Jenna Pocius is a new agent at Red Fox Literary. Prior to Red Fox, she worked as an editor at little bee books, and prior to little bee, she worked as an assistant editor at Bloomsbury USA. While at little bee, Jenna acquired board books through YA and will still be seeking manuscripts for all categories of kidlit. Jenna is open to submissions until August 10, 2017.
Thank you, Jenna!
I think it’s safe to say that most writers dream of publishing with the Big 5, but you were an editor at little bee books, a successful and well-respected small press. What are the advantages for authors and illustrators in working with a small press?
I think in the end it’s really about the connection between an author or illustrator and an editor and his or her publishing team, but with a small press there can be more opportunity for a title to stand out on a list because there isn’t the same volume of books being published. With little bee it was a very unique opportunity because not only were we growing our list in terms of title count, but we were also starting from scratch and thus some of the themes and topics that other publishers were oversaturated with, we had an opportunity to find really stellar projects and establish ourselves in those categories.
You’re very clear in your bio that you like dogs. Do you have a dog of your own? What draws you to dogs in picture books?
I’ve always loved dogs and dog stories. There’s something about the loyalty and love inherent in dogs that I can’t help but gravitate toward, and those are also two qualities and themes that make great characters and story foundations. For me, there’s really nothing better than stories that capture the unique bond between child and dog. I don’t have my own dog yet, but it’s in the works!
Do you have a favorite breed of dog? (I’m a bit partial to ridgebacks, but we currently have a rescue dog that’s a mix of something unknown, and he’s a sweetie.)
I’m all about rescue dogs and mutts! I acquired and edited one of my favorite texts by Maria Gianferrari called Operation Rescue Dog about a girl and a rescue dog traveling to meet each other for the first time, which comes out with little bee in fall 2018. Maria even includes back matter information on dog rescues!
But to be a little more specific re: breed, I love pitbulls and Stafford terrier mixes, labs, retrievers, huskies . . . basically any and all medium to large sized dogs.
When you receive a manuscript, how do you know it’s right for you?
If I can’t stop reading it or thinking about it, and/or if it strikes an emotional chord, whether it’s a warm fuzzy feeling or laughter or even bitter-sweetness or nostalgia, then I’m sure it’s the right fit.
When you edit a manuscript, are you into the details with line-by-line suggestions, or primarily big-picture changes?
Both! My process is big picture first, details second. Sometimes the details work themselves out when your big picture falls into place.
What’s important in an editor-author relationship? Is that also true of an agent-author relationship?
I think as with any relationship it’s important to have good communication, trust, and respect. If you have that as a foundation, good things will follow!
What are you most looking forward to on the agenting side of publishing?
I’m most looking forward to being along for the ride of my clients’ careers and seeing them through from book to book. One of the hardest things for an editor is to get a job at another house and leave behind projects that they love. So I’m excited to have the opportunity to be on long-term journeys with my authors and illustrators!
What traits does your ideal client posses?
Kind, easygoing, able to roll with the punches and remain confident in themselves and their work – which is definitely easier said than done, but important to strive for.
You’ve acquired several Douglas Florian books, so I think it’s safe to say you’re not opposed to rhyme. What works for you in a rhyming manuscript?
Doug has a really unique ability to craft these amazing, lyrical rhyming stories that are just a blast to work on. But I think people often underestimate how hard it can be to write in rhyme! I look for that lyrical quality and ease of flow, and I’ll always read them aloud to myself to really get the cadence of it.
Are you open to all categories of kidlit, including chapter books and graphic novels? Is there one category you’re most interested in at the moment?
I am open to all categories equally at the moment!
What are you looking for in picture books, middle grade, and young adult? Can you pick one book already published in each category that you would represent if it came to you today?
I am looking for clever and heartwarming picture book texts, character-driven novels with strong voice and world-building, nonfiction that sheds light on little-known but significant stories, and illustrations that are stylish with a touch of whimsy; I’m open in terms of genre, but I gravitate toward contemporary/realistic fiction, magical realism, and fantasy. I’m also a sucker for animal stories, especially dogs. Some examples of books I would have absolutely loved to represent are Rain Reign, the Throne of Glass series (though I did get to work on it so that was pretty awesome!), and How Rocket Learned to Read.
What topics or themes are you not interested in seeing?
I’m not looking for poetry collections, short stories, religious texts, alphabet books, or illustrators for the educational market.
Are you open to authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators?
How important is an author’s social media presence in your decision on whether or not to work with them? Do you ever Google an author or illustrator before you decide to work with them?
I do often Google authors and illustrators just to get a sense of their work and social media presence. If they already have a strong social media presence then that’s definitely a plus, but as long as they are open to the social media world for marketing and publicity purposes, it’s not a make or break issue for me.
What do you want to see in a query?
If you can position yourself in the marketplace with comp examples, that’s always a great way to show that you know the industry and your story’s potential place in it!
You’re open to submissions until August 10, 2017. Where can people submit to you until then?
Yes, that’s correct! People can email their queries to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line stating: QUERY.
Here are my submission guidelines:
PICTURE BOOKS: Please submit a query letter with the full manuscript pasted within the body of the email.
ILLUSTRATORS: Please send a cover letter in the body of the email and illustration samples as attachments.
OLDER FICTION AND NONFICTION: Please submit a query letter, synopsis, and the first ten pages pasted within the body of the email.
I will do my best to respond to every submission within 12 weeks, but please be patient if it takes a little longer.
After that, will you be attending any conferences where interested parties can meet you?
I don’t have any in-person conferences scheduled just yet, but I will be doing a Crit-n-Chat for Kidlit College in September!
Thank you, Jenna!
For more information about Jenna, visit Red Fox’s site.
Note: little bee officially spells their name in lower case.