Interview with Agent Tracy Marchini

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Tracy is a relatively new agent at BookEnds literary, but is not new to the publishing world. As you’ll see by her comments, Tracy is knowledgeable about the industry, and being a writer as well, she understands the challenges that come with pursuing a writing career.

Thank you, Tracy, for taking time out of your busy day to answer these questions. 

You’ve had an impressive career. You worked at Curtis Brown, then took time off to finish an MFA in writing for children from Simmons College. You are an agent at BookEnds Literary and an author as well. What started you on the path to working in the publishing industry and in particular, becoming an agent? 

Like many of my colleagues, I was writing and reading from a young age. My mother joined SCBWI in 1996 and learned how to submit to publishers, and the next year I started submitting my first picture book. (In hindsight, it was not that good.) A few years later, I graduated college with a degree in English and attended the local SCBWI conference. 

I was sitting with Gail Carson Levine and mentioned that I’d just graduated from college and was hoping to work in publishing. She offered to pass along my resume to her agent, where it was hung on the kitchen bulletin board. Kirsten Manges was leaving Curtis Brown to start her own agency, and so she grabbed my resume and I was able to intern for her as she set up everything from the phone lines to the submissions system to the boilerplate files. After about six months, I had to leave and find full time work. But a few months later, Kirsten told me that Curtis Brown was looking for an agent’s assistant. I interviewed first with one of their romance agents and didn’t get the job. A month or so later though I had an interview in the children’s suite, and that’s how I ended up with my first full time job at an agency!

What’s your ideal query? What’s your ideal picture book manuscript? YA and MG? 

Ideal is hard, because sometimes I don’t know what I’m looking for until I see it! But my ideal query definitely follows the standard format (a line to draw me in, one to two paragraph synopsis, and a one paragraph bio with your writing or professional credits) and displays your professionalism. Writing is a creative pursuit, but publishing is a business. I need to be able to see that you understand both sides of the industry.

My ideal picture book manuscript has a strong voice and a unique concept. It’s child friendly/focused. If it’s fiction, it’s probably funny. And if it’s non-fiction, it teaches me about someone or something that I didn’t know as much about. (And generally, it doesn’t rhyme.) 

My ideal middle grade or YA manuscript has an appropriate voice for the audience. In middle grade, it looks at the way that character navigates the world closest to them – their family, their school, their community. In YA, it looks at the teen character on the brink of entering the wider world. It doesn’t have to be an issue driven book – in fact, I’d love a funny middle grade mystery with a spunky girl detective – but it does have to ring true to its readership and the things that are most important to them at that time in their lives.

And in PB, MG and YA I’m definitely looking for diversity and own voices for my list, as well as strong female characters. 

What current picture books best represent your taste? What classic picture books still float your boat? 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 Zachary Shuster Harmsworth. 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?

Continue reading