Q & A With agent Roseanne Wells

Roseanne Wells, Marianne Strong Literary Agency
Wells Roseanne headshotQ: If someone has an appointment with you, what should they bring?

I like to talk with the person and hear the verbal pitch (2-3 sentences), and I will read either the query letter, synopsis, first page, or any combination. My policy about conferences is that I won’t take any material with me, and if I am interested, I will let you know what you should email to me.

Q: What kinds of manuscripts are you looking for?

For more information, they should take a look at the Publishers Marketplace page. I’m interested in narrative nonfiction, science (popular or trade, not academic), history, true crime, religion, travel, humor, food/cooking, and similar subjects.  For fiction, I’m looking for strong literary fiction, YA, sci-fi, fantasy, and smart detective novels (more Sherlock Holmes than cozy mysteries).

Q: Do you have any extra tips for your pitch sessions?  

If you can, be a few minutes early – if the agent isn’t talking to someone, you can usually start your session early, and it shows that you are very interested in seeing them and you are professional.

Be a good listener – the worst sessions are when I feel like the person is using me as a prop for their pitch; sometimes when I recommend a change, or a book they should read, their eyes glaze over. I want to have a conversation about your book, and I want to enjoy meeting you.

If you don’t get a chance to have a session, you can definitely approach me during the conference at another time – just not in the bathroom and not in the buffet line!

Q: Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?

I prefer not, but I understand writers want to take advantage of the conference, which might not sync up perfectly with your writing schedule. I would say it should be complete, but you don’t have to be done with revisions or polishing. And please tell me that it’s not ready! I don’t want you to rush to get it to me because I requested it, only to have to pass because it wasn’t polished.

Q: Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent?

I think it would be better to approach me outside of the pitch session, since those spaces are really for projects that I could sign. It’s better to focus on the agents that are at the conference that do your type of book than to approach me for something that I don’t represent.

Q & A With agent Jessica Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer, The Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency

Sinsheimer_GreenQ:  If someone has an appointment with you, what should they bring?
Please come with a print-out of your query, a synopsis (around three pages), and the first ten pages. Though I’ll inevitably overpack (and therefore will have no extra room to take anything home), there are times when I need to see your work on paper to get a better idea.

Q: What kinds of manuscripts are you looking for?
On the fiction side, I’m looking for women’s, literary, and young adult fiction of all subgenres. I’m particularly interested in historical fiction, thrillers, and works that feature strong protagonists changing the world around them. For nonfiction, I’d love to see psychology, parenting, food books (memoirs and/or cookbooks), memoirs, pop science, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century. A strong narrative element is key – with that, we’d be willing to look at work on almost any subject matter. Please see our website, http://www.SarahJaneFreymann.com.

Q: Do you have any extra tips for your pitch sessions?
Please don’t feel that you have to come in and perform a script you’ve rehearsed. And there’s no need to read your query to me – I can see that later. Just have a short few lines, an elevator pitch, prepared. We’ll talk about your book, what inspired the idea, and a little about you and your life. We have so little time – and everything else can be sent by email.

Q: We know one should not take an agent appointment without a completed manuscript. However, we hear of authors doing that all the time and it somehow works out. Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?
Absolutely!

Q: Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? If you don’t rep what someone writes, should they just not meet with you or can you still help in any way?
Of course. I’m in the business of matchmaking. If I find something wonderful for one of my colleagues or even a friend at another agency, I’m still pleased to know I’ve helped a work find its perfect home.

Q & A with agent Lois Winston

Lois Winston, Ashley Grayson Literary Agency

Winston, LoisQ: What should participants bring to their pitch sessions with you? 

One page query letter and the first 2 pages (double-spaced) of their manuscript.

Q: What are you looking for? 

The Ashley Grayson Literary Agency was established in 1976 and handles both literary and commercial fiction, children’s fiction, and some nonfiction. I currently represent authors who write romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, women’s fiction, mystery, young adult, and horror, but voice is more important to me than genre, and I love books that make me laugh out loud. I’m not interested in category romance, erotica, regencies, inspirationals, westerns, or paranormal books that feature vampires and shape-shifters.

Q: What mistakes do most writers make when approaching agents?

Three top mistakes I see:

1.       Many writers query too soon. Polish your work until it’s the best it can be before you submit, and you’ll receive fewer rejections.

2.       Know correct grammar and punctuation usage. Too many writers don’t know the most basic of grammar and punctuation rules (and no, that’s not what an editor is for.)

3.       Don’t take rejection personally. This is a business. If your work isn’t right for me, it may be perfect for someone else. Or you may need to reread mistakes #2 and #3.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?

I would prefer to see authors with completed manuscripts.
Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what participants write but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 

Yes, I do pass along manuscripts to our other agents if the manuscript is not right for me but might work for someone else at our agency.

 

Speaking of agents, we have a MWW success story to share.

During our 2009 MWW, agent Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of the Nancy Coffey Literary Agency met with workshop participants for pitch sessions and signed three authors as clients. In fact, Joanne now represents MWW attendee Veronica Roth who writes YA and has contracted a 3-book deal with Harper Collins Children’s books.

Roth cover

Veronica’s first book, Divergent, has been on the New York Times Bestseller List at #6 for three weeks! We encourage you to register for MWW 2011. Maybe you will be our next success story.

Q & A with agent Kathleen Ortiz

Kathleen Ortiz, Subrights Director / Agent at Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation
Ortiz, KathleenQ:  If participants made an appointment with you, how should they prepare for their pitch session? 

ALWAYS come prepared with a 2-3 sentence pitch and a hard copy of the query. I stress that the pitch is ONLY 2-3 sentences and the query is the actual query they would send. Since the MWW pitch sessions are ten minutes, the first 5 pages are handy, as well. Come prepared with questions in case the project isn’t for me – I’m happy to spend the rest of the appointment giving advice/resources on how to pitch, send queries, do research, etc.

Q:  What are you looking for?

I’m only looking for YA or paranormal/urban fantasy romance at this time. No women’s fiction or other adult genres outside of romance. I like all YA, though the darker the better. I’d really like a YA horror, thriller, suspense, cyberpunk or intense mystery.

Q: What do you wish more writers knew?

Top three mistakes I see:

1.       Reading the entire query to me (it’s a pitch – 2-3 sentences)

2.       Arguing with me if I kindly state it’s not for me. You want someone who will be an advocate of your work – if it’s not for me, respect my decision and use the extra time to ask questions about the industry. Someone else WILL be an advocate for your work.

3.       Giving me a business card. I don’t keep them. If I ask for pages, it’s the author’s job to contact me not the other way around.

Q:  Will you accept someone pitching an uncompleted manuscript?

I prefer someone pitches me if the manuscript is completed.
Q:  Finally, if you do not represent what a participant writes but someone else in your agency does, would you ever pass the person on to that agent? 

If I’m pitched a Middle Grade, I will certainly refer it if it has potential. Otherwise, I prefer not to be pitched if it’s not something I rep.

Interview with author Patti Digh

INTRODUCING PATTI DIGHDigh
“I can’t wait to meet Patti, whose most recent book, Creative is a Verb, is full of the author’s fascinating personal stories. Patti inspires readers to get in touch with their uniqueness,” commented MWW committee member Cathy Shouse. “It also offers hundreds of thought-provoking quotes from everyone from Malcolm Gladwell to C.S. Lewis.  I appreciate its refreshing reminder that along with instruction on craft we must learn to effectively tap into the creativity each one of us was born with.”Q: Your Thursday Intensive Session “From Blog to Book” is the first time MWW has offered such a topic. Give us a brief overview and timeline of how your blog turned into a book.

I started writing my blog, 37days.com, in January of 2005, as a response to my stepfather dying just 37 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I was asking myself one question: “What would I be doing if I only had 37 days to live?” and writing my stories down for my two daughters was one important answer to that question. Several years after I started writing it, a publisher approached me and asked if I was interested to make a book from 37days. That book, Life is a Verb: 37 Days to Wake Up, Be Mindful and Live Intentionally, was published by Globe Pequot Press in 2008, and is illustrated exclusively by readers of my blog from around the world.

Q: Tell us a little about your background.

I got my undergraduate degree in English, with a focus on contemporary American literature, and my graduate degree in English and Art History, with a focus on the figure of the artist in fiction.

My graduate thesis was on William Gaddis’ masterpiece, The Recognitions, which I consider one of the great American novels (along with Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove [yes, really], and Richard Powers’ The Time of Our Singing).

I imagined I would be an English professor somewhere, but I found myself in Washington, D.C., for 20 years after graduate school, in the business world.  The first book I co-authored was called a “business book of the year 2000” by Fortune magazine. A few years later, I wrote another well-regarded business book.

And then the death of my stepfather sent me on a much more personal path, and I haven’t looked back at that other business voice since. I am fully inhabiting my own voice now, and telling my own stories.

Q: When you started blogging, was your objective to get a book contract and if so, are there specific steps to make that happen?

Absolutely not, and I believe we fall prey to focusing on outcome and not on process far too often. My intention was singular: I wanted to write my stories down for my two daughters so they would know me as a person, and not just as a mom. I wanted to leave behind a record of my being-all of it, not just the tidy professional me, but the messy, confused, fearful parts too.

I had no audience in mind but them, and I believe this singularity of intention ultimately drew readers in great numbers to the blog, ironically. A friend teaches young actors and one of the first things he teaches them is that you can’t play two intentions on stage at the same time. For example, you can either warn Hamlet (if that is the part you are playing), or you can try to get the audience to love you, but you can’t do both and do them honestly. Writing for a book contract is a split intention. Write what it is you long to say instead. Focus on process-using your voice, saying what you long to say-and not on product. Focus on content, and not on form.

Q: Will your MWW Intensive Session be more technology oriented or writing oriented; in other words, what should people expect?

Writing, writing, writing, writing, writing. In general, writers spend more time talking about how to write or what to write or what keeps us from writing than we do actuDigh creative bookally writing. This intensive will take us into process. I’ll also share insider tips on product–what happens in that liminal space between blog and book? We’re going to look at intention, voice, and much more–by writing, by digging into both content and form.

Q: Anything quirky or unusual about yourself inquiring minds would want to know?

My childhood hero was Johnny Unitas (quarterback for the Baltimore Colts), I played Johnny Appleseed in my fourth grade play, one of my favorite recording artists is Johnny Cash, I have a slight obsession with Johnny Depp, and I’m married to a man named Johnny. There is a pattern here. I also love the smell of lavender, and I write a thank you note every morning. And mail it. And I love to laugh.

Jane Friedman’s new book

The Future of Publishing: Enigma Variations is a definitive and comprehensive view on how book publishing will evolve and transform. It analyzes the future of not only authors, but also agents, editors, publishers, bookstores, and reading/literacy in general. If you’ve been curious, fearful, or anxious—or just want to know the future ahead of everyone else (and who doesn’t!)—then don’t miss this excellent and informed perspective.

All for the low, low price of $1.99. Isn’t peace of mind worth that much to you?

Release date: April 1, 2011.

Note on e-book format/compatibility
This book is only available for purchase as a PDF document. However, the PDF can be downloaded, viewed, and read on virtually any device—including your desktop computer, your tablet, your mobile, and your e-reading device (such as Kindle). You can also print out a hard copy from the PDF. If you have any questions, please contact me.

About Jane Friedman

Jane has been on the faculty of our summer workshop since 2003. She was awarded the Midwest Writers Workshop Dorothy Hamilton Award in 2008.

As the former publisher and editorial director of Writer’s Digest, Jane Friedman is an industry authority on commercial, literary, and emerging forms of publishing. She has spoken at more than 200 writing events since 2001, and is known within the publishing industry as an innovator, cited by sources such as Publishers Weekly, GalleyCat, PBS, and Mr. Media. She has been a speaker at BookExpo America, an adviser to Digital Book World, and recently served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, to review 2011 grants in literature.

 

Jane currently serves as a visiting professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati, and is a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest.

 

Since 2008, she’s offered advice for writers at her award-winning blog, There Are No Rules, which receives 50,000 visits every month. She is the author of the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book (Writer’s Digest, 2006), and is working on a new book for writers, forthcoming in 2012.

 

MWW Mini-workshop at Brownsburg Library

BROWNSBURG, IN – “How To Ramp Up Your Writing” will be the theme of a Saturday, April 23, mini-workshop presented by Midwest Writers Workshop. The workshop is $10 and open to persons interested in learning more about writing and in furthering their writing careers. It is scheduled at the Brownsburg Public Library (450 South Jefferson Street, Brownsburg, IN 46112) from 9 a.m. to noon. Following an opening discussion, participants will break into interest groups focusing on different writing genres.

Midwest Writers special events coordinator Cathy Shouse of Fairmount will discuss getting a book contract; Dianne Drake of Brownsburg, writing fiction; Holly Miller of Anderson, writing for magazines; Mike Brockley of Muncie, writing poetry. All leaders have extensive writing credits and also are members of the Midwest Writers Workshop committee, a Muncie-based writers’ organization that sponsors a major summer writing conference plus special events throughout the year, including mini-workshops held throughout the state. Drake, a Brownsburg resident and author of 20+ published books, is a special guest for the day. The Friends of the Brownsburg Public Library will provide light refreshments.

Participants will receive $20 certificates toward the cost of attending the 38th annual writers’ workshop, scheduled in Muncie, IN, July 28-30, 2011. For more information, contact the Brownsburg Public Library at (317) 852-3167 or by registering online HERE.

Note: Registration is required. The $10 payment will be taken at the door only on the day of the event. Those who present valid Brownsburg Public Library cards will receive a $5 discount. Seating is limited. Registering early is encouraged.

Agent Swap: JL out – Jessica in

Sometimes it happens. A cancellation. And usually, when it does, it comes a week or so after the brochure for our summer workshop is printed and mailed. And that’s just what happened.

We are disappointed to announce that literary agent JL Stermer is unable to participate in this year’s workshop. However, we are pleased to announce that Jessica Sinsheimer with the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency will join us instead.

Sinsheimer

Jessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she went east for Sarah Lawrence College and stayed for the opportunity to read soon-to-be books for a living.

Now an Associate Agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s developed a reputation for fighting office members to see incoming manuscripts first-and for drinking far too much tea. Her most recent sale was Ripper, a YA/historical/paranormal novel about a Victorian girl who takes down Jack the Ripper–and its sequel.

Always on the lookout for new writers, she is most excited about finding literary, women’s, and Young Adult fiction, and-on the nonfiction side-psychology, parenting, self-help, cookbooks, memoirs, and works that speak to life in the twenty-first century.

Jessica will meet with participants for pitches (you must select her when you register) and she will present a session on Saturday: “Hooking an Agent”.

It’s more likely you’ll get hit by lightning while starring in a Broadway play than get a book deal, some say, and the economy has only made it worse. But from my own experience, and from objective data I’ve assembled, I know that 33 percent of your competition disqualifies themselves immediately-and that another 32 percent make preventable mistakes.

I’ll use pie charts, line graphs, and months of data, to help you learn how to keep yourself out of the bottom 65 percent-and how to make yourself immediately likable to an agent; how to increase the odds of your work getting pushed to the top of the reading pile-and how to increase the chances of an agent falling in love with your work.

You’ll also learn strategies agents use when submitting work to editors, and how to apply those same strategies to your own submission process.

Publishing is a very subjective industry, based on timing, intuition, taste, impressions, synchronicity and luck-but when you use the objective data to your advantage, your odds can’t help but improve.

MWW Writers’ Retreat mentor Terence Faherty

MWW Writers’ Retreat mentor Terence Faherty looks forward to publication of two books. Dance in the Dark is his latest mystery novel and The Hollywood Op is a collection of short stories. Both follow fictional private investigator Scott Elliott, an Indiana native living in California and working for a Hollywood security agency. Check out this interview with Terry from The Indianapolis Star.

Message in a Bottle Reading Series

Message in a Bottle Reading Series

On March 19th, the Midwest Writers Workshop launched the Message in a Bottle Reading Series, hosted at the Blue Bottle coffeehouse in downtown Muncie, Ind. Thirty people – young and not-so-young – including Ball State University students, librarians from Warsaw, IN (they woke at 5:30 a.m. to be on time!), a judge, and a few poets turned out to hear Ivy Farguheson, Cathy Shouse, and Kelsey Timmerman read and discuss recent works.

Ivy, a Muncie Star Press reporter, said that there are only two ways she can fully express herself – dancing and writing.  Since there wasn’t much room to dance at the Blue Bottle, Ivy read a work titled, Caribbean Leftovers. Ivy said that writing for the newspaper is a pretty simple formula and she likes to stretch herself as a writer by getting home and writing fiction every night.

Cathy read excerpts from her book, Fairmount: Images of America. At one time little Fairmount, Indiana, was a “cultural capital.” Who knew? Cathy also shared stories about the town’s favorite sons, James Dean and Jim Davis.  James Dean’s cousin was an important source in her research. She often caught up with him at the local café if she had questions.  Garfield was named after Jim Davis’ crotchety grandfather.

Kelsey read Running with Kenyans about an ill-advised attempt to run a half-marathon with world-class Kenyan runners at 8,000 feet in Iten, Kenya. He got lost, and was passed by an old farmer.  We’re still not quite sure how he made it back.

“The event was exactly what we hoped it would be,” said Jama Bigger, director of the MWW workshop. “It was a laidback Saturday morning filled with laughs, coffee, and good stories. We can’t wait to do it again!”

The Midwest Writers are currently taking suggestions for writers to read at the Message in the Bottle Reading Series. Email your suggestions to Kelsey@kelseytimmerman.com.