WNBA-NYC’s Query Roulette—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 asked them to answer some 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 Weiss-Feldman
ERIC RUBEN (The Ruben Agency)
As an agent, entertainment lawyer and performer, Eric offers a unique perspective that is valuable to writers. He works with romance, mystery, thrillers, YA and LGBT genres. Active with the Romance Writers of America (RWA), Eric will be one of the judges for the 2015 “Cleveland Rocks Romance” contest and will be a participating agent at the RWA Annual Conference this summer.
What new trend do you see in the romance genre?
I think there’s going to be a return to classic and sweet books. I think erotica may have saturated the market. But good writing is always the most important factor.
You have been in the entertainment industry for over two decades, which makes me personally think screenplays. What advice can you give regarding getting an original screenplay published?
It’s very rare to have a first time screenplay opportunity unless your book hits the New York Times list, and even then, a studio or production company is going to want an experienced hand on the project. I’d say read a lot of screenplays before doing anything, as it is a completely different medium.
Anything else you would like to let our readers [and writers] to know?
My start in publishing was as part of the team for Suzanne Brockmann. I was the guy who came up with the idea of writing about Navy SEALs as heroes. I traveled across the USA several times in the back of a van, doing book tours for weeks at a time. I have a unique perspective on this business.
Follow Eric Ruben on Twitter @EricRubenLawyer
MICHELLE RICHTER (Fuse Literary)
After years as an editor, Michelle is now on the agent side of book publishing—working with fiction and non-fiction alike. The fiction genres Michelle seeks include literary, women’s, and commercial fiction, thrillers, mysteries (amateur sleuth, police procedurals and smart cozies). For nonfiction, she’s seeks fashion, film, television, science, medicine, sociology/social trends, and economics.
“Cozy” mysteries are a big genre you represent. What are some of your favorite themes in them?
Cats and food are always great themes, and I love fashionistas and bibliophiles too. I’ve got two cozy clients, one on submission and one who’s polishing her very good manuscript a bit more before it goes out. I’m a sucker for a protagonist with a sense of humor and maybe some snark too, and these ladies deliver on that.
Can you tell us about an upcoming author and title you recently sold?
I’m very excited about my client E.A. Aymar You’re As Good As Dead. It’s gritty crime fiction set in Baltimore that focuses on a college professor who’s trying to keep himself and his daughter safe after he witnesses a crime boss’ assassination and finds himself stuck between warring crime families and ruthless federal agents. I think he’s got a ton of talent and hope to help him grow his career and break out wide over time. His book publishes from Black Opal Books in June of this year.
You worked for years as an editor at St. Martin’s Press. What’s the best thing, so far, about being on the other side of the publishing process?
The best thing about being an agent so far is the freedom. I get to structure my workflow however I like, and it’s allowing me to find budding writers whose work I’m really passionate about, and to work with people I want to work with and champion, to be their partner in the publication process.
Anything else you would like to us know about you?
I am one of the few in publishing who didn’t major in English, but instead in Economics with a minor in Russian. I’ve been a Russophile since my social studies teacher in junior high had my class read Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra, pretty grim and gripping stuff for a 13-year old.
Follow Michelle Richter on Twitter @MichRichter1
JEFF KLEINMAN (Folio Literary Management)
Be it fiction or non-fiction, Jeff’s query letter advice will be invaluable. He co-founded Folio Literary nearly a decade ago and has since represented numerous successful authors in a wide range of genres. As an agent, Jeff feels privileged to have the chance to learn an incredibly variety of new subjects, meet an extraordinary range of people, and feel that he’s helped to build something – a wonderful book, perhaps, or an author’s career.
You have a great list of biographers, including Charles Shields, author of two Harper Lee biographies. What advice do you have for writers attempting that genre?
It’s much trickier to do a biography of a living person. For biographies, it’s all in your homework – do your research, talk to lots of people. Don’t just use one interview and take it as fact – double- and triple-check all assertions.
Can you tell us about an upcoming author/title you have recently sold?
I recently sold a novel to Plume – the first in a literary / upmarket commercial series featuring Walt Whitman’s journey through 19th Century America. In this book, Walt stumbles across a gang of “resurrection men” – grave robbers who sell bodies to medical colleges – and has to exonerate a wrongly accused friend before she’s executed.
What is the best historical non-fiction or novel title (your pick) you’ve read and/or worked on in the last 2 years?
No question: All the Light You Cannot See. Loved that book!
Anything you would like to let QR attendees know beforehand?
Please bring a few pages with you when we meet, if at all possible. For me, it’s all about the writing – so if the concept sounds intriguing, I really love to read a couple of paragraphs to get a sense of your voice. I know these kinds of query pitches can be stressful, but I swear I’m a pretty nice guy, so focus more on polishing the manuscript, and being able to describe your book clearly and succinctly, than worrying about how to deliver the “pitch”.
Follow Jeff Kleinman’s agency on Twitter @FolioLiterary
SUSAN HAWK (The Bent Agency)
If you are writing for children, Middle Grade or YA, Susan is the one you want to meet with! Including her prior work in children’s marketing for Penguin, Henry Holt, and North-South Books, and as a librarian and bookseller, Susan has more than twenty years of children’s book experience. Projects she represents share powerful and original writing, strong story-telling and a distinctive, sometimes off-kilter voice.
What new/popular trends do you see in the genre of Middle Grade (MG) fiction?
I’m hearing a bit more about pushing the boundaries of what works in MG, especially at the upper end of the category. I think editors are open to older MG being somewhat darker, and a bit edgier. And, this isn’t new, but editors are very interested in high concept MG, as well as contemporary, stories with a touch of magic/magical realism.
Any star author/illustrator matches you personally helped make, recently or when you were at a publishing house?
Yes, we are working on a few right now, but nothing that I can talk about yet. Sorry to be so mysterious! 🙂
Anything else you would like to let QR attendees know beforehand?
If anyone is interested in learning more about books I’ve sold, my client list, and what I’m looking for, please take a look at my blog Susan Says, or on The Bent Agency website. Right now, I’m really keen to find MG and YA, especially fantasy series, and set in alternate historical period. I’d love to find a project that doesn’t draw on references to Western European history or folklore. But I’m open to all genres, not just fantasy. What I really want is fabulous writing!
Follow Susan Hawk on Twitter @susanhawk
LINDA EPSTEIN (The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency)
Linda is interested in issues of identity, second chances, first love, feminism, upsetting the status quo and the weather. She is currently looking for children’s literature: picture books (both fiction and nonfiction), middle grade and YA fiction. She is drawn to off beat stories that haven’t yet been told, or familiar stories told in a new and innovative way. She likes realistic contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, speculative fiction, magical realism, legends, mythology, historical fiction, and mysteries on the kooky side.
What do you NOT like to see in a query letter?
Really long query letters. It shouldn’t run more than 3-4 short paragraphs.
Any recent conferences you have attended and/or spoken at?
Follow Linda Epstein on Twitter @LindaEpstein
Query Roulette 2015 is on Tuesday, March 3rd. Spots are still available, for those who wish to register, or find out more,CLICK HERE.
Rachel Weiss-Feldman is the Membership Chairperson for the WNBA-NYC Chapter, and spearhead of Query Roulette 2015. Follow her on Twitter at @RachelWF