Literary Agent Straight Talk at 2008 NCWC—Featuring Rachelle Gardner, Kristin Nelson and Jessica Regel

Three agents were here with me at the Northern Colorado Writers' Conference: —Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary —Jessica Regel of Jean V. Naggar Literary —Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary Here's some of what they had to say:
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Three agents were here with me at the 2008 Northern Colorado Writers' Conference:

Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary
Jessica Regel of Jean V. Naggar Literary
Rachelle Gardner of Wordserve Literary

Here's some of what they had to say:

  • Gardner: In-your-face spiritualism doesn't have to be a part of Christian writing anymore. Today's Christian and inspirational books have subtle faith-based themes such as redemption and soul searching. The stories are still "clean," though, as they lean away from profanity, detailed sex scenes, or gruesome horror stuff.
  • Regel: The "hook" is crucial for a YA book. Echoing what Michelle Andelman said in March, Jessica confirmed that a book with decent writing (say a B-) can still get published if the hook is awesome enough.
  • Nelson: When trying to compose the pitch paragraph of a query letter, go to the bookstore beforehand and read the back paragraph on books in your genre. That is essentially what you are aiming to write.
  • Regel: Bio credits can push you over the hump. Let's say that your pitch is not good or bad but rather just OK. What can push you over the hump and get an agent to request more writing? Bio credits! That is the advantage to starting small and getting short stories and magazine articles published.
  • Nelson: Don't call your novel Second Chances. Everyone else has the same name. In fact, Google your title to see what comes up.
  • Regel: She said she is actively looking for both narrative nonfiction and middle grade works. However, concerning middle grade, she brought up some concerns about titles, as well. Her advice is to avoid the standard "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" template for a title. For example, stay away from titles like "Timmy Tom and the Friendly Squirrel."
  • Gardner: Don't explain your whole story in a pitch. Pique the agent's interest and let them request more.
  • Nelson: She said she is actively looking for fiction that blends literary and commercial elements, such as The 13th Tale and Snow Falling on Cedars.

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