“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Bree Ogden of Red Sofa Literary, formerly of D4EO Literary, and please note she was with Martin Literary Management when she completed this interview) 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 Bree Ogden of Red Sofa Literary. She received her MA in journalism with an emphasis in graphic design, photojournalism, and expository writing, then moved to the Seattle area where she entered the professional writing field at MLM. She also runs an agenting blog called This Literary Life.
She is seeking: • Highly artistic picture books (high brow art, think Varmints)
• Young Adult – NOT looking for sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, or dystopian
• New Adult – Any genre as long as it has a strong romantic element
• Adult – Will look at any genre, preferred genres: transgressive, horror, noir, crime, mystery, thriller, bizarro, gothic, romance, erotica
• Graphic Novels
• Some Select Nonfiction – No memoir or academia
• Pop Culture
• Art books
Bree’s wish list: (don’t limit your queries to these!)
• Dark (not angst-ridden)
• Psychological horror (with no paranormal elements)
• A Dexter-ish type YA black comedy (COMEDY being the operative word)
• A Roaring Twenties historical for YA
• A manuscript written in the era of Mad Men with panache and style
• A unique and theme-driven art book
• Any book dealing with Anne Boleyn
• Historical fiction (love crime-driven historical fiction, i.e. Black Dahlia)
GLA: What do you like best about agenting?
Bree: My clients. They are so creative. There is creativity bursting at the seams of my clientele and I get to help them make a career out of it. How awesome is that? I have so much fun promoting them and working side by side with them to help them fine-tune their ideas.
GLA: Tell us about a couple of your clients' projects. What drew you to them?
Bree: I wouldn't have chosen them for representation if I hadn't been drawn to each one in a very similar way, which usually consists of not being able to put the manuscript down, knowing it will sell in this market, great writing, and loving the characters. I'll tell you about some of my newer projects:
Pair of Normals by D.M. Cunningham had me dying of laughter within the first chapter. D.M. had been sending me a few chapters at a time (he was already my client) and I would read them out loud to my nieces and nephews and the fact that myself as a 27-year-old, and them as six- to ten-year-olds all had the same gleeful/anticipatory reaction to the chapters and upcoming chapters really meant something to me.
Death's Island by Kelsey Ketch really gripped my senses and at times, my heartstrings. It's dark and gritty, but somehow extremely realistic even though there are plenty of unrealistic qualities to it. I was really drawn to that sentiment of realistic horror.
I'm currently working on a few edits for a manuscript written by my client, Peter Landau, called Nickelan Wand. Among all the amazing things that pulled me into this story I can just say that it is so ridiculously unique and irreverent. The writing is stunning and the characters are so loveable, even the ones you hate. And of course, Kate Grace's Burden of the Soul, which I started reading the manuscript around midnight and couldn't stop until I finished. I knew I had to sign her.
The truth is though, I am extremely excited about ALL my projects, I wholeheartedly believe in each one and the pending success each one will enjoy. Whether it is an overzealous, slightly snarky imaginary Raven; a sassy, buxom, teenage paranormal fighting dream machine; a young girl trying to find herself while fighting a war with faeries; or sirens and ocean nymphs living among us--horror, romance, middle grade humor: I only represent amazing characters and plot lines and I only surround myself by delicious talent. Period.
GLA: I've heard we shouldn't write to the trends, but we should be aware of them. What are your thoughts on this? How do trends affect your decision-making process while reading submissions?
Bree: Trends are tricky. The very essence of a trend is that it is always changing. This is why you have to be insanely careful about writing on trends: by the time you have an idea for a manuscript, finish writing it, edit it, find an agent, sell it to a publisher, and see it on shelves, you've seen a few years pass. That trend is most likely dust by then. So either you need to be way ahead of the trend, or know that it will be a long lasting trend. Like vampires, for instance. As much as I hate to admit it, those suckers had (have?) a long shelf life. But I think that other less prevalent creatures, like anthropomorphic sea life or faeries, are going to have a shorter shelf life.
It's really tough, as an agent, to know if the specific trend of the manuscript I'm reading is already being published for some publisher's upcoming list and they don't want/need any more of that trend. No one is privy to that information but the editors. It's one big guessing game. I just have to go with my instincts. If I love the storyline and the writing, I have to believe that an editor will as well.
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GLA: Do you have any submission pet peeves?
Bree: I'm not fond of being called "Sir." I've seen some pretty bad queries but I wouldn't file them under pet peeves. The pet peeves come when I can tell that the author hasn't done the research, i.e., they query me for an adult true crime, etc. Also, most agents are pretty specific that they don't want attachments in the email, so that is kind of a pet peeve. But really, I just want to know what the manuscript is about without having to put a huge amount of effort into figuring it out. It shouldn't be an Easter egg hunt for the plot line.
(Learn how to write a query letter.)
GLA: What are you looking for right now?
Bree: I'm looking for quite a bit ... all very different from what is out in the marketplace right now. I just finished reading a series of devilish books from the Harlequin Vintage series, i.e., Kiss Your Elbow, I'll Bury My Dead, You Never Know with Women, etc. I would love—with a capital L—a manuscript with that sort of vintage noir drama but set in a modern day. Think femme fatale, film noir, dark and mysterious. Which leads to my next desire ... I would love something along the lines of "Mad Men." And of course I love zombies, but those are very hard to write well.
I've never been a huge sugary romance fan. I also think that a faux memoir, middle grade or young adult, if done well, could be amazing. I would love to see that in my inbox. And even more so, I would love a real memoir told in graphic novel form.
And of course, I love quirky boy-centric middle grade, always! I am always and forever looking for great middle grade. It is my favorite genre to represent.
GLA: Do you have any advice for new writers?
Bree: Start marketing yourself right now.
(To market yourself, start to create your writer platform.)
Use the Internet in every way possible. Get your name out there. Build a powerful blog and get a following. Join writers' groups. Get beta readers. Join sites like inkpop.com. Attend writers' conferences. Do your research. There are so many tools to help you achieve your goal. You just have to really really want it. This isn't a process you can rush through. You have to fine-tune everything before you move on to the next step in the business.
GLA: Will you be at any writers conferences coming up where writers can meet and pitch you?
Bree: In Febuary, I will be teaching a class with Sharlene Martin at Seattle Central Community College. I am speaking at the 2011 Whidbey Island Writers Conference, April 1–3, 2011. And I am speaking at the Chuckanut Writers Conference this summer.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 24, 2017: The Alabama Writers Conference (Birmingham, AL)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- April 22, 2017: Get Published in Kentucky Conference (Louisville, KY)
- April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writers Conference (New Orleans, LA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- May 19–21, 2017: PennWriters Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
- June 24, 2017: The Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer's Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:
- 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves.
- What if Multiple Agents Want Your Work?
- NEW Literary Agent Seeking Writers: Stephen Barr of Writers House.
- 18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author 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.