Happy Friday, gentle readers! Melissa here, and I'm thrilled to share an interview with my literary agent, Nicole Resciniti, (who also reps Lea, Lorie, and Carey.)
Working with Nicole has been a dream, and I can't recommend her highly enough. When I signed with her, I had two completed manuscripts under my belt...and she sold them both. If that's not enough to convince you she's a superhero, she's also a master brainstormer, a Mensa member, a top-notch editor, and a genuinely wonderful human being. I feel very blessed to have found Nicole, and I'm thankful she took the time to answer my questions today.
Enjoy, and I hope this is helpful.
1. We keep hearing how crowded the YA market is. How can aspiring YA authors ensure their work stands out from the masses?
YA is becoming increasingly more crowded. Seasoned adult authors are trying their hand at the younger market and more and more aspiring authors want to write in this genre. What does this mean for you? It means you need to seriously stand out from everyone else. Don’t do something that has been done before. Don’t chase trends (by the time they’re identified, they’ve passed). Don’t try to emulate someone else. Keep it fun and fresh. Tighten your writing as much as possible so that your voice pops off the page.
What do I mean by voice, that illusive, undefinable quality that we’re all looking for? Well, it’s easier to show by example than to explain. For sake of clarity, your “voice” is your unique way of telling a story. It is a reflection of YOU. Your thoughts, beliefs, background. It conveys a tone (dark, humorous, sarcastic, light). It is a calling card of sorts, because it identifies you as an author.
For those of you reading this blog, let me tell you something about Melissa Landers, one of the contributors. She has a FANTASTIC voice. I’m not saying that to blow sunshine into any nether regions. It’s a fact. It’s the reason I signed her as quickly as my little fingers could dial her number. It’s also the reason why she’s now writing for two NY publishing houses. Here’s the excerpt from her YA. This is literally the paragraph that told me ‘I want this! I will sell this!’ and I did, to Disney. Here’s a little peek at ALIENATED, coming from Disney Hyperion in 2013:
Winning. Cara Sweeny had made it her business, and business was good. Honor Society president? Check. Young leader award? Check. Debate champion, two years running? Double check. And when the much-coveted title of valedictorian had eluded her, she’d found a way to snag that, too.
Over the summer, she’d staged an academic ambush of such epic proportions, Midtown High’s geek-elite were still chewing their pencils in shock. Sneaky as a senator, she’d retaken Honors Calculus, raised her grade from 92 to 100, and usurped Marcus Toole as valedictorian. Her stealth attack had caught him with his Hanes down, and unless her grades tanked this year—which was so not going to happen—the sulking loser had no chance of reclaiming his title.
I mean, how awesome is that? I get a clear picture of this character, how she thinks, a little taste of her personality and attitude. And it’s fun. I found myself smiling as I read. That is a big secret of hooking an editor/agent—cause a visceral reaction. If we laugh/cry/shudder/smile/become afraid, you have physically made us FEEL something, and that means we’re totally immersed in your manuscript. Look at your opening chapter. Is the writing tight? Does your voice pop off the page? Do you make the reader FEEL?
2. What are some traits you look for in an “ideal” client? How do you know when the agent-client partnership is a good fit?
I’m married to my clients. It’s a polygamous relationship, but I love them all and talk to them frequently. We discuss ways to market/edit/promote their projects. As in a good marriage, communication is the key. As an agent, I am invested in my authors and their projects. I’m not looking for one-and-done. I want to build a career alongside my authors. A good fit is someone who is equally committed to succeeding. This business requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication.
3. Speaking of ideal traits, I’d crossed a few agents off my ‘to-query’ list after reading their mean-spirited tweets. Compassion and professionalism are important to me. What other traits do you think writers should keep in mind when deciding who to query?
I’m glad you mentioned the mean-spirited tweets. All authors should be very careful about what they tweet/blog/say online. The internet is vast and you never know who is reading. Editors WILL check the blogs/tweets/facebook of an author they are considering. I do too. If someone is unprofessional, I prefer not to work with them.
When querying, an author should look for an agent who shares their ideals, who represents the kind of book they write, and someone who will be a true advocate of their work. In this very saturated market, you need someone who will fight for your projects.
4. Is there anything on your current wish list? Anything you’re not interested in seeing at this time?
I am actively looking for more YA/MG and more romance. I would LOVE to find more UF/sci-fi/fantasy—with a fresh premise. I can’t say there is anything that I don’t want to see because if the voice is really great, I’ll consider it.
5. As an agent, you probably deal with more rejection than anyone. Do you have any tips on helping writers thicken their skins when faced with the dreaded, “Thanks, but no thanks”?
I DO get a lot of rejections. A whole lot. Remember, it only takes one offer, and what doesn’t sit well with one editor, another might love. This is a very subjective industry. When receiving a rejection, reflect on the ways that you can improve your manuscript. If you’re in the querying stages and you aren’t getting any requests, then you need to rethink your query letter. If you’re querying and receiving requests for the partials/fulls but no offers from an agent/editor, then you’ll want to look at the novel again and evaluate the possible pitfalls that are holding you back. Most aspiring authors simply make the mistake of sending out something prematurely. Try to wait until the book is polished and the best it can be before submitting. If you don’t belong to a critique group, you need to join one. Above all, keep writing. With each book, with every new page you type, your craft will improve. NEVER give up. With enough hard work, every author can make their publishing dream a reality.
Another big thank you to Nicole for answering my questions. You can find out more about Nicole at the Seymour Agency's website and also on querytracker.