Book writers

Literary agents cater to authors and illustrators of children’s books

For the second year in a row, The New School of Manhattan, in partnership with the SCBWI-Metro NY Chapter, hosted a panel of agents to discuss their work, manuscripts that interest them, and share with MFA students and other aspirants. writers the best way to interview them and their colleagues. The November 10 panel included Heather Flaherty from The Bent Agency, Alexandra Penfold from Upstart Crow Literary and Alec Shane from Writers House. See some highlights of the discussion below.

• In response to being asked if the ‘your inboxes are piling up’ rumors are true, Flaherty adamantly agreed and said, ‘there are times when things pick up’, citing the season when resolutions New Years are in full swing as one of those times that she sees an influx of submissions. “It’s worth nudging if you’re waiting to hear,” she said. And many agents agreed: While some agents don’t like reply requests, if it’s been a while since you’ve heard from a submission, it’s worth checking in gently. Tracking comments on sites like QueryTracker is a good thing. way to see what agent response times should look like, suggested one panelist.

• Officers all agreed not to be discouraged by long wait times. “We really want to like everything we read,” Shane said. “We’re really looking for the next big thing in our inboxes,” Penfold said.

• As for social media, agents all said it was a great place to stay involved in the conversation and share your interest in what they’re working on, but it’s not a place to pitch. However, Shane said, “If you can keep me intrigued in 140 characters, that’s good practice for an elevator pitch.” It also seemed pretty universally “uncool” to “cold tweet” officers, Flaherty said.

• As for the pitch, Flaherty recommended “being yourself” and mentioning if the pitcher has heard of the agent, either at a previous conference or from books the agent worked and that the writer liked “and actually read,” Penfold says, as a way to demonstrate that the submission is aimed specifically at the agent. What about this subject line? “A great headline will catch my eye,” Flaherty said.

• One thing agents universally agree on is that what they are looking for in a manuscript is a strong voice. “It will immediately get my attention, even if the first page is just the author ‘entering the novel,'” Penfold said. If the voice is loud, it will resonate throughout the book.

• Diversity is also something that agents have said they want to see more of in manuscripts, and that “publishers are crying out for,” according to Flaherty. Although “it has to be natural,” Shane said. “It should be seamless,” suggesting that diversity in books should not serve to make the book more diverse, but rather to reflect an organic reality.

• Agents’ advice to writers was fairly straightforward; Borrowing a line from Cassandra Clare, Flaherty recommended remembering the acronym “BICHOK: buttocks in the chair, hands on the keyboard!” This will help you see more pages. All the agents agreed that being able to post the work demonstrated to them that the author would be able to put in the time necessary to create a publishable work.

• During questions from the audience, how to balance the tension between commercial and literary work was raised. Shane’s advice was to think about “what are you trying to say, and why do we need to hear it, instead of focusing on the end product”. Flaherty added, “Put art into your business ventures and make your art ventures sellable.”