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Interview with agent Kathleen Ortiz

Meet Kathleen Ortiz!

Time is running out! If you’ve been waiting to register for MWW 2012, do so now and pitch your book to an agent yet this summer. Plus, get valuable knowledge to take your writing career to the next level, or five!

Once again, MWW brings four New York agents to our workshop and offers participants registered for Part II the opportunity to pitch their manuscript ideas.

K OrtizKathleen Ortiz is the Subsidiary Rights Director and Literary Agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. On the children’s side, she is interested in acquiring all genres of YA (she especially gravitates to darker YA), but would specifically love a beautifully told story set within another culture (historical or modern, in the vein of Blood Diamond or Memoirs of a Geisha). She’s also looking for darker middle grade for older kids (especially in the vein of Labyrinth). On the adult side, she’s looking for lifestyle or technology non-fiction, as well as urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Please, no picture books, chapter books or adult books outside of romance.

Q. Please explain what you think the advantages are from your POV of meeting a potential writer client at a writers’ conference. Have you signed clients at conference?

Some advantages of meeting someone in person at a conference are getting to know them face-to-face and being able to see their passion for their work. I’ve never signed someone from a conference (though I certainly still have hope! I’m here, right? :)), but my colleague, Joanna Volpe, has! In fact, she signed three from this conference a couple of years ago: Veronica Roth, New York Times bestselling author of Divergent and Insurgent (Katherine Tegan books, Harper), Megan Powell (No Peace For The Damned, 47North, Amazon), and Rita Woods.

Q. What is the advantage for a writer who meets you at a conference, meaning is the wait for a decision shorter, do you look at a manuscript differently having met the author and are you more likely to request based on meeting someone?

I don’t look at the manuscript differently, because at the end of the day, it’s the writing and story that matter most. There are many, very nice people who query me whose stories just aren’t quite right for my list now. However with conferences, I do try to get back more quickly to those who pitch me than those who query me via our traditional submission guidelines.

Q. Sometimes writers have trouble knowing what their manuscript’s genre is and/or their story has elements from several genres. How does this cause challenges in representation and what can a writer do about this?

If an agent is looking for one genre and not another, it can definitely hurt their chances of even having a query read. For example, I’m not really open to YA paranormal at the moment. If your MS is really a sci-fi but you pitch it as paranormal, I might feel that you’re telling me it’s light on the sci-fi and heavy on the paranormal. On the flip side, if you have a YA paranormal and you try to pitch to me as sci-fi (to avoid being rejected on genre alone), and I can tell it’s paranormal, I’m going to assume you’re not well read in the genre, which means the worldbuilding and characters may be lacking.

Q. Would you like to add anything else to help writers prepare for a pitch to you and/or what are the most common mistakes you see?

Don’t talk for the ENTIRE pitch. Write a 2 sentence pitch. Keep it under 30-40 seconds. Then wait for the agent to comment / ask for more. If you talk the whole time, it doesn’t leave us much room to give feedback / ask questions. You WANT us to ask questions / want us to want more. It can be nerve wracking to pitch for the first time, but I promise you I’m not mean. I don’t bite. And I’ve not made anyone cry (so far). So I promise I’m nice 🙂

Follow her on Twitter: @KOrtizzle

kortizzle.blogspot.com

News from agent Kathleen Ortiz

New Leaf Literary & Media

Great news: Joanna Stampfel-Volpe (MWW faculty in 2009) has opened up her own agency, and Kathleen Ortiz has joined her.

Formation of new agency

Kathleen Ortiz is the Subsidiary Rights Director and Literary Agent at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. On the children’s side, she is interested in acquiring all genres of YA (she especially gravitates to darker YA), but would specifically love a beautifully told story set within another culture (historical or modern, in the vein of Blood Diamond or Memoirs of a Geisha). She’s also looking for darker middle grade for older kids (especially in the vein of Labyrinth). On the adult side, she’s looking for lifestyle or technology non-fiction, as well as urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Please, no picture books, chapter books or adult books outside of romance.

She represents Jaime Reed’s Cambion Chronicles (Kensington), Dawn Rae Miller’s Larkstorm, Sarah Fine’s Sanctum (Marshall Cavendish / Oct ’12), who also writes as S.E. Fine for Scan (Putnam for Young Readers, coauthored with Walter Jury / Fall ’13), as well as Disney and Sony animator Dan Haring and Betty Crocker recipe writer Bree from BakedBree.com.

Find Kathleen on Twitter or visit her blog for more information or updates on the publishing industry.

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.

Meet Literary Agent Suzie Townsend

Townsend

 

We caught up with Suzie and asked her a few questions about her 2010 MWW presentation THE DREADED SYNOPSIS… (Part II, Friday, July 30)1) Why do you think the synopsis gives writers so many problems and do you find confusion about length is common?

The synopsis is evil. Everyone hates them. Writer’s hate them because they’re so hard to write. The question of what to include and what to leave out is especially hard because a writer is so close to their own work. Length and tone can sometimes also be a source of confusion because sometimes editors or agents will ask for different specifics in a synopsis if they have a specific purpose in mind for it.


2) How important is being able to write an effective synopsis to a writer’s career?

Very. Editors and agents use synopses to generate in house excitement for a project that will help get more people behind the project and the author – which is so important at all stages of the publication process. Film and subrights agents also often ask for a synopsis when they’re looking at purchasing rights to a manuscript.  And as an author’s career progresses, they’ll need to write a longer synopsis and book proposal for later projects.  Since that’s more in depth, it’s much harder to write especially if an author doesn’t have a basic synopsis to start from.


3) Do you think there are “secrets” to writing a good synopsis and will you be sharing specific tips?

I don’t know if they’re “secrets” per say, but there are rules and an easy formula to “demystify” the synopsis writing process. 


For people who have an appointment with you and for those who are considering registering for one, please share what you are currently looking for. Also, please mention a couple of your clients and their most recent books.

For adult fiction, I’m currently looking for a really great urban fantasy or paranormal romance series with a strong voice and characters I can fall in love with (Patricia Briggs or JR Ward are two of my favorites).  In YA and Middle Grade, I’d love to find beautifully written literary projects with a speculative twist (like How I Live Now or Before I Fall or When You Reach Me). I’m also looking for an author/illustrator who does quirky and unique picture books.
 
Some of my clients with books out:
Hannah Moskowitz, BREAK (Simon Pulse 8/2009), INVINCIBLE SUMMER (Simon Pulse, forthcoming)
Nicola Marsh, MARRIAGE: FOR BUSINESS OR PLEASURE (Harlequin, 2/2010), OVER TIME IN THE BOSS’ BED (Harlequin, 6/2010), THREE TIMES A BRIDESMAID (Harlequin 6/2010)
Lisa Desrochers, PERSONAL DEMONS (Tor, forthcoming)