“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Taylor Martindale) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agencies.
This installment features Taylor Martindale of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Taylor is a proud graduate of The College of William and Mary and holds a BA in English, with a minor in Hispanic Studies. She was the Copy Chief of her college newspaper for three years and occasionally does freelance writing for a local paper. Before joining SDLA in Summer 2009, Taylor was the Submissions Coordinator at Bliss Literary Agency, Intl. She also Tweets.
She is seeking: She is most interested in acquiring young adult fiction—specifically gritty contemporary and unique paranormal/urban fantasy. She also accepts children’s picture books, commercial fiction, women’s fiction, and multicultural fiction. She does not want business, political, or science books; cookbooks, or self-help.
GLA: How did you become an agent?
TM: First of all, thank you so much for the opportunity to participate in this interview! I’m thrilled to be talking with you.
I became an agent because I love the combination of roles that my job requires. I love that I am able to work with authors from the very beginning of their careers and be a key player in their development. I get to be talent scout, critique buddy, editor, cheerleader, business manager and advocate all in one day. And through all of this, I am able to work with amazingly creative authors who are writing exciting and dynamic new works. What could be better?
GLA: What’s something you’ve sold that comes out soon that you’re excited about?
TM: My client Debra Driza’s debut novel, MILA 2.0, comes out in Fall 2012, and I am so psyched about this book! It’s the first in a three-book series from Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins) and is a YA sci-fi thriller. The main character is a teen who discovers that she is an artificial intelligence creation, and that her scientist mother kidnapped her from the government when she was found to have human emotions. But the government wants her back … It’s going to be so awesome!
GLA: What are you looking for right now in YA and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?
TM: I’d like to find something with good action in it, with humor and strong characters, and a good, creepy mystery. I’m also always looking for that new paranormal or urban fantasy that just sucks me in and truly stands out from the slush pile.
GLA: Anything you’re seeing far too often?
TM: There are always trends that come and go, but what I’m truly seeing far too often is a specific plot pattern. You know it well. Girl or guy moves to a new town and begins to experience strange occurrences. Then, he or she begins to develop unique powers just when a mysterious love interest figure comes onto the scene, but you can’t tell if the love interest is going to be a good or bad character, etc. A struggle with the supernatural ensues … I want to see new plotlines!
GLA: You also seek children’s picture books. Just to clarify, does this mean you accept everything in between (from chapter books to middle grade), or are you specifically interested in projects for the older and younger age groups in juvenile fiction?
TM: I am definitely interested in middle grade! I do represent some middle grade authors, and am always looking for those special projects that are a good fit for me. I will say that I am focused more on the older end of the genre, but what’s most important to me is that I’m able to feel passionate about a manuscript—whether it’s what I thought I was looking for or not.
GLA: You mention in your agency bio that, within your contemporary YA interests, you especially like “gritty” projects. Can you give an example or two of books that align with your tastes here?
TM: Of course! A few of my favorites are Dreamland by Sarah Dessen, Break by Hannah Moskowitz, and Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.
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GLA: In terms of your interest in multicultural stories, are there any cultures in particular you feel are underrepresented that you’re itching to see a project about?
TM: I have a particular interest in Hispanic/Latino stories and border stories, but I’d really like to see a broad range of multicultural stories. I love learning about new cultures, and I think YA books are such a great venue through which to teach kids about other peoples and places of the world, other worldviews.
GLA: What are three things that elicit automatic rejections from you when reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript?
TM: 1. If I don’t think that the main character sounds like a teenager
2. If I don’t believe the emotions that the characters are experiencing
3. If the world the author has created—whether realistic or fantastic—doesn’t makes sense or have a workable foundation
GLA: What do you see as the number one thing aspiring authors can do to thrive in publishing?
TM: I’ve always thought that the best thing an author can do is educate himself or herself about the industry, what to expect, how to approach the business of publishing, etc. I believe it makes a huge difference when authors have a realistic idea of what the path looks like. For example, if you’re looking for an agent, don’t just send your material out to anyone. Pinpoint the right agents for your work, research them, and be deliberate about your submission process. Likewise, read a ton in the genre for which you write. You need to know what your peers are publishing, what works and what doesn’t, and where you fit in the market.
GLA: What’s your take on all the changes happening in the industry right now? When are we going to figure this all out? And any projections for what’s to come?
TM: My take is that we’re in a tough spot of transition at the moment, but that the exciting part is that a lot of doors are opening for new and unique opportunities. A lot of people are worried that the print book will disappear, but I don’t believe that would ever happen. Once panic over e-books and e-readers subsides, we’ll have books available to readers in the formats that work best for them. As long as people keep reading, we can work out the details.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
TM: Yes! I’ll be at the Algonkian Writers’ Conference (Marin County, CA; July 31, 2011); Willamette Writers’ Conference (Portland, OR; August 4-7, 2011); Northwest Houston Romance Writers Conference (Houston, TX; October 15, 2011); Avondale Writers Conference (Avondale, AZ; October 29, 2011). Come say hello if you’re there, too!
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Why “Keep Moving Forward” May Be the Best Advice Writers Can Hear.
- Write to Express, Not to Impress.
- Agent Interview: Elizabeth Evans of Jean V. Naggar Literary.
- NEW Agent Seeking Clients: Sara Sciuto of Full Circle Literary.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.