Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Agent Panel Discussion from the 2009 NJ SCBWI June Conference

Famous last words... I must be careful sharing with the Universe that I have free time on my hands because then all heck breaks loose and I am overburdened with too much to do.

Last week, I promised you all info from the June conference. Well, better late then never, right??? Here is some info from the agent panel discussion. More to follow. (When that is, I do not know. Bare with me... ... ... ...)

Jill Corcoran; Associate Agent, Herman Agency
Jenni Ferrari-Adler; Literary Agent, Brick House Literary Agents
Rachel Orr, Literary Agent; Prospect Agency
Scott Treimel; President, Scott Treimel NY
Emily Van Beek; Literary Agent & Rights Director, Pippin Properties
Marietta B. Zacker; Literary Agent, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency

Emily Van Beek – Emily’s agency, Pippin, is a child focused literary agency. Celebrating their 11th birthday in April, they represent everything from PB to YA, writers to illustrators. They currently represent just under 50 writers and illustrators. They represent authors like Kate DiCamillo, Doreen Cronin, David Small, and more. About half of these writers/illustrators began their careers at Pippin. And so Holly McGhee’s original vision for her company has come to fruition; Holly’s vision was one of longevity. For this reason, Pippin LOVES to represent artists who are just beginning their career and so does Emily.

When searching for a company’s name, Holly thought about books that meant the most to her as a child. Their mascot, Zeke Pippin, was gifted to them by William Steig, considered to be the grandfather of their agency. They are a small, but focused agency, dedicated to bringing the finest children’s book authors and illustrators to print today.

Part of the success of Pippin is due to a philosophy shared by all Pippin artists and authors.

  • The world owes you nothing. You owe the world your best work.
  • Evergreens—we want to create books that will stand the test of time.
  • We want to work with people in all media who share our philosophy.

Marietta B. Zacker – Marietta’s number one pet peeve is when people do not even try to pronounce her name. Mad(with a soft R roll)-ee-etta. She works for the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency in South Orange, NJ. They also only represent children’s authors and illustrators. Nancy Gallt founded her agency in 2000. They do not currently have a website. But Casey McCormick has great info and links about Marietta.

Jenni Ferrari-Adler – was founded by Sally Wofford-Girand. Brick House is located in NYC and is considered a “boutique” agency, representing mostly literary fiction and narrative non-fiction. Jenni specializes in representing fiction, food writing, and cookbooks, but recently experienced representing her first middle grade novel – an adventure set in the near future of a dystopic society where three friends unravel a mystery behind life-threatening migraines.

This experience has left, this once foody agent, hungry for more. Jenni is very interested in building her client profile and would love to represent more MG and YA authors.

A graduate from Oberlin College, she was the editor for Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant and has an MFA in fiction. She has also worked as a reader for the Paris Review.

They do not have a website but you can find out about them at here

Rachel Orr – is an agent for Prospect Agency in Brooklyn, NY. Emily Sullivan Kim is the founder. They currently have four agents, Emily Sullivan Kim, Rachel Orr, Becca Stumpf, and Vivian Chum. They represent everything from board books to adult literature, from writers to illustrators. Rachel launched their illustration department and currently reps eleven illustrators.

Jill Corcoran The Herman Agency, located in NYC, was founded by Ronnie Ann Herman in 1999. They rep around 50 – 60 of the best children’s authors and illustrators.

Jill reps MG and YA and is looking to expand. She views herself as a talent scout and enjoys editing and helping your MS get to that next level.

Scott Treimel – began about 15/16 years ago with his whole career has be focused on children in one way or another. He was at Curtis Brown and Scholastic as an editor. Tired of hearing “NO!” all the time, he crossed over to United Artists, Home and Garden Magazine, and Warner Brothers where he founded their World Wide Publishing. He then worked as a consultant at Harper.

Then in 1995, he began his own agency where he represents everyone from teen authors to illustrators.

All the agents were very approachable and so easy to talk to. You'd be lucky to be rep'd by any one of them.

The following was a Q&A session brought to you by The 2009 SCBWI NJ June Conference Word of the Year

Dystopia n. Dystopic adj.
1. a world in chaos 2. disharmony 3. antonym of utopia 4. a current theme used a lot in today's children's MG and YA novels

The SCBWI NJ June Conference Agent Panel Discussion was sponsored by Vampires and Zombies and any combination of the two. (No vampires or zombies were hurt in the making of this panel discussion. Agents are Equal Opportunity Representatives.)

Q: What are the current trends in submission?

MZ: Vampires! They are done. Or zombies. They are done too. Or Vampire/Zombie mixes. Also done. Also, this is not necessarily a good thing, but I'm also seeing a lot of plot driven stories without character development; that can be done, too.

ST: Lots of “Dystopian” worlds. I don’t feel paranormal has peaked yet, but seeing a lot of that too. Historical fiction is low, can always use more of that. And please, no more stories about bullies, zombies, and yes, vampires!

Q: What do you want more of?

MZ: I want to see more depiction of what’s outside out world – true ethnicity, true representation of our populations. ALL kids need to be represented in books. More authentic ethnicity is needed.

JC: BUT don’t make ethnicity trite or cliché – Chinese New Year’s….

ST: Yes, DON’T make it about one black guy, one white guy, and one Spanish guy go on some adventure together.

MZ: Be true to yourself. Don’t write what you know like what Mr. Peck said (as in Richard Peck, our key note speaker). Look outside yourself.

EVB: Too many divorced or dead parents, or kids in new homes, unpacking boxes when suddenly, all of a sudden… no more of that!

Q: What about sexuality or books about gay teens?

ST: If you’re going to write about a gay MC, dig deep so it’s not just about being gay.

MZ: Gay shouldn’t be the issue. It should be authentic.

EVB: Even cursing, if not authentic, does not work.

JC: YAs do not need to have cursing and sex in order to appeal to the YA market.

Q: Can we re-submit something else after being turned down?

ST: It needs to be as good or better.

EVB: Rarely do you get a second chance so don’t waste a bullet. The world owes you nothing so put your best foot forward. Make sure you really put work in before coming back with an additional submission or re-write of the same MS.

MZ: Yes, and please don’t pretend that we don’t know you. Indicate that you had once submitted before and now you are submitting again. I don’t know why some writers think they can pretend like we don’t know you or won’t remember you. We will. So, just mention it in your query.

(NOTE TO SELF - keep excel spread sheet on who you send what to and what draft the MS was at the time because I would be one of these writers and it wouldn't be because I was pretending. It would be because I FORGOT!!!!)

Q: Do agents want lists of who saw the MS?

JC: Yes. The more we know, the better.

MZ: Trust! Trust us to give us all your information and that we’ll give it to the right editor. If that editor saw it already, we need to know that. And we need to know what draft they saw. Maybe they'd be open to seeing a re-write if they know you've done your revision with us.

ST: Don't forget, we are building your career, so I know this is more to the other question, but don’t just have one MS for us to show. If so-and-so saw this already, let us show them something different. And if everyone keeps telling you the same thing, maybe it’s time for you to re-evaluate your MS.

EVB – Know the agency's list of what they've represented. Know their flavors so you can find an agent that is the right match for you and your MS

ST: Yes, and don’t forget, we are each attuned, maybe, to different editors’ likes and dislikes, so the more you share with us, the better.

Q: If you have an agent who won’t rep one of your MS, is it OK to get a different agent for that MS?

A: (quite in unison) NO!

EVB and ST basically said the same thing: Unless you write children and adult, you would need two different agents for that.

ST: But don’t play the field. Like we said, we are trying to build your career. It could be that we feel that MS is substandard compared to your other MS and we wouldn’t want it to tarnish your reputation as a writer. Again, trust us. If you don't maybe you need a different agent.

Q: What do you love?

MZ: Sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot at these things when we tell a room full of writers what we love. Then all of a sudden we are bombarded with MS only about that. Often times, I don’t know what I want until I read it. I want something good.

ST: I have favorites, but I don’t want to be defined by them.

JFA: I love MG dystopic novels with exceptional writing, and rich worlds, great characters. For YA, it’s all about the voice; funny, fresh. In general, I want characters you fall in love with and can't forget.

EVB: My motto is, if I can resist it, I will. So, give me something I can't resist.

RO: It’s like falling in love. Sometimes I read something that is so good, I have to stop because I'm so afraid it’s going to suddenly go bad or I just don't want it to end. I know I love something when I start quoting it to my husband.

Q: How much do you edit before you submit to editors?

RO: I tend to over edit. I do line edits, definitely. I can’t help it. I think because I was an editor first.

EVB: I also was an editor before. When launching we’ll put a lot of work into it to make sure it is just right. The Underneath took two years and eight revisions, but it was worth it.

JFA: I do a lot of editing, too. For me, it’s one of the pleasures of what I do and it’s exciting to see what the writer can come back with as a result. That is so exciting to see what they've come up with as a solution and how much better it is.

ST: Between writing and revising, I’d say revising is the most important. Many times I can articulate what it needs, but the writer just can’t deliver it. Revision is where a true writer shows his/her talent.

MZ: Use your critique groups to revise, revise, revise before sending it to an agent though.

JC: I love to edit. I think because I’m also a writer. When I take on a project, I look at it as if we are critique partners. I edit a lot.

Q: How should we submit to you?

JFA: I am actively searching so email me your query with the first page and visit our website for more information on submission standards.

JC: You can submit the first ten pages. I am looking for WRITERS. I read the pages before the synopsis

ST: Check out our websites for submission policies but when querying an agent, let them know you are an active SCBWI member and send them a polished MS. But also be sure to mention what you are also working on. Try to get an agent first.


More to come from the NJ SCBWI June Conference... at some point...


Corey Schwartz said...

Wow! Are you a good note-taker!

Casey said...

This is fabulous. Do you mind if I grab some quotes from the Q&A and link you to Marietta's spotlight?

Your quotes are better than what I found before.

Sheri said...

Thanks, Corey. I was asked to take notes on this by Kathy Temean for SCBWI so I concentrated extra hard!!!

Casey, of course! After all I linked to you. It is hard to find info about her on the web, especially since they do not have a website...

Rebecca said...

Thanks for all this great info!

Amy Tate said...

THANK YOU, Sheri. Wow, that is so sweet of you to share all of that with us. Great stuff.

Casey said...

Thanks Sheri! I updated it. Did I get your last name right? Hope so. If not, let me know.

Sheri said...

Your welcome, Becky, Amy, and Casey. Share and share alike!

Casey, it's either Perl-Oshins or just Oshins. Usually when I write, I hyphenate my maiden and married names. I'll go check out your blog now...

Casey said...

Had a feeling I had it wrong! I'll fix it right now. Thanks.

PJ Hoover said...

Very nice post, Sheri! Thanks for all the info!

Sheri said...

No problem, Casey. You wouldn't be the first and you won't be the last! Hahaha

PJ, Thanks. I know it was a bit long, but I couldn't cut any of the info.

MeganRebekah said...

Wow, this is amazing. Thanks for sharing it!

“Personal limitation exists only in our ideas of who we are. Give up all notions of who you are and your limitations will vanish.”

- Anonymous