“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Marie Lamba of Jennifer De Chiara Literary) 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 agents.
(Find more memoir literary agents.)
This installment is with Marie Lamba, Associate Literary Agent at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in NYC. Marie is also author of the young adult novels What I Meant… (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. You can follow her on Twitter @marielamba, and like her Facebook page: Marie Lamba, Author. And to see her Agent Monday posts, where she offers query tips and submission insights, visit marielamba.com.
She is seeking: Middle grade, young adult, women’s and adult fiction, as well as memoir.
GLA: How did you become an agent?
ML: My own agent Jennifer De Chiara asked me to agent for her company. I’d only ever thought of myself as an author, but then I began to see that it made sense. I had strong editing, promotion and people skills. Plus I’m obsessed with books!
GLA: How has your career as an agented Random House author and your own self-publishing experience helped you transition to the role of successful agent?
ML: I understand just how mysterious the world of publishing can feel to an author and I make a point of demystifying it for my clients. It’s also opened me up to the current state of the market and the many ways authors can now pursue their dreams. I’ve also gained valuable firsthand experience about author promotion.
GLA: What’s the best part about being an agent?
ML: Making writer’s dreams come true! When I make “the call” to represent an author, and I hear their breathless joy in response, I know I’m making a true difference in a hard-working writer’s life. And when I tell them they’ve got a book deal, that’s truly the stuff of dreams.
GLA: Congratulations on your first two book deals! Can you share them with us and what hooked you on these novels?
ML: The first is a middle grade novel with the working title ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER by Carmella Van Vleet. It’s about a girl with ADHD who must prove to others (and herself) that she can stick with something to the very end. The main character and the book’s voice grabbed me from the get-go. The second is an elegant historical YA called MENDING HORSES by M.P. Barker. Think of it as a family-friendly Water for Elephants about three outcasts – an Irish orphan, a roving peddler, and a girl hiding from an abusive father. The writing is absolutely stunning. Moving and visual and fascinating.
GLA: How can a debut author better position themselves, and their best work, to sign with an agent?
ML: If an author knows the genre they are writing for, is aware of the proper length and can say where their book fits in and what makes it unique, they’ll show an agent that they’ve done their homework and that they know this is a business. Of course, the writing needs to be stellar too.
GLA: You are looking for memorable memoirs. How can a memoir soar for you and how can it fall flat?
ML: You need both excellent writing and an intriguing life story. I’m looking for the complete package. Think ANGELA’S ASHES.
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GLA: What would make your day if it landed in your query inbox right now?
ML: Something fresh and heartfelt. Something with strong storytelling vs. bizarre circumstances passing off as plot. I’m looking for a story I can get lost in. The kind that makes me forget to eat or sleep. Please put that one in my inbox!
GLA: Do you also work with your clients to edit their work?
ML: Absolutely! Once I fall in love with a work and take on a client, we work together to tighten and focus the manuscript as much as possible so editors see the very best my clients can produce.
GLA: How do you recommend writers become skilled at self-editing their own work?
ML: Create a solid critique group and pull together a few beta readers who you can swap crits with. There are plenty of great books out there that can also help you edit, like Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.
GLA: Will you be attending any upcoming conferences where writers can pitch to you?
ML: I’ll be taking pitches at the Liberty States Fiction Conference (March 16, 2013, Iselin, NJ), at the Agent Pitch Slam during the Writer’s Digest Conference (April 6, 2013, NYC), and I’ll be doing crits at the MD/DE/WV SCBWI Fall 2013 Conference (September 21-22, 2013, Buckeystown, MD). Writers can always check my up-to-date appearance schedule here: http://marielamba.wordpress.com/appearances/.
GLA: You accept the first 20 pages with a query. What are the common mistakes you see in those first 20 pages that leads to a rejection?
ML: Often the story is starting at the wrong place. The hero is starting off on a trip, or thinking about something that might happen, or waking up from a dream. As Monty Python would say, “Get on with it!”
Also, writers often feel they have to tell us EVERYTHING in the first few pages. All this telling kills the scene.
Finally, I have to mention prologues. In most cases this can be cut completely. Often it reads as showing that something really, really exciting will be happening after a while, but just not yet. This feels gimmicky. Instead, the opening of your book should pull the reader in more naturally. Other times a prologue should just really be chapter one of the book or the writer can drop in info about a past happening as the story unfolds.
GLA: Where can people see your full submission guidelines?
GLA: Last piece of advice for writers trying to hook an agent.
ML: Make sure you are submitting to an agent who is actually interested in the type of book that you write. Then take the time to research and follow their submission guidelines, and send out only your most professional query letter followed by your most polished work.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- Writing About Grief in Your Story or Novel? Here is Some Writing Advice.
- NEW Agent Ethan Vaughan of Kimberley Cameron Assoc. Seeks Clients Now.
- How to Help the Book Release of a Friend.
- How Training For a Marathon is Like Writing a Novel.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- “The Book Chooses the Writer.”
- 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.
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