“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Natalie Fischer of Bradford Literary -- formerly of Sandra Dijkstra 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.
(Look over a growing list of Christian agents who review Christian and inspirational works.)
She is seeking: Commercial fiction, with an emphasis in children’s literature (from picture book-YA/Teen), romance (contemporary and historical), historical fiction, multicultural fiction, paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy in YA or romance only, fairy-tale/legend spin-offs, and “beautiful dark” novels. She will also consider select memoir.
She does not want: Thrillers, “boy” books, ABC books, bug books, spiritual guides/novels, or Christian books.
How did you become an agent?
I interned in college with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and, while at the time, I was more focused on starting a career as an author, I fell in love with the business side of publishing. I love working behind the scenes and developing authors and careers—the whole gambit excites me: selling, negotiating, marketing books, being the best advocate that I can.
Tell us about a recent project you’ve sold.
My favorite project to mention is Red is a Chili Pepper by Roseanne Thong (Chronicle). I love to mention this book because it took six months with the author’s editor to sell. People sometimes have the notion in publishing that things sell right away—or if they don’t, they never will. Not true. Publishing moves at its own, unique pace … patience and perseverance are the keys to this business.
What are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you hope for when tackling the slush pile?
Romance novels. I’ve been putting a call out for these for months, and I’m still getting about 90% YA submissions!
(Look over a list of romance agents.)
I’m always hoping for a project with an idea that makes me salivate to read, and writing that engrosses me to the point where I’m lugging it around on vacation in Vegas I want to finish it so bad (yes, that just happened).
Tell us about your interest in “fairy-tale/legend spin-offs.” Could you perhaps give examples of a few books that fall into this category, so writers looking to query you might get a clearer picture of what to send?
Ella Enchanted was one of my favorite novels growing up, and I’m looking for projects like this and the movie Clueless, which put a really fun, new twist on a classic tale.
Re-tellings of less popular stories I’d love to see more, as there really are SO many Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast themes. Spin-offs include imaginings of what may have happened beyond or before the popular story.
You also seek multicultural projects. What are you tired of seeing in this area? As well, are there any subjects you feel are untapped and would, therefore, be a refreshing change from what’s already out there?
I’m not seeing all that much multicultural, period. What I am seeing is usually Indian-American or Pakistani-American based.
The “untapped” question reminds me of a discussion I had the other day with a friend on what Disney princesses are left to do: Chinese (no, Mulan does not count), African (no, Tiana is African-American), Mexican, Spanish, Icelandic, Russian (Anastasia was not Disney) … I’d love to see a multicultural with any of those.
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Being somewhat of a grammarphile myself (understatement), I notice you’ve mentioned in a few places that you are looking for writers with strong grammar—something it seems as though many people overlook. How would you rate the grammar in the majority of the sample pages you read? How much does grammar and formatting affect whether or not you pass on a writer?
The most common mistake I see in sample pages is improper punctuation use, and improper use of tense. These drive me nuts. If a writer doesn’t know how to properly format a manuscript, he/she should not be submitting yet. Little things are okay, like typos, even tense if it’s occasional, but if I’m pausing more than I’m enjoying, it’s a no.
At a recent conference I attended, one of the presenters—an agent—joked that women’s fiction is a term no one has yet defined (definitively). What is “women’s fiction” to you, and what does it take for you to request pages from a query in this category?
Women’s fiction, to me, is fiction geared to women that isn’t a romance novel. It can be historical, contemporary, chick-lit-y.
For me to request a women’s fiction submission, it would have to be extraordinary. It has to have heart and depth, incredible character development, and fine writing. I don’t usually like lighter women’s fiction (more chick-lit like), and the abused housewife/recently divorced/adultery plots are so overdone, they aren’t hooks anymore at all by themselves.
How does your writing background play a role in the projects you accept? For instance, does it make you more or less editorial-focused? As well, do you find yourself drawn toward fantasy and romance similar to what you wrote?
My personal writing background makes me much more editorial-focused. And yes, I’d say I’m drawn more toward what I used to write, because my own motto is to read what you want to write. Consequently, those were the genres I familiarized myself with the most!
What should new writers do to keep up with the changing publishing industry?
Stay tuned to all that they can. It’s fabulous that so many of the industry news is available on Twitter and online; just following PubLunch or a company like Audible.com can keep you informed!
My personal stance is that yes, publishing is changing, but not dying. There will always be a need for writers, and, I think, an advocate for those writers. How we do business may change, but we’ll still be doing business!
What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?
I’m kind of an open book on Twitter, so there isn’t much left to surprise with, I’m sure … but how about … sometimes, I have very rough days too. There are times when even I want to give up. But guess what? I don’t. I take my time to have a full “why do I suck at life” meltdown, and then pull myself together and realize that whenever something doesn’t happen the way you want, it just means the universe has something much better in store for you, something you may not even have expected.
It always has for me.
Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
Absolutely! On my blog, adventuresinagentland.blogspot.com, I have a complete list.
Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?
Write write write. Read read read. KEEP. GOING.
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:
- How to Create Great Characters, Explained by Agent Donald Maass.
- 170 Agent Interviews and Counting -- Read Them Here.
- The Dos and Don'ts Of Writing a Thriller.
- NEW Agent Seeking Writers: Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer 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.