifically inspirational equine stories, and she also is an avid sports fan and would love to see more athletic narratives in her inbox. Authors where sports and romance make for successful books include Julie Brannagh (Love & Football series), Sidney Halston (Worth the Fight MMA series), and Nicole Michaels (Win Me Over).
What do you NOT want to see in a query letter?
I don’t want to see more than a one-page query letter. Think of it as a cover letter for your work. It should clearly state what it is while also piquing our interest to see more. You can also include personal information re: writing credits and/or platform, but for the most part your query letter should focus on your work.
Can you tell us about an upcoming Non-Fiction title you have recently sold?
A non-fiction project that I sold this past fall and am excited about is View From the O-line: Football According to NFL Offensive Linemen and an Uncommon Coach by Howard Mudd and Richard Lister. I really like football and this work taught me something I didn’t know about the sport I so enjoy watching and following. I don’t actually represent a lot of non-fiction, I work mostly in fiction specifically on romance and women’s fiction projects, so this book allowed me to expand my list and vary some of my day-to-day goings on.
Anything you would like to tell attendees beforehand?
I would just advise attendees to, first of all, relax. All of the agents attending are really nice (along with being really knowledgeable). And then, secondly, please come prepared with at least an idea of what you want to work on. However, you’re going to get the most out of a meeting with one of us if you already have your non-fiction proposal ready or your fiction manuscript complete. I’ve had appointments where I just answer questions about the industry, etc., but for those who are serious about getting published, coming in with your materials ready to send if requested always seems to work out better.
ELIZABETH WINICK RUBINSTEIN (McIntosh & Otis, Inc.)
Sarah began her book-publishing career in subsidiary rights and then took on the responsibilities of acquisitions editor at a major audio publishing imprint. Her primary interests include literary fiction, women’s fiction, historical fiction, romance, mystery/suspense, and memoir, along with narrative non-fiction, history and current affairs. Elizabeth represents numerous New York Times bestsellers, and both Agatha and Edgar Award winners and nominees.
One author of yours, Teri Wilson, writes modern retellings of Jane Austin novels—one of which (Unleashing Mr. Darcy) was recently made into a TV movie (trailer). What advice do you have for authors whose works are modern twists and/or retellings of public domain novels and characters?
I think it’s important to be able to know the difference between fan fiction and a good retelling. The most successful retellings, in my opinion, are those that incorporate elements of the original work without simply copy and pasting. The characters and plot have to be unique and original, with the story told in a way that honors the original work without mimicking it. Fun, unexpected (but believable) twists on classic stories immediately grab my attention.
Can you tell us about any upcoming authors/titles you have recently sold and/or signed to worth with?
I’ve done several deals lately, all of which I’m extremely excited about. One of them was for I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi (SMP, 2017). It’s an amazing, emotional story about a mother who dies in an apparent suicide and continues to influence her family’s lives from beyond the grave. Another was for The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown (G.P. Putnam & Sons, July 2016)—it tells of a woman who feels trapped in her present life, so she delves into her family history and discovers hidden truths about her grandmother’s time in Paris, with repercussions that echo into the present.
Any genre you’ve been looking for more of lately?
I’m always on the lookout for great fiction. Lately I’ve been focusing more on upmarket women’s fiction; poignant stories that tell unique tales of women’s experiences, be it family-related or otherwise. A great voice is a must, and some dark humor would be a plus! I’ve also been interested in finding more nonfiction, particularly memoirs. There are tons of amazing true stories out there, but it’s not often that someone has a completely compelling story that they can tell well. I’m very interested in representing more of those.
Anything you would like to tell attendees beforehand?
Query letters are tough to get right. Don’t get discouraged if I completely pick it apart! I’m looking forward to helping everyone put their best foot forward when it comes to their written first impression.
You can read a full author/agent interview between Elizabeth and Abby Fabiaschi at The Debutante Ball. Elizabeth will be a featured agent at the upcoming Writer’s League of Texas conference in June and at ThrillerFest XI in July. Follow her at @30Winick.
SUSAN HAWK (The Bent Agency)
Susan represents authors and books for children of all ages—from babies to teenage. Before becoming an agent, Susan spent 15 years in children’s book marketing at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books. Authors include Rachael Allen (The Revenge Playbook), Lisa Lewis Tyre (Last in a Long Line of Rebels) and Marcie Colleen (Super Happy Party Bear series). Projects she represents share powerful and original writing, strong story-telling and a distinctive, sometimes off-kilter voice. For middle grade and YA, Susan is looking for unforgettable characters, rich world-building, and bonus points for something that makes her laugh out loud.
Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin had a long road to sales and success his picture book, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep. Now, he’s a bestselling author, and published with Random House. For anyone coming to you with a self-published children’s picture book, what would be the factors about it to peak your interest and make it worth a look.
Really, it’s all about the book itself! Strong sales numbers are of interest to a publisher, so that’s important to know. Online and social media presence, if it’s robust, is also helpful. But, in the end, the book must stand for itself, and be something that feels new and exciting to me.
Any upcoming conferences, regional book fairs, or workshops or industry engagements you’d like to tell us about?
I’m attending BEA this May in Chicago, where I’ll be doing a Writing Day Workshop with Writer’s Digest. That same month, I’m participating in the Backspace Writers Conference, which takes place online. Look for me there!
What new/popular trends do you see in the YA fiction?
Editors are asking me for YA Fantasy, but that’s not a new trend; the popularity of fantasy may move up and down to some degree, but it’s always been a strong presence in YA and MG. As for other new trends, I don’t see anything right now like the waves of dystopian or paranormal that we’ve seen in the past. Of course, once we can name a trend that usually means that it’s over, or almost over. Excitement spills into over-saturation very quickly — so it’s best to be aware of what’s trending, but not driven by it.
SARAH LAPOLLA (Bradford Literary Agency)
“Huge thanks to my amazing agent Sarah LaPolla. That call on the beach changed my life and it wouldn’t have happened without your guidance, support, and willingness to cheerfully put up with my neurosis. I owe you so much”—Jennifer Mathieu, Acknowledgments, The Truth About Alice (Roaring Brook Press).
Representing Middle Grade, Young Adult and Adult Fiction, Sarah seeks stories that evoke strong connections and novels that offer a wide range of emotions. YA authors of hers include Cory Putman Oakes (Dinosaur Boy) and Stephanie Scott (Alterations). Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors include A.J. Larrieu (The Shadowminds series) and Kaitlin Ward (Bleeding Earth). Whether they write gritty YA, contemporary women’s fiction, or urban fantasy, Sarah’s authors tend to reflect larger themes within a character-focused story, such as feminism, tolerance, faith, and challenging the status quo.
Can you tell us about an upcoming author/title you have recently sold and/or signed to worth with?
My recent sales have been YA contemporary and YA horror, but the authors I most recently signed with have been on the Adult side (women’s fiction, literary fiction, and urban fantasy). Very excited to expand that side of my list!
What do you like about Magical Realism? When did that genre description come about and what books/authors of that genre do you represent?
I love magical realism because of its subtlety and its ability to transform a novel from ordinary to magical without leaving reality. A lot of writers confuse magical realism with fantasy or paranormal, but the key word to remember with magical realism is “realism.” It should never leave our world; it should just make you question it a bit. I represent a few YA magical realism authors, but would love to find more on the Adult side (think of contemporary magical realism authors such as Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Sarah Addison Allen, etc.).
What do you NOT want to see in a query letter?
The only thing I need to see in a query is what the book is about! So anything that isn’t a 3-5-sentence pitch of the story plus a short author bio would be gratuitous.
*There is still time to attend to Query Roulette 2016!
Go to the Query Roulette 2016 Registration Page today. Then get your query letters ready by March 9th!*