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Nov 19, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series - Felicia Eth

 CritiqueMatch welcomes literary agent Felicia Eth to our next Agent Spotlight Series article! Felicia Eth Literary Representation is a one-woman full-service literary agency dedicated to handling book properties comprised of strong voices, intellectually stimulating storylines or discussions, flavorful narratives, books which make a unique contribution and the occasional quirky book that is just too difficult to resist.

Though Ms. Eth prefers a small and selective list, she continues to search for new clients and new properties, primarily in adult fiction and nonfiction. The agency’s contacts are primarily with major commercial houses, smaller reputable presses and university presses with trade lists.

Felicia Eth
CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Felicia: 
I was once mistaken for Cher by photographers at an event I attended.
I had an offer to publish a collection of my submission letters. (This is the lie, though I had an editor suggest she'd be willing to try if I submitted them formally.)
A client of mine once made me dinner and surprised me by making tongue.  

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Felicia: Recently we’ve seen a plethora of dystopian novels, dependency memoirs, and lots of historical novels attempting to redress racial and multicultural issues.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Felicia: Honesty, respect, and friendship have a lot to do with a great working relationship. When I handle a property, it’s about much more than the book, though, of course, that’s what I’m selling. It’s about a commitment which both the author and I have made to each other. Representing projects can be stressful, and a really solid professional relationship built on these qualities makes the process more of a joy than a burden.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Felicia: The answer here varies from project to project but on the whole, I am quite hands-on. Rarely does a project get sent out by me where the author hasn’t gone through one or two revisions, and I can recall one project which was a first book, where the author revised the proposal 8 or 9 times, but I did end up getting him a $100,000 advance.  But honestly, I’ve worked just as hard with books that sold for $7500. 

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Felicia: Terribly important. Lots of people write good queries for books that often sound similar to other projects being pitched. But a query that jumps out from the others foreshadows a book that might jump out as well, and that’s the one I’m likely to invite a submission on. That doesn’t mean something that’s gimmicky, but something that has all the necessary components plus that something extra.

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing? 
Felicia: I am a small one-person agency, so I’m not hiring on new people. But I have always had an interest in broadening the perspective of books available to the reading public, going way back to when I first worked at Writers House and sold Octavia Butler’s earliest books including Kindred, to Carolyn Scott Brown’s Black Woman’s Guide to Menopause, to my most recent sale of Keenan Norris’s forthcoming The Confessions of Copeland Cane. 

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Felicia: People often think we lead a glamorous life, and are only interested in giant commercial novels. In my experience, neither could be further from the truth. 

CM: Should every book have an agent?
Felicia: Not necessarily. There are many different ways to sell books these days, and Big 5 commercial trade publishing is not right for every book. Many options exist, including specialized presses, digital-only houses, small independent publishers, Christian publishers, self-publishing, etc. The criteria that agents and major houses have for what to take on aren’t only about a book’s worth, so you need to be aware of that when looking for representation.

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Literary accessible fiction, historical and suspense novels with a literary bent that transcend genre, novels with a magical realism and/or a multicultural element.
  • Narrative nonfiction including memoir, journalism, unusual travel books, popular science, psychological and social concerns, women’s issues, fresh parenting ideas, culinary writing.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Genre fiction, including romance novels, sci fi and fantasy, westerns, anime and graphic novels, mysteries. 
  • Poetry, academic or technical books. 
  • Picture books or chapter books for the juvenile market (except where the author is also a writer of adult books which we are interested in). 
  • Christian books, humor or how-to books. 
  • Screenplays.
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2 Client Examples
Ten Speed Press/Random House - 2020
Ballantine Book/ Random House - 2012
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Query Tips

Dos:
  • Brief, well-written, definitely include your credentials and any past history re submissions as well as previous publications. 
Don'ts:
  • Make demands. 
  • Forget to mention it’s a multiple submission.
  • Presume to know it’s exactly what I’m looking for. 
  • Query on books in areas I say I am not looking for. 
  • Send a complete manuscript or pages unless I invite submission.
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Submission Guidelines:
Submissions are preferred online to feliciaeth.literary@gmail.com or if necessary by hardcopy to: Felicia Eth Literary Representation, 555 Bryant St., Suite 350,Palo Alto, Ca. 94301. All hardcopy submissions should include a s.a.s.e. with postage.

For fiction: 
Please write a query letter introducing yourself, your book, your writing background. Don’t forget to include degrees you may have, publishing credits, awards and endorsements. Please wait for a response before including sample pages. We only consider material where the manuscript for which you are querying is complete, unless you have previously published.
For non-fiction: 
A query letter is best, introducing your idea and what you have written already (proposal, manuscript?). For writerly nonfiction (narratives, bio, memoir) please let us know if you have a finished manuscript. Also it’s important you include information about yourself, your background and expertise, your platform and notoriety, if any.

Nov 17, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Annie Bomke

A warm welcome to literary agent Annie Bomke! Annie has over a decade of experience helping authors succeed. Her books include Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver, winner of the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and nominated for a Lammy Award, Strand Critics Award, Barry Award and Anthony Award, and the Barnes & Noble bestselling Poppy McAllister cozy mystery series by Libby Klein. She has edited a wide range of projects—from hard-nosed business books to otherworldly historical novels. Authors have called her the pH test for good writing, and a bedrock for literary quality control. 

Annie has loved the publishing industry since her position as an Editorial Assistant at Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine founded by Francis Ford Coppola. She explored her love of books managing Alcala Gallery, an art gallery and rare bookstore, and even had a brief stint as a technical writer for a Department of Defense contractor.

Annie spends her free time reading, going for walks in the park, and dancing. Her favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Tana French, and Paul Auster.

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Annie: 
- The Odyssey is my all-time favorite book.  (This is the lie.  I hate The Odyssey with a passion to block out the sun.)
- I don’t know how to ride a bike.
- As a small child, I was so neurotic that I wouldn’t leave the house if my socks didn’t match.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?  
Annie: The most important thing in an agent-author relationship is honest, respectful communication.  Part of this means being open to the other person’s perspective.  That doesn’t mean I expect clients to agree with me on all the feedback I offer them.  It means that if they disagree, I would want them to communicate why and offer possible alternative ways to approach the issue.  

I also love swapping book and movie/TV recommendations with clients.  I’ve heard about so many cool shows and books from my authors.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Annie: Right now, I have 22 clients.  While there are certain genres I gravitate towards (like mysteries and historical fiction), over time I’ve found myself broadening the list of genres I represent.  For instance, last year I sent out the first memoir, interior design book and horror novel I had ever represented.  If you had asked me a year before if I had any plans to work on those genres, I probably would’ve said no, but the right projects came along that made it easy to say yes.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Annie: I am very hands-on.  I usually go through anywhere from two to eight drafts of a manuscript before I send it out.  I’m a compulsive grammar-corrector, so my comments always cover copyediting as well as big picture stuff, like character development, plot and writing.  


CM: Are there any virtual events you recommend for writers in the querying trenches? 
Annie: I am a huge fan of Twitter pitch parties.  The biggest one is probably #pitmad, which happens four times a year, but there are also smaller pitch parties (often based on genre) that are worthwhile too.  Basically, writers post tweets pitching their books in 280 characters, and agents peruse the pitches, requesting sample pages of any that catch their eye.  It’s a great way for authors to get the attention of multiple agents at once, and to have agents requesting that you contact them (instead of the other way around).  I love Twitter pitch parties because they help me find projects that are very targeted to my interests.  I’ve found a lot of clients through them.

There are also a lot of virtual writers’ conferences going on this year with COVID that allow you to pitch your book to agents from the comfort of your own home.

CM: How important is voice in a query?
Annie: Voice is probably the biggest thing I look for in a submission.  For me, voice comes down to writing that a) feels like it’s from the point-of-view of a real person, b) offers me a unique image or a fresh way of thinking of something, and c) makes me feel something.  In other words, it has depth, nuance and personality, and it provokes an emotional response in me.  It’s a tricky thing to achieve, and VERY, VERY subjective.
 
CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing?
Annie: While I’ve always sought to represent diverse authors, lately I have been looking for more active ways to do this.  Part of this has been requesting diverse submissions via Twitter and my MSWL page.  I have also been searching through genre hashtags during Twitter pitch parties to find books by diverse authors more easily.  For instance, #pitmad has introduced a #BVM hashtag (#BlackVoicesMatter) that Black authors can include in their pitches, and I will browse through that hashtag before looking at any others.  (They also offer #POC and #LGBTQ hashtags that I look at as well.)  And I participate in #DVpit, a Twitter pitch party for diverse voices, founded by agent Beth Phelan.

I have also been more mindful about representing #OwnVoices books.  I am very hesitant to work on a book with a diverse protagonist that isn’t #OwnVoices, because there will always be a question of how representative the book really is.
 
CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Annie: That we’re heartless machines or that we enjoy rejecting authors.  No one enjoys giving or receiving a rejection, but it is a necessary part of publishing.  Even though agents have a lot of experience rejecting authors (most agents reject at least 90% of what they receive), we’re not fully immune to the sting of receiving or giving a rejection.  I’ve felt sick to my stomach writing rejection letters, yet I know it was ultimately the right decision for me.  

The submission process involves a lot of waiting to hear back from agents, and generally, if an author does hear back, they get a form letter.  So I think a lot of authors feel like they and their book are treated like a cog in a machine, almost like no one reads their submission.  It’s a very impersonal process, so I think sometimes authors forget that agents are people—people with personal preferences, quirks, chapped lips, mortgages.  They’re looking for books that they love.  I always tell authors that when I read a query, I don’t make a value judgment about whether or not it’s a “good” book.  I’m looking for projects that appeal to me specifically (and that I believe I can sell to a publisher).  Publishing is a deeply personal industry, which makes it a deeply subjective industry.  

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Adult and YA fiction: commercial and literary fiction, upmarket fiction, mysteries (from hilarious cozies to gritty police procedurals and everything in between), historical fiction, women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, literary/psychological horror, magical realism.
  • Nonfiction: Self-help, business, health/diet, cookbooks, memoir, relationships, current events, true crime psychology, and narrative nonfiction. 
  • I'm especially looking for books that feature diverse characters.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, romance, screenplays, novellas, poetry, middle grade, chapter books, and picture books.
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2 Client Examples

Crooked Lane Books - 2020
Skyhorse Publishing - 2020
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Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Make sure you show the primary conflict and rising action in your query.  Many queries that I get make the plot sound passive, or not active enough to keep readers invested in the story, so make sure the conflict is front and center.
  • Include comp titles in your query.  It shows you’ve done your research and you know where your book fits in the market.
  • Give the agent the submission package they ask for in their submission guidelines, whether it’s just a query or a query plus a certain number of sample pages.  It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, yet it makes a big difference in showing agents that you can be professional.  You want to treat querying an agent with the same level of professionalism as applying for a job.  One of my pet peeves is when authors send me an informal email telling me they’re looking for an agent and asking if I’m interested in learning more.  They haven’t sent me the submission package I ask for on my website or told me enough about their book for me to know if I’m interested.  
  • Make sure your name and the agent’s name are spelled correctly.  Again, it sounds so obvious, but I’ve seen authors misspell or not include their own names plenty of times (and had my last name misspelled so often I started keeping track of all the spellings)!
Don'ts:
  • If an agent has asked for sample pages, don’t send them a link to your sample writing.  Most agents are wary about clicking on strange links (myself included).  And you’re showing that you can’t follow their directions, which will make agents question your professionalism.
  • Open your query with an explanation of why you decided to write the book.  Just launch straight into the plot.
  • Write the query from the POV of a character.  This is confusing for agents, because we’re left trying to separate the content of the book from the character’s perspective.
  • Respond to a rejection letter by asking the agent to recommend other agents to submit your project to.  I don’t keep track of what other agents are looking for, so I can’t make any recommendations off the top of my head.  Also, I typically don’t have time to respond to authors once I’ve turned them down.  
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Submission Guidelines:
For all fiction submissions, please include a query letter, synopsis, and the first two chapters of your manuscript pasted in the body of the email.
For all nonfiction submissions, please include a query letter and proposal.

You can email submissions to submissions@abliterary.com, or mail them to the following address: Annie Bomke Literary Agency, P. O. Box 3759, San Diego, CA 92163.
Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with all hard copy submissions. Annie Bomke Literary Agency will read your material and respond to you within 6-8 weeks of submission.













Nov 12, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Jill Marsal

 

A warm welcome to literary agent Jill Marsal! Jill is a founding partner of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and has been in the publishing industry for 20 years. Previously, she worked as a Literary Agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and at Dorchester Publications and Tudor Publishing, editing women’s fiction and suspense/thrillers. Jill also has a strong legal background and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She practiced as an attorney with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Jill enjoys working with both new and experienced writers. A few of Jill’s represented books include WITH LOVE FROM THE INSIDE by Angela Pisel (Putnam), THE CHALLENGER SALE by Wall Street Journal bestselling authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (Portfolio), ONE POISON PIE by NYT bestselling author Lynn Cahoon (Kensington), SEE HER DIE by WSJ and Amazon Charts bestselling author Melinda Leigh (Montlake),  LIMITLESS MIND by Stanford Professor Jo Boaler (Harper One), MIDDLE SCHOOL MATTERS by Phyllis Fagell (Da Capo), and FEELING AT HOME: THE BRAIN AND WHERE WE LIVE by John S. Allen (Basic).

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Jill: In high school, we had a career day, and a literary agent came and spoke to my class.  I had never heard of the profession before, but I thought wow, reading for a job! I went home and got out the yellow pages (this was before the internet) and contacted several local literary agencies and got a job assisting one of the local agents. She encouraged me to apply to New York for an editorial position, and several years later, I did that and worked for Dorchester Publishing.  Later, I joined the Dijkstra Agency and after that co-founded the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  

I love reading and editing and working with authors to make their manuscripts as strong as possible.  It is such an exciting process to be able to work on a manuscript and take it from idea/concept to completed book.  And I love taking a manuscript on submission and getting “the call” from an editor and then making “the call” to an author.  It’s great being part of the process which brings readers books that can impact their lives, offer intriguing stories, take readers to places they would never otherwise experience, and entertain and inspire.  If I wasn’t an agent, I would love to stay in the publishing world- either as an editor, bookseller, or somehow find another career related to books and publishing.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Jill: I think good communication is critical to a successful agent-author relationship.  Whether it is phone or email or both, it is important for the agent to understand the author’s goals and vision for his or her work and equally important for the author to hear what the agent thinks is needed to get there and for the two to be able to strategize, partner, and work toward achieving those goals. I think other attributes of a great agent-author relationship include being timely and responsive, on both sides. 

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Jill: It really depends on the manuscript.  Some authors come in with manuscripts in very strong shape and might need just light edits whereas others may need more editorial feedback.  In the latter case, I am hands-on and will go back and forth to try and make the manuscript as strong as possible.  For a debut author who has never written before, there tends to be more feedback and editorial focus whereas a bestselling, experienced author might need more help with career building, marketing, and branding rather than editing. 

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Jill: Social distancing hasn’t had much impact on pitching.  I can pitch to publishers on the phone and through emails. Pitching is really about the long-term relationships an agent develops with editors.  A good agent will know what specific editors are looking for, what are the editor’s areas of interest, which editors are likely to connect with a project, etc. so the agent can target the right manuscript or proposal to the right editor.  

CM: Can you share with us a client success story, from their query/introduction to you all the way to publication?
Jill: I had a query come in from a mystery author on a Friday, read her pages over the weekend, and called her and then sent an agency agreement on Monday.  She had a terrific voice and really strong writing and plot. I couldn’t put the manuscript down.  On Tuesday, we went on submission with the manuscript, and she had her first offer come in the following Saturday, one week from sending her query!  While the process is not usually that fast, it was incredibly exciting and very rewarding to see a top manuscript get picked up so quickly. The author has also branched out and is now writing for another publisher as well under a pen name.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Jill: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Jill: While it is great if a query does have voice in it, it often can be tough for voice to come through in a query.  However, a strong/distinct voice is critical for the actual manuscript.  I think this can really make a manuscript standout, and a good writer can make any subject come alive with a strong voice. For the query, it is generally more of a summary- I want to know there are interesting characters- people who you want to find out what will happen to them.  They might introduce you to an unfamiliar world or they might be people you identify with and relate to.  I also think it is important to have a great “hook” or emotionally compelling situation that will intrigue editors and readers and make them want to read the manuscript- ask yourself what about these characters or their situations is compelling or interesting or will make readers want to stay with them for 300+ pages?

CM: Please describe the kinds of books you want to agent.
Jill: I am looking for all types of mystery/suspense/psychological suspense, as well as cozies and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. 

I am also looking for commercial fiction, all types of women's fiction, historical fiction, stories of family, friendships, secrets, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations.  I welcome a dramatic storyline and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships.  If you have a novel that has a highly original concept or voice, I would love to see it.

On the non-fiction side, my areas of interest include current events, business, health, self-help, relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction.  I am particularly drawn to projects which will move readers or leave them thinking, which make provocative arguments or share interesting research, or which offer useful, new advice.
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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Fiction: all types of commercial fiction, women’s fiction, stories of family, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations, and romance. 
  • Mysteries, psychological suspense, cozies, and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. 
  • Dramatic storylines and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships, or a highly original concept or voice.
  • Non-fiction: business, current events, health, self-help, advice/relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction. 
What you’re not interested in:
  • Memoir, picture books
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2 Client Examples

Montlake - 2020
Ballantine - 2020
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Query Tips
I would suggest opening your query identifying your name, the title of your book, and the genre.  This way, as agents read your query letter, they can focus on the summary of your project instead of having to try to figure out what type of manuscript it is.  
A good query will generally have one to two paragraphs summarizing the book and also one paragraph about the author describing all relevant writing experience, prior publications, writing awards, and author platform. 

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Submission Guidelines
Send a query letter by email, with the word QUERY in the email’s subject line, to:


















Nov 9, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Dawn Dowdle

A warm welcome to literary agent Dawn Dowdle!
About Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency: 
My family and I live in Lynchburg, VA, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I am an avid lover of cozy mysteries and enjoy attending Malice Domestic. For relaxation, I assemble 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. 

The agency is a boutique agency, where I primarily represent Romances and Mysteries. While I represent a lot of Cozy Mysteries, that is not the only type of Mystery I represent. I am also looking for Picture Books, Cookbooks, True Crime, and Middle Grade Mysteries.

One of my favorite things to do is attend writers' conferences. In addition to networking with other agents and editors, I try to meet with any of my authors who might live in the area, as well as meet new authors.

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Dawn: My husband and I met through a phone ad. (truth)
I was a Missionary in my early 20s. (truth)
I enjoy skydiving. (false)

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Dawn: Mysteries have become oversaturated in the last couple of years. I feel there are still plenty of readers, but editors have become much more selective in acquiring mysteries due to the market.

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Dawn: I opened my agency for a couple of reasons. 1) I wanted to be more available to newer authors. 2) I wanted to be more accessible to my authors. Truthfully, being an agent is my favorite career. It took until I was 50 to find it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Dawn: A willingness to accept edits and to keep trying to promote their books. Being willing to interact with readers.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Dawn: I represent approximately 60 authors. People sometimes say that is too many. You have to remember that not everyone is at the same stage at the same time. Some are writing their next book and so there isn’t anything I need to do at that time other than disburse royalties to them. Some I am editing their manuscript and that takes more interaction or some I am querying. Once the query letter goes out, then it’s just checking back with the editors and keeping the authors notified of responses. Early on I had to realize that, while I would like to be an author’s agent for their whole career, that might not happen. Sometimes an author’s writing changes and they don’t fit what I represent. Sometimes an author’s book’s sales are low and they really don’t need an agent any longer. Sometimes an author stops writing for one reason or another.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Dawn: Every book goes through full editing with me before it is queried to editors. 

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Dawn: This really hasn’t changed for me. I live in Virginia and pitch books via email.

CM: Describe the path to publication for one of the books you represent. 
Dawn: One author I represent had an agent before me. I believe that agent had the book for 4-5 years and was unable to get an offer for it. During this time, the author was continuing to learn and change her manuscript. From the time I signed her to getting an offer of publication was approximately 5 months. You do have to remember that the manuscript her first agent was querying was different from the one I was querying. A lot of changes had been made.

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Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Cozy Mysteries (Female Protagonist), Mysteries, Historical Mysteries, Suspense, 
  • Amish Romance, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Inspirational Romance, Historical Romance
  • True Crime, 
  • Cookbooks
  • Middle Reader Mysteries
  • Children's Picture Books
What you’re not interested in:
  • Erotica
  • Word counts over 100K, omniscient Points of View; 
  • Fantasy or sci fi (even romance), paranormal romance
  • Previously published works or books in a published series
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2 Client Examples

Zebra - 2020
Crooked Lane Books - 2020
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Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Edit your manuscript, synopsis & query letter before submitting.
  • Research the agents/editors you are querying and make your query letter fit them.
Don'ts:
  • Send one email to multiple agents at a time. We will delete it.
  • Say you saw something on our website that attracted you that isn’t really on that agent’s website.
_______

Submission Guidelines:
Your manuscript should: be edited, completed, double-spaced with 1" margins, have chapters begin on a new page, have chapter headings, be in Times New Roman font, be in font size 12, be LESS than 100K words. 

You must follow the query instructions on my website:  www.blueridgeagency.com
DO NOT E-MAIL YOUR QUERY!
Submit a query to Dawn using this link:














Nov 6, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Malaga Baldi

 

A warm welcome to literary agent Malaga Baldi! Malaga has worked as an independent literary agent since 1986. The Baldi Agency is an eclectic agency specializing in literary fiction, memoir and cultural history. She worked as a cashier at Gotham Book Mart, in the Ballantine Books Publicity Department, as an associate at Candida Donadio & Associates and the Elaine Markson Agency before going out on her own. Baldi believes the strength of the author's voice and the heart of the story to be key when considering new work. Baldi graduated from Hampshire College and lives in NYC with her family.

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Malaga:  I am organized. I try harder. I don’t know how to lie/you can tell if I am.

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in biographies or lifestyle books in the last five years?
Malaga:  Queer/trans/non-binary bios, memoirs & lifestyle books. All sorts of food/cooking/alternative eating habit books. 

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Malaga: Trump! Enough Memoir.

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued? 
Malaga:  In 1974 I took a year off from college to work as a mother's helper for Lois Wallace, a young NYC based literary agent. She left the august William Morris Agency to launch her own agency.  I met all sorts of writers including Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne and Erica Jong while I took care of her son, George. One afternoon, there was a knock at the apartment door. Eric Segal (LOVE STORY) was there looking down at the floor: his hard contact lens had popped out. We three fell to our knees in the vestibule lightly tap taping the floor with our fingertips.  When I found the contact, a lightbulb went off in my head: I can’t write, I can’t edit, but I can find contacts....
Maybe I should become an agent someday... 
I would be a UPS driver because I like driving, uniforms and UPS.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Malaga:  
Transparency 
Shared values
Humor
Deep belief in self/ resiliency

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Malaga: About 50.  Some authors have books out now, others are between books, others not active. My list has grown.  I still hunt for the books I wish to represent.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Malaga: I am not an editor instead, more of a cheerleader.  There are many superb editors turned agents. Most of the manuscripts I represent are written at a top level.  If there is a manuscript I believe needs work, and I am gaga over it, I suggest to the potential client a handful of paid for editing former editors. This does not guarantee publication and the author pays for the editing out of their own pocket.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Malaga: MOBY DICK by Herman Melville, read for the first time ever!

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Malaga: The voice not so much, more the description of how the writer came to write about the nonfiction subject.  Why this subject is so important.... For fiction an invitation to find out what happens at the end, asking enough questions that make me want to pick up the phone & ask to read the book asap.

CM: Describe the path to publication for one of the books you represent.
Malaga: The best answer I can offer is in the brilliantly written essay, "ZEN & THE ART OF QUICKSAND" by client, Colin Hester, recently published in Poets & Writers online. 

_____

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • General fiction, reference, biography, history, lifestyle, cookbooks, personal business, spiritual, science, narrative nonfiction, memoir, cultural history, literary fiction, creative/hybrid nonfiction, and LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction.
  • Nonfiction proposals about:
    • What museums will be like in the future
    • Anything with anthropocene in the subtitle
    • What it takes to become an architect
    • Water conservation for dummies
    • What happens to art during bad times (like now)
What you’re not interested in:
  • Children's, middle grade, young adult, Christian, travel books. 
  • Generally, genre category fiction: science fiction, fantasy, westerns, mysteries, women's romances, and thrillers Are not our focus.
  • Poetry, plays, teleplays or screenplays, novellas, “fiction novels”.
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2 Client Examples

Harper Collins - 2019
Harper Collins - 2020

Query Tips
Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Read the agency website.  Does the agency Really represent what you have completed?  DO YOUR RESEARCH.
  • Double check, edit/re-edit and read your query out loud.
  • Be patient, it takes time to read.
  • Write the best book you can.
  • Tell the truth.
Don'ts:
  • Don’t give up.  Stick to your guns.
  • Agents get rejected every day, all the time.
  • No typos.
  • If you don’t know how to address the agent by name, write out The full name. No Mr.  Malaga Baldi.
  • No fiction novels.
  • Not a good first line:
    • It was a dark and stormy night.
    • The natives were restless.
_____

Submission Guidelines
FICTION: A thoughtful one page letter describing the novel along with SASE (self addressed stamped envelope) for response. Or query by email, info@baldibooks.com. If we ask to read the novel, we will ask for the entire manuscript.
NONFICTION: A descriptive query describing the questions you are raising in your work along with SASE for response and/or return of material. Or query by email, info@baldibooks.com.






Nov 4, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Linda S. Glaz

 

A warm welcome to literary agent Linda S. Glaz! Linda is an experienced editor, reviewer and writer, has been a proofreader for two publishers, an editorial assistant to for Hartline becoming an agent four years ago. She has worked as a professional reviewer for a romance site, and just loves anything to do with books. She's extremely active in the judging community and speaks at conferences nationwide.  She is also a member of AWSA, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association which takes her speaking from libraries to ladies teas, churches, and conferences. Linda understands writers, because she IS a writer.

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Linda: I know most editors have recently been very full of historic and historic romance, and were leaning toward contemporary and suspense, but my guess is, we will see suspense getting full very soon here. Hopefully, that will be good news for historic authors. Contemporary romance never seems to see dark days.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Linda: Dream clients, and I think this is true for most agents, will be authors who are very teachable. They have researched enough that they understand the industry and have VERY thick skin when it comes to rejection and criticism of their work.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Linda: I have 54 at the present. Many are currently on sabbatical for various reasons, but most are actively writing and pursuing publishing credits. Obviously, I’ve learned how important the agent/author relationship is long term, and have adjusted to the different personalities who are amazing to work with, and those who aren’t. I try very hard to stick with “amazing.”

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Linda: Probably a LOT more hands-on than my clients would like. I am fanatic about getting a proposal in its absolute best condition without annoying typos and obvious inconsistencies. I want an editor’s first take to be: “Now, THAT’S great work!”

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Linda: Most all agents and editors work virtually at this point, anyway, other than conferences and book fairs, so not a lot has changed in that sense. But it IS always nice to be able to meet one on one when possible.

CM: Can you share with us a client success story, from their query/introduction to you all the way to publication?
Linda: There are so many: Kate Breslin, fell in love with her work on day one. Only two typos in the entire thing. Gotta love a conscientious writer. Could not put her novel down. Contacted her, signed her, and she was picked up in about a month. Her research was flawless, characters vibrant, and plot levels well above most first-time authors. Her debut book is For Such a Time and her most current novel is Far Side of the Sea/Bethany House.
Two other authors that stuck with me when their genres were moving so slowly that we ended up going with a smaller publisher (not something most authors and/or agents want to do unless necessary). But that smaller house and its superior editing brought their books into the limelight, getting noticed from Publisher’s Weekly. They are now both with larger houses and very happy. Tom Threadgill: most current novel Collision of Lies/Revell, and J’nell Ciesielski’s most current: The Socialite/Thomas Nelson.

CM: Describe the path to publication for one of the books you represent. 
Linda: How about if I describe the process for most books that are picked up by one of the major publishers to give folks an idea of the path and time it requires?

You’ve written a book, gone through critique partners/beta readers and/or a professional editor. You contact an agent who hopefully falls head over heels in love with it. After that, the two of you work through and polish the proposal to near perfection. Yes…you do! Then the agent sends it off to one of her or his contacts in a publishing house that she sees as a good fit. Then the editor also falls crazy in love with it. At that time, he takes it to his editorial board, where other editors will offer some input. If they all agree that it’s a stellar proposal and the author has a substantial platform, then it will be put on the calendar for the next possible Committee or Publication Board. Different houses have different names for the board that makes the final decision on the book. 

At that board will be the editor who is pushing the proposal for publication and possibly other members of the editorial board. Also present will generally be an executive head of the publishing house, member(s) of both marketing and publicity, and possible others with input into the selection of their titles for that month, quarter, or year. If they all see it in a positive light, then they will discuss advance and royalties to be offered. Also a tentative release date which generally runs 15-18 months but can be as early as 12 or as late as 24 months out.

Then terms are offered to the author through his agent, and once he agrees to them, the agent can go back to the publisher and agree that the author would like to receive a contract for his book. The contract is signed and the author is generally assigned their editor for rewrites. Half of the advance is most often offered at signing with the rest due when the final manuscript in edited and turned in. 

Now, the real work begins. A cover is designed, a title decided on, author signings set up, magazine interviews prepared, blog tours scheduled, and more. And if more than one book was offered to the author, then the author will also start on book two. Yes! The real work is just getting started!

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing?
Linda: We’ve always had diverse authors at Hartline. Where the industry is, at the moment, obviously determines what material and what resources are being developed to be sure that own voices are given the time they need and deserve. As with all books and authors, we are constantly monitoring what is selling well and by whom. We want every author that we work with to have the best possible opportunities that are available at any given moment.

CM: Can you describe your ideal client?
Linda: Well, first-time Dream Clients are always ones that don’t get a lot of attention because they do it right the first time. How is that possible? They are TEACHABLE! They listen to their agents and have realistic expectations of the industry. They work hard. They take every spare moment to build their platform so that their agents can more easily convince publishers to take a chance on them. They know that no one simply sits down and writes a book, then gets a gigantic offer with little to no further effort. They are constantly staying abreast of the trends in the industry, and they understand that writing a really  good book is no longer enough. A book must be excellent each and every time!
_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • While fiction has always been my go to, I find that I’m discovering more and more amazing nonfiction authors and signing them because I simply can’t put the material down. 
  • If you’ve got a great romance, either contemporary, suspense, or historic, you’ll probably make me happy. Please no works that include any graphic sexuality or profanity.  I continue to get this on an almost daily basis even after posting that I don’t handle it. Call me 50 Shades of Clean Reads for both the Christian AND general markets.
  • I’m crazy about most all romance genres except spec. But give me an awesome romantic suspense and I’m over the moon. Also love love love historic romance, but that IS moving slowly at the moment.
  • And any other genre, if well-written, will certainly get my notice.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Children's books. Spec fiction, and erotica.
_______

2 Client Examples

Baker Books - 2020
Harper Collins - 2020
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Query Tips
Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Always go to an agency’s site and see exactly what they want you to send for them to consider. Don’t simply blanket the agency with a mass mailing that might hit like a dart, but most often will miss by a mile.
Don'ts:
  • Don’t take it personal. I know that’s hard, but very often your work is really good but simply not a great fit for that agent at that moment. Just keep at it, keep writing, keep trying…NEVER give up. Persevere.
_______

Submission Guidelines:
Check to see which agent seems to be the best fit for your work. Then put together a proposal as outlined on the site, and shoot us that proposal. We generally make our decisions based on a full proposal from the author. Remember one thing: agents WANT authors to write for them. Our jobs depend on that. And we want you to succeed. That’s the goal of our work. So we really want to see those most awesome proposals!!!



Nov 2, 2020

How to Critique Someone’s Fantasy Story

By Pro-Critiquer Briana W.

Writing fantasy means vaulting over pitfalls unique to the genre. Let’s break down how you can best help your critique partner clear the gap! 

1) Character 

Fantasy characters are a diverse bunch, ranging from golden boy ghoul-hunters to megalomaniacs chasing ambition at any cost. Whatever their motivation, it should keep the reader flipping pages. As a critique partner, examine main characters to ensure they’re well-rounded. They should have strengths, flaws, and strong motivation propelling their actions.

Fantasy often relies on multiple points of view; each should be engaging enough that readers aren’t avoiding chapters when their least favorite character pops up. 

You can tell me you’ve never skipped a chapter in any A Song of Ice and Fire book. 

I just won’t believe you.  

2) Setting 

Laurie J. Marks’ Fire Logic has seven invented nouns and names in the book’s opening page. I snapped it shut, set it down, and had to talk myself into trying it again. (Turns out, I ended up enjoying it a lot.) Nothing is quite as off-putting as a story littered with tongue-tying jargon and apostrophes strewn about like they came pouring out of a saltshaker. 

Worldbuilding is one of the most appealing elements of fantasy. Help your critique partner get it right! With an outside eye, you have the advantage of discerning what information is relevant when. Advise your partner on distributing their worldbuilding so it’s a mix of fantastical and familiar. 

3) Plot 

Fantasy plots can be among the most intricate and far-reaching of any genre. If you’re an attentive reader and a story still loses you, your partner’s plotting might need some tender loving care. 

Have a dialogue with your partner about getting back to basics. Isolate the essentials of conflict: inciting incident, obstacles, climax, and resolution. If characters and events can be extracted without harm to the story, they’re nonessential. As a critique partner, you have enough distance from a project to differentiate ingredients from dressing. Is the causality in the storytelling clear? Have the stakes been sufficiently raised? Help your partner focus on these aspects, rather than the protagonist’s cousin’s friend’s love scandal. 

4) Prose 

Fantasy writers may gravitate to the style of classics they grew up reading; however, drawing too much from the well of what’s been done can make for generic and wordy writing. Modern-day fantasy excels on the backs of unique characters and their voices. 

The stoic hero is a classic archetype, but what makes them stoic? Is it a jaw locked against an outpouring of rage? Social anxiety? Are they distracted by nihilistic arguments with the god inside their head? Passion, fear, and humor are just a few emotions that strengthen a character’s voice. Helping your partner craft informed points of view will address the root of overwritten, purple prose. 

5) Reaction

After all the analytical stuff is done, don’t forget to approach the story as a reader. Your reactions matter! Which parts were interesting or boring? What dialogue made you grin or cringe? Which characters were most relatable? Your personal experience can be just as valuable as your critical breakdown. 

Bio

Briana W. knew she wanted to be an author since middle school. Her goal is to write gripping fantasy stories with LGBTQ+ representation. She received her joint BA in English and Creative Writing from the University of Winchester in England. She loves editing a variety of genres, especially fantasy and science fiction. Her specialties include critical theory, worldbuilding, interactive fiction, and LGBTQ+ sensitivity reading.   

Briana picture


 

Nov 1, 2020

How to Use the FictionFive Score Sheet

By Victoria B.

The first step to learning how to use the FictionFive Contest Score Sheet is by doing something we’ve all skipped before: reading the directions! The score sheet includes five sections, for which you must give a rating and provide commentary. 

Near the top of the score sheet is the key on how to rate each section. If you find that there’s some grey area between the scores, try thinking of them this way:

5 – flawless, excellent all the way around

4 – very few suggestions (i.e., suggestions on 0-25%)

3 – a handful of suggestions (i.e., suggestions on 25-50%)

2 – quite a bit of feedback needed (i.e., suggestions on 50-75%)

1 – major feedback and revisions required (i.e., suggestions on 75-100%)

Further down the score sheet you’ll see different categories with examples and a place to add your rating and feedback. Let’s go over the categories:

Category #1: Characterization – Characterization is how a character is created, construed, and described. Look for anything that really catches your attention about the main character(s), their personalities, and their interactions with the other characters. 

Category #2: Pacing – Pacing is how slow or fast things are moving along in the scene and story. Ask yourself how quickly you were able to figure out a general idea of the plot and main conflict. This is also where you can comment on the originality of the plot and note anything that makes it stand out from the crowd. 

Category #3: World/Setting – To put it simply, the setting is when and where the story takes place. Here, you want to comment on how well you’re able to see the world. Are you able to paint a clear picture in your head? In addition, pay attention to how the details (i.e., technology, medicine, music, etc.) match up with the time and place.

Category #4: Dialogue – Dialogue can refer to spoken words between characters but can also include a character’s thoughts. Here, you want to see if the characters’ voices are discernible from one another. You also want to check for any info-dumps hidden in the dialogue. 

Category #5: Craft – Craft is how the story itself is written. Take a good look at grammar, POV, readability, and author’s voice here. Is there anything that catches your eye or makes it harder to get through the story? This is a good place to note if you see something unique about the author’s writing style, and if there’s any telling vs. showing. 

I recommend to first read the piece, make initial comments as you go, and then go through each category one by one to give your ratings and feedback. Remember, not everyone receives feedback in the same way, so it’s important to balance your positive and constructive feedback. I achieve this by using the sandwich technique: first comment on something good, then something that needs improvement, and finally, another thing that was good. 

The score sheet may look intimidating at first glance, but when you break it down into its different parts it’s much more manageable. Let the categories guide you and don’t hesitate to reach out for clarification! 

Happy critiquing!


Bio:

I've been a writer my entire life. During my time at college, I proofread, copyedited, and formatted professional research papers for several researchers at my university's business school. I also have poetry published and am currently working on polishing up my first novel. I enjoy reading fantasy and fiction, though I am open to most other genres excluding romance. 

I always do my best to take the time to provide high-quality critiques that are thoughtful and aimed to improve your work, while also being encouraging. Positive feedback is just as important as constructive feedback in my opinion. In addition, I find it very important to provide explanations, especially regarding grammar, to help improve understanding the reasoning behind my comments/suggestions - that way it's more of a learning experience rather than a grade on a paper. 

All in all, at the end of the day I am simply happy to be reading someone's work and helping out in any way I can!

Victoria editor