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Agent Advice: Alanna Ramirez of Trident Media Group

This installment features Alanna Ramirez, of Trident Media Group. She is seeking: literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, pop culture and lifestyle books.

“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Alanna Ramirez of Trident Media Group) 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 Alanna Ramirez, of Trident Media Group.

She is seeking: literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir, pop culture and lifestyle books.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

AR: I became an agent by working my way up through various positions at Trident Media Group. I started here as Ellen Levine’s assistant and had the privilege to work with many of her illustrious clients – Christopher Andersen, Russell Banks, Michael Ondaatje, Louis Sachar, Marilynne Robinson, and Sheila Weller, among others. Soon after, I became First Serial Associate and sold first serial rights for all of the authors on Ellen Levine’s list while continuing to work as her assistant. I sold short stories and book excerpts to American History Magazine, A Public Space, BOMB, Esquire,Harper’s, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. In 2007 I was promoted to Audio Rights Agent and also worked as an Associate in Chairman, Robert Gottlieb’s office, working with his elite client list – Catherine Coulter, Dale Brown, T. Jefferson Parker, and Karen Robards, just to name a few. In January 2009, I was promoted to Literary Agent. Previous to my experience at Trident, I worked in editorial at Penguin/Berkley Publishing Group, and also spent a year in the publicity department at HarperCollins. My experiences in the publishing side of the business have complimented my run at Trident.

GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?

AR: Most recently I sold a nonfiction book called Saving Cinnamon: The Amazing True Story of a Missing Military Puppy and the Desperate Mission to Bring her Home by Christine Sullivan, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press in Fall 2009.

GLA: What draws you to narrative nonfiction? What are you looking for in a narrative nonfiction submission?

AR: I majored in history and journalism in college, and I think that when you combine these two subjects you come up with narrative nonfiction. I enjoy history because I’ve always thought of historical events as stories – little insights into the culture, politics, psychology of a certain period of time. And I am drawn to narrative nonfiction because the writer will dig deep into history (or a current topic) with an investigative eye. I’m interested in seeing narrative nonfiction that explores important American figures, historical events (American or European), current cultural trends or events.

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GLA: A lot of writers have memoirs, but few make it through the gauntlet to publication. What sets the best ones apart?

AR: I think the best memoirs are the ones that read like fiction. The circumstances are so extraordinary (The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls) or so unbelievable (Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs), or so inspiring (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert) that the reader gets completely lost in the narrative. For me, a truly successful memoir should take me on a journey that I would not ever experience in my own life, and keep me up reading long into the night.

GLA: You also seek pop culture books and lifestyle books. Can you throw out some examples of these genres so writers can get a feel for what constitutes a “pop culture” work, etc?

AR: I think of “pop culture” as anything that’s an up-to-the minute trend. For example, playing off of our current economic situation I sold a book called Bitches on a Budget to NAL. It’s a smart, witty (sometimes snarky) guide for women to who want to survive a recession in style. I’m also interested in blog culture, fashion, style, film, and entertainment.

GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting?

AR: As you know, I’m looking to take on nonfiction authors – memoir and narrative nonfiction. But I’m also looking for literary fiction that has the ability to cross over into the mainstream market. Think – The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini); Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen); The Dive From Clausen's Pier (Ann Packer); or While I Was Gone (Sue Miller). I’m also interested in novels about quirky families that span generations … some of my favorites include Middlesex (Jeffrey Eugenides); The World According to Garp (John Irving); I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb); The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen).

GLA: Most common problem(s) you see in a query for literary fiction?

AR: The most common problem that I see with queries for literary fiction as that the author has a hard time telling me what their book is about. The best way to pitch me is with 5 or 6 well-crafted sentences that give me the gist of the plot. Please don’t forget to tell me if you’ve won awards or have been published in literary magazines, or anything else notable about yourself and your writing.

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

AR: I’m not scheduled for any conferences yet this year.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t covered?

AR: If you have a really great story to tell, and it doesn’t quite fit into what I’ve described, please pitch me anyway. It would be great to see a literary crime novel, for example. However, I’m not considering science fiction, fantasy, or romance.

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