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Agent Advice: Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services, LLC

This installment features Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services LLC. Adriann was previously with Anderson Literary Management. She is looking for: fiction and limited nonfiction, with an emphasis on children’s, middle grade, and young adult books. She is most interested in realistic, true-to-life stories with conflicts based in the real world. She likes edgy, dark, challenging voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin. She does not want academic nonfiction, self-help, spiritualism, religion, or sci-fi.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Adriann Ranta of Foundry + Media, formerly of Wolf Literary Services, LLC) 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.

This installment features Adriann Ranta of Foundry. Adriann was also previously with Anderson Literary Management.

She is looking for: fiction and limited nonfiction, with an emphasis on children’s, middle grade, and young adult books. She is most interested in realistic, true-to-life stories with conflicts based in the real world. She likes edgy, dark, challenging voices, unique settings, and everyman stories told with a new spin. She does not want academic nonfiction, self-help, spiritualism, religion, or sci-fi.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

AR: I became an agent through the usual circuitous route from a liberal arts degree ... aside from random bookkeeping/waitressing/barista/unpaid internship jobs, I started at The Editorial Department, a freelance editorial firm in Tucson, to Anderson Literary Management, to Wolf Literary Services. I'm just building my list with Wolf, so it's affording me fantastic flexibility to acquire all the quirky, off-beat stuff I love best.

GLA: Excited about any submissions going out?

AR: I have a picture book and young adult book on submission now by two very exciting, promising new authors. I must be channeling a past life—they're both about young female rock stars.

GLA: You seem to have an expansive background—foreign rights, editing an online e-zine about the business of publishing, being a literary scout. How does it all contribute to your tastes and skills as a literary agent?

AR: Being an agent means wearing a lot of hats (cliché, sorry!), so I think having an eclectic background helps me be more adaptable and prepared. The Editorial Department honed my editorial eye, foreign rights introduced me to a vast network of international editors, scouting for ALM made me very discerning and market-savvy ... I feel that publishing as an industry makes it pretty easy to follow what you love, and so far it's led me to agenting.

GLA: So I'm looking at your Publishers Marketplace profile, and it seems like Kirsten will be focusing on adult works, while you will aim more for kids stuff. Are you also taking adult submissions? Still looking for "general literary fiction, psychological thrillers, gritty police procedurals, and nonfiction written with an engaging voice?"

AR: WLS as a whole is specializing in children's books (picture books, middle grade, and young adult), but we're both open to adult works as well. I still love gritty mysteries and procedurals, and both Kirsten and I have a penchant for weird/disturbing thrillers and horror stories. Literary fiction is really tough right now, especially in adult, so it would have to be spectacular, but I'm still open to nonfiction as long as it has some fresh, cool angle.

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GLA: What kind of nonfiction are you looking for?

AR: I'm a big narrative nonfiction and memoir buff. I haven't done much with kids nonfiction, but would be willing to consider it. True crime is tough, so it would have to really stand out. Having said that, In Cold Blood is one of the most haunting, disturbing books I've read, so if you fancy yourself the next Truman Capote, I'd love to read your stuff.

GLA: What draws you to the kids world?

AR: As most obsessive book lovers were, I was a pretty precocious reader in middle school/high school and I remember feeling frustrated that there seemed to be nothing between easy-peasy kids books and adult books that were way over my head. (I idiotically went through a Dostoyevsky phase, which I apparently didn't absorb a single thing from.) So I'm basically trying to find books that I would've read—challenging, quirky reads that make you realize you're never alone in your struggles, no matter how alien you might feel.

I went to a Libba Bray reading this weekend for her new book Going Bovine, and someone asked her why she chose to write young adult. She said that she had a pretty tumultuous childhood, which made this difficult transitional period in her life even more emotional and dramatic. Since adolescence is such a keyed up point in everyone's life, it sort of naturally becomes fantastic book fodder.

GLA: Let's dig deeper into what exactly you want in a kids submission. What areas or categories really interest you? What are you sick of?

AR: I most appreciate realistic fiction where the book has some anchor in reality. Fantasies on weird planets featuring characters with unpronounceable names are a little too much for me—ditto to faeries, "chosen ones," or sci-fi in general. I'm sick to death of vampires, angels, zombies, and werewolves. I'm open to picture books, but not ones about Jesus.

GLA: You say you want edgy fiction, dark fiction. Can you point readers to a few dark edgy works you loved so they can get a feel for the type of writing that catches your eye?

AR: I love quirky, funny books like ones by Tom Robbins, Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen; creepy, un-put-downable mysteries like ones by Tana French, Steig Larsson, and Boris Akunin; groundbreaking young adult books like ones by Sherman Alexie, Cory Doctorow, and Barry Lyga. I'm also a huge fan of Mary Gaitskill, Jonathan Lethem, David Sedaris, Norman Maclean, Junot Diaz ... etc!

GLA: If someone wants to query you (or Kirsten), what is the best way to do so?

AR: We ask for a query letter and first 50 pages be e-mailed to queries@wolflit.com. Our website is under construction, but we're hoping to get a splash page up within the month.

GLA: Will you be at any upcoming conferences where writers can meet/pitch you?

AR: None that I have scheduled!

GLA: What's something about you writers would be surprised to know?

AR: I have quite a few tattoos and can't wait to get quite a few more. Not exactly relevant, but there it is.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven't discussed?

AR: Read, read, read, read, read! No matter what happens with ebooks, iphone apps, hardcover editions, self-publishing, print-on-demand, or Google, write because you can't live without reading.

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