Agent Advice: Amberly Finarelli of Andrea Hurst Literary Management

This installment features Amberly Finarelli of Andrea Hurst Literary Management. She is seeking: Her nonfiction areas of interest: Humor/gift books, Crafts, How-to (financial, house and home, health and beauty, weddings), Relationships/advice, Self-help, psychology, Travel writing, Narrative Nonfiction. Her fiction areas of interest: Commercial women's fiction, Comic and cozy mysteries, Literary fiction with a focus on the arts, culture, and/or history.
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“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Amberly Finarelli of Andrea Hurst Literary Management) 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 Amberly Finarelli of Andrea Hurst Literary Management.

She is seeking: Her nonfiction areas of interest: Humor/gift books, Crafts, How-to (financial, house and home, health and beauty, weddings), Relationships/advice, Self-help, psychology, Travel writing, Narrative Nonfiction. Her fiction areas of interest: Commercial women's fiction, Comic and cozy mysteries, Literary fiction with a focus on the arts, culture, and/or history. She is NOT looking for: True crime, Thrillers, Science fiction, Children's, Fantasy, or Young Adult.

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GLA: How did you become an agent?

AF: After finishing my degree in English with a concentration in professional writing, I worked for a small press in Sacramento, CA, where I came in contact with Andrea Hurst and worked my way from assistant agent to agent.

GLA: What's the most recent thing youve sold?

AF: One of my favorites is Imagine Life with a Well-Behaved Dog (St. Martin's Press, by Julie A. Bjelland).
We've also been packaging for the Complete Idiot's Guide series.

GLA: You seek mysteries but not thrillers. What draws you to the mystery genre?

AF: Perhaps it's just the fact that I grew up in a small town, but I love the intimate, slow-paced lifestyle that is found in both small town life and cozy mysteries. Something in the idea that these protagonists could be my next door neighbor just sucks me in.

GLA: You're also seeking comic mysteries. Could you help define this category? Are there some examples people should read?

AF: Loosely, a comic mystery is simply a mystery with humorous elements. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and our own Presley Parker Party-Planning mysteries by Penny Warner are good examples.

GLA: What are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?

AF: I am looking for fiction in any of the areas I represent, really whose voice just utterly blows me away. Maybe it's the sheer amount of submissions I read per week, but it can be difficult to find that powerful voice combined with a unique storyline that makes me shove the other manuscripts aside and succumb to the power of the narrative. Developing voice is a lifelong process, and a very slippery one at that, but as long as writers are aware of what voice is and can identify what makes their own writing voice unique, it can' t help but be evident in their writing.

GLA: I know that AHLA now has five agents. If a writer sends you a promising query outside your specific areas of interest, will you pass it along to another agent?

AF: I generally will, because I like to connect great authors with great agents, but I would caution writers against depending on this too much. Make sure you do your research, check out our site to see what areas we each represent, what books we like, and then pitch us. We will appreciate the leg work you've done, and you'll appreciate the faster response!

GLA: We met at the Reno Writers Conference. You likely took a lot of pitches that day. When writers sit down to pitch you in person, what are they doing wrong?

AF: For me, it mostly comes down to preparedness. In my experience, writers can be overprepared, where they have a pitch that they've obviously memorized, and they become very nervous if they stray from it. In most cases, these pitches end up sounding monotonous, like a customer service recording rather than a human being talking about their human story. Writers pitching me can also be underprepared, talking too long about the overall storyline of their book instead of focusing on key points and characters, and saying too little about their writing experience and commitment to writing. Remember that it's like an interviewcome prepared, but don't forget the human element.

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GLA: Speaking of conferences, will you be at any upcoming writers' conferences where people can meet and pitch you?

AF: With our new agent additions to our team, we're currently working out our conference schedule for next year, but be sure to check out our web site for conference schedule updates.

GLA: Lets talk about women's fiction, for a moment. Lets say the query is intriguing and you request a partial. When you start to read women's fiction partials, where do you see writers going wrong?

AF: Because the genre is so inundated, if I feel like it's like something I've read before, I stop reading. In light women's fiction, this often happens when a book starts out like a real workday: the protagonist is late, rushing to the office (usually in some writing/publishing related field), chewing an apple and putting her heels on at the same time. Then we meet her best friend/co-worker then there's the demanding boss and finally the dreamy co-worker love interest. And don't even get her started on dieting and her parents coming into town.
In serious women's fiction, because it usually deals with more serious aspects of life, if I feel like the writing is melodramatic or heavy-handed, I'll stop.

GLA: You also rep some nonfiction areas. If you met a writer and suggested that they build their platform, only for them to ask "How do I do that?" - what would you say?

AF: That's a common question! Thankfully, there is a lot of information on the subject, but some basics: Have a web site. Internet presence is imperative in todays market. Start a blog, Twitter account, or e-newsletter - something that builds your Internet base. Also, continue to nurture and grow your client base in your professional field, as these will be the most obvious people to purchase your book. Generally, were hoping that this platform is built up before authors approach us.

GLA: What is something about yourself writers would be surprised to know?

AF: I'm a sucker for a really good caf mocha.

GLA: When writers first contact you, what do you want them to send and how?

AF: Unless weve spoken or written previously and I've requested something more specific, an airtight, professional e-mailed query is the best way to get my attention.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we havent discussed?

AF: I think my colleagues at AHA could attest to the fact that weve seen an increase in unconventional query letters. Unconventionality in itself isn't a bad thing, and can sometimes work at getting my attention, but please be aware that the conventions in query writing help both the agent and you. Dont begin queries with "I know this isn't a real query, but I wouldnt be surprised if you just deleted this on sight." Wow us first with your professionalism and unique story, and then with your unique creative prowess in your book.

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