Agent Advice: Regina Brooks of the Serendipity Literary Agency

This installment features literary agent Regina Brooks of the Serendipity Literary Agency in Brooklyn. Regina is a veteran agent who handles a variety of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Writing Great Books for Young Adults, which came out in 2009. She is seeking: She represents a variety of fiction and nonfiction and children's.
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“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Regina Brooks of the Serendipity Literary Agency) 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 literary agent Regina Brooks of the Serendipity Literary Agency in Brooklyn. Regina is a veteran agent who handles a variety of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of Writing Great Books for Young Adults, which came out in 2009. 

She is seeking: She represents a variety of fiction and nonfiction and children's. To submit to her, visit her submissions page on her Web site.

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

RB: I've had a few really cool sales lately. I'm doing a book that will feature Black ballerinas from the Dance Theater of Harlem and will be published during their 40-year anniversary. It will feature text from three-time National Book Award finalist, Marilyn Nelson, and is called Beautiful Ballerina (Scholastic).

A cool origami book called Girligami (Watson Guptill) by Cindy Ng, whose origami has appeared in The San Francisco Museum of Modern art, the Smithsonian and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Also, a business book for women called A Purse of Your Own (S&S Touchstone/Fireside), by Deborah Owens, CEO of Owens Media Group and NPR contributor. It's a savvy guide to financial security that sticks a lacquered fingernail in the eye of the conventional wisdom that women have to act like one of the boys to succeed in high finance, and teaches women to leverage their feminine sensibilities, fashion sense, and purchasing prowess to take control of their financial lives.

GLA: You seek "young adult novels with urban flair." Can you give some good examples of this for readers? Does this subject area bridge off into young adult cyberpunk?

RB: Some examples of these type books that I've represented are First Semester by Cecil Cross, the story of African-American boy's first semester at a historically black college in Atlanta. Also The Making of Dr. True Love by Derrick Barnes, which made the ALA quick pick list last year. I would say this category doesn't bridge off into YA cyberpunk.

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GLA: You represent both authors and illustrators. Do you often get queries from authors who have also illustrated their children's book? Are the illustrations usually of enough quality to include them with the submission to publishers?

RB: I do receive many queries from author/illustrators, or from authors who aren't necessarily illustrators but fail to understand that they don't have to worry about submitting illustrations. But most often I find that most illustrators are not the best at coming up with compelling story lines or can't execute the words like a well seasoned writer (or vice versa: The better writers usually are not the best illustrators).

GLA: You prefer to read materials exclusively. About how long does a typical exclusive look from you last?

RB: I actually don't mind being sent queries simultaneously; however, if I request a manuscript I will generally ask the author to give me 2 to 3 weeks to review it exclusively. If it turns out that I'm taking longer than the allotted time period, the author is free to begin submitting their work elsewhere, but it's great if they give me a heads up on that.

GLA: What's the most common mistake you see in fiction query letters? Where do writers go wrong in trying to pique your interest?

RB: Because I participate in numerous conferences throughout the year, I find that even though I request that writers mention in the query that they met me at a conference, they often forget. Also, length is an issue. Even though I accept online queries, I still want the query to come in somewhere close to one page. I think that writers often think that because it's online, I have no way of knowing that it's more than a page. Believe me, I do. Queries that are concise and compelling are he most intriguing.

GLA: Will you be at any conferences in the future where writers can meet (and pitch) you?

RB: Absolutely. The best way to find out where I'll be is to take a look at my conference schedule, which is posted on my Web site. The schedule changes often and there's a strong likelihood that I will be in your area, so check back frequently. I do more than 15 conferences a year and anticipate more over the next two years when my book comes out in June, Writing Great Books for Young Adults.

GLA: What's the best piece of advice you can give regarding a subject we haven't discussed?

RB: I know that everyone lately has been hearing so much about platform. Publishers are asking authors to have a platform when they write nonfiction. Just to shed a little light on this subject: Writers should be able to show in their proposals that they are the best person to write the book and that they have an intimate relationship with the topic and with the audience who might buy the book. Don't be intimidated if you don't have a platform for your book concept; just use the fact that you need one as a motivation to go out and get one; write an article, become a blogger, and speak about the topic in your community. The stronger your platform, the more books you'll sell. At least that's the idea that drives the publishers to request that you have one.

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