Interview with Agent Lindsay Davis Auld

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Lindsay Davis Auld is an agent at Writers House and is actively building her list. She represents children’s lit, from board books through YA (see here for more details). She taught fourth grade and worked for Harcourt Children’s Books prior to joining Writers House as Steven Malk’s assistant. She calls two countries home and is open to international clients. (And Ben and Jerry, if you’re reading this, please, make her ice cream flavor idea.)

Thank you, Lindsay, for your time!

 

You worked at Writers House with Steven Malk a few years ago and launched several successful books before taking time off to move to England and start your family. Now that you’re agenting again, have you changed how you approach your job, or what you look for in a manuscript? 

Yes, it’s been quite an adventure. In a lot of ways, though, I’d say that, even though I’ve certainly learned a great deal from having children and spending lots of time in bookstores in England, I think I’ll always look for the same qualities in a manuscript: an authentic voice, characters that feel real, a world that fascinates me, and a story I can’t put down. 

What path led you to agenting? Have you always wanted to work in publishing? What would you do if you weren’t agenting? 

After college, I taught fourth grade as a member of Teach for America, and I loved reading with my class and trying to find the right book for each child. It made me realize that I’d like to be a part of bringing children’s and YA books into the world. My first job in publishing was at Harcourt Children’s Books. I then joined Writers House as Steven Malk’s assistant, and eventually began building my own list of authors and artists. Steve has always been an amazing mentor, and I feel incredibly lucky to have learned so much from him, and to have now re-joined Writers House.

I have no idea what I’d be doing if I weren’t agenting. Something to do with stories, I would imagine, as I tend to seek out libraries and bookstores wherever I am, just because I like to be around books.

You and I have a similar situation—we sort of live between two countries. Do you work both in the US and in England? Are you open to international clients?   Continue reading

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Interview with Agent Laurel Symonds

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Laurel Symonds recently left her job as marketing manager at a small publishing house to become a literary agent at The Bent Agency. She’s seen the publishing industry from multiple angles and is now offering that expertise as an agent. She is open to submissions for YA, MG, chapter books and picture books (see her bio for more details).

Thank you, Laurel, for taking the time to answer some questions.

 

Your publishing career started in the editorial department of HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Children’s Books. What led you into publishing in the first place?

I was a Creative Writing major at Hamilton College and, like many who major in similar fields, there came a time when I had no idea what I was going to do with my degree. Fortuitously, an alum (shout out to Caroline Abbey, now Senior Editor at Random House Children’s Books!) spoke on campus about her experience working in publishing. I went on to intern with her at Bloomsbury Children’s Books that summer and completely fell in love with the industry.

You also worked in marketing at Albert Whitman, you’ve worked in a library, and as a bookseller. You’ve seen a book through it’s many phases then—from acquisition through marketing, and into the end user’s hands. How will you apply all of that experience to your new role as an agent?

I feel this diversity of experience really sets me apart as an agent and has provided me with insight that allows me to be the best partner for my clients in all aspects of the publishing process.

What do writers need to understand about marketing/publishing before they become too invested in a manuscript?

Knowing as much about the industry—particularly as far as expectations go—can be incredibly helpful for the entire publishing process. At the early stages of a manuscript, though, the best thing to do is read, read, read. Find out what’s popular, what’s similar (and dissimilar) to your project, and be able to explain why your book has a place in the market. Continue reading

Interview with Agent Natascha Morris Part 2

NMorris320x400IMG_20161127_103045-240x300Natascha is a former editor turned agent for BookEnds Literary. I first interviewed Natascha just over a year ago when she was getting started in her new career. With a year-plus behind her, I’ve been dying for an update. Luckily, she agreed to a second interview. 

Thank you, Natascha!

 

You recently hit your year-mark as an agent. What has been the biggest surprise for you from the agenting side of the industry?

There have been two really big surprises. The first is the amazing talent I have found, and the connections I have made. I had some idea when going in, but it is just amazing how far I have come. The second was how much grit it takes to be on this side of the desk. Agents take those punches alongside their clients, and we do it for everyone. Being an agent teaches you about yourself.  

 I imagine you’ve built up a solid client list by now. Are you still seeking clients?

Always seeking new clients, but out of necessity, I am getting pickier. When I first started, I had loads of time to pour into a client. Now, I have to weigh that against the time for 24 other talented people. It’s not just one book per author, it’s multiple books per author.

What would you say is the split between the categories you represent? How many are PB writers, MG, illustrators, etc.? Continue reading

Interview with Agent Natascha Morris

NMorris320x400IMG_20161127_103045-240x300Natascha is a new agent at Bookends Literary and a former editorial assistant for Simon & Schuster. She is open to submissions for picture books, middle grade, and young adult across multiple genres: contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical fiction, and narrative non-fiction. She is looking for authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators. 

Thank you, Natascha, for your insightful answers.

What was your favorite role during your days as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster? 

There were two things I loved about working at Simon & Schuster: reading the submissions to find that standout project, and working with the design team to come up with great covers. As an agent, I can still find that diamond in the rough, but I will miss coming up with cover concepts. 

Were there any manuscripts you helped acquire that you’re particularly proud of? 

Kit Frick’s See All the Stars (Summer 2018) is one I’m particularly proud of. Read it on submission and fell in love with it. I also had the opportunity to offer editorial notes. Kit is an amazingly talented writer who changed the whole manuscript with a few smart line changes. I’d love to find an author like her.

Could you walk us through the acquisitions process—what stars had to align in order for S&S to select a manuscript for publication?

Every book is different and sometimes, editors don’t follow the process. But in general, once an editor has a project they want to pursue, they take it to the editorial meeting. If the other editors agree (and sometimes they don’t), the editor takes it to acquisitions. I worked at two literary imprints, so quality of writing was a big factor. After that it came down to a host of factors: editorial taste, vision for the project, and market saturation. Publishing is subjective, and sometimes timing plays a part of that. 

If you could name one skill you honed as an editorial assistant that has helped you transition to agenting, what would it be? 

Mmmm, tough question to answer. Different aspects of being an editorial assistant helped. The number one factor that helped is probably my ability to read a manuscript and see its potential. As an editor, you have to have a vision for a project to edit it, and it’s my firm belief that an agent should also have a vision. If I don’t have a vision for your manuscript, I can’t be the best agent for you. And you deserve the best agent and the agent who gets it.
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Interview with Agent Wendi Gu

wendiIt’s a new year so let’s start it off with an interview from new-ish agent Wendi Gu of Greenburger Associates. She represents one of my critique partners, so I already know she has great taste (If I could, I’d insert the grinning emoticon here). Wendi is looking for authors, author-illustrators and illustrators only. And, as you’ll see by her answers, she will be a champ of an advocate for any client she takes on. Wendi reps kidlit and some adult lit–read on for details. Thank you, Wendi, for your time!

You’re a new agent at Greenburger Associates and have been working with Brenda Bowen—wow. What led you to agenting and to Greenburger? 

Brenda Bowen indeed! She’s been a fabulous, encouraging mentor, and I’m very lucky to work with her. I came into agenting by accident–I knew I wanted to be in New York, and that I wanted to work in books. When I was still studying creative writing at Northwestern, I sent an internship application to every single publishing house and agency I could find. I wasn’t very picky then. At that point, I didn’t even know that there was a difference between agenting and editing! Or what an imprint was. Or what “delivery advance” meant. I never heard back from most places. But lo and behold, I received an internship offer from Greenburger, and worked there the summer before my final year of college. A few months before I was slated to graduate, I got a call that Greenburger was looking to fill an assistant position. I snapped up the position. Then, about a year ago, I was given the green light to agent my own titles. 

Tell me a bit about you. What are your hobbies, favorite sports teams, must-have dessert after a stress-filled day, cat, dog (beagles maybe?) or neither, TV shows, movies, etc.?

As a kid, I was always picked last in gym class, and couldn’t muster a push-up for the life of me. But not anymore! Now, on the weekends, I work at Dou Yoga in Brooklyn and pushups are a breeze. And I also go to a very intense, very pretentiously named workout class called “ModelFit” with my friend and colleague Meg Reid, who is a literary scout at Greenburger. 

You guessed it. My favorite dog is indeed a beagle. They are such hyper weirdos. It’s the long ears that get me. And–I live with a rescue cat named Fergie who was found in a cat carrier under the Coney Island Boardwalk. Breed indeterminate, but she’s definitely my prettiest roommate. 

As for snacks, I’m a savory person. Smoked gouda is good on any cracker. Recently I’ve been very fascinated by the new dill pickle Kettle Chips flavor. “All natural” – you know? 

I don’t necessarily have a favorite show or movie, but I think season one of Veronica Mars is FLAWLESS, and speaking of flawless, I’ve probably watched Beyonce’s Lemonade more than any other film in my adult life. I’m also a podcast person. Codeswitch, 2 Dope Queens, On Being with Krista Tippet are among my favorites. 

Now to books: You are looking for “puns, quirky humor, girl power, and cute animals in picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction” and even “adult fiction on the first-generation American experience.” For our kidlit writers, would you name a good example in PB, MG and YA of books that best reflect your taste. 

This is always such a hard question, but the names that I really gravitate towards are:  Continue reading

Interview with Agent Rick Richter

rick-richter I had a one-on-one critique session with Rick Richter at a writing conference in Boston. I wish I could have chatted with him for hours. As you’ll see from his answers, he’s got a wealth of information from his many years in the publishing industry, and I am grateful he took the time to answer the following questions, including the tough ones. Thank you, Rick!

Let me first set up your rather amazing resume. You were a co-founder (with many others) and former CEO of Candlewick Press, a publisher at Simon & Schuster Children’s Books, president of Simon & Schuster Sales and Distribution Division, the creator of Simon Spotlight, and the founder of Ruckus Media Group. While at S&S you helped reintroduce the market to Eloise and Raggedy Ann. You’ve also served as chairman of the Children’s Book Council, and as an early director of First Book, and you’re currently a literary agent at Aevitas Creative Management. I think it’s safe to say you know a lot about children’s literature. How did you get started on this path?

My father worked the night shift at the Boston Globethe “lobstah” shift I think is what they called itand he thought the book business was nobler than newspapers. “People don’t wrap fish in your work at the end of the day.” I remember him saying, so he encouraged me to find a job in books. My soon-to-be-wife introduced me to a friend who worked at a small company in Natick, MassachusettsPicture Book Studioand I fell head over heels over the work of Lizbeth Zwerger. I remember telling the staff there (the entire staff interviewed me!) that I would do anything at the company. “Anything at all.” I started packing books in their warehouse.

I was really fortunate to have two amazing bosses at this little company. The first, Motoko Inoue, went on to become Eric Carle’s long-time and exclusive agent. The second, Andrew Clements, went on to write the classic Frindle, and became a staple in the industry. So I learned to love the business at the knee of two highly principled and wonderful people. 

Now that you’re an agent, do you see the children’s lit world differently?

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