Wednesday, June 9, 2010

UPCOMING INTERVIEW: Jessica Regel - Agent - Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc.

Jessica Regel is a literary agent with Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. or JVNLA, Inc. for eight years. She also works in the subsidiary rights department, selling film, audio and UK rights. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Hunter College.

Ms. Regel is looking for strong commercial fiction, literary fiction, edgy/hip fiction/ young adult, middle grade novels, children's non-fiction, and narrative nonfiction writers.

She’s also interested in Romance, Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror or Paranormal in Children's books. She would love to find a memoir or a narrative non-fiction book directed at the teen market.

Ms. Regel is NOT looking for the following:

Practical Non-fiction: such as Self-Help, How-To, or Textbooks
Religion or Spirituality
Adult Genre Fiction: such as i.e. Sci-fi, Fantasy, Cozy mysteries, Romance
Political Thrillers or Crime
Picture Books
Misery Memoirs
Screenplays: She does not represent screenwriters
Animal books (Children's and Adult)
Children's books that are message or lesson oriented

To learn more about Jessica Regel, please visit their website

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

INTERVIEW: Mollie Glick - Agent - Foundry Literary Media

After graduating from Brown University, Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at the Crown imprint of Random House, before switching over to "the other side" and becoming an agent at JVNLA (The Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency) in 2003. Mollie's list includes literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, and a bit of practical non- fiction. She's particularly interested in fiction that bridges the literary/commercial divide, combining strong writing with a great plot, and non-fiction dealing with popular science, medicine, psychology, cultural history, memoir and current events.

She's very hands-on, working collaboratively with her authors to refine their projects, then focusing on identifying just the right editors for the submissions.

In addition to her work as a literary agent, Mollie also teaches classes on non-fiction proposal writing at Media Bistro.


Dorothy Hearst, Mike Sager, Jonathan Evison, Gregory Levey, Rose Marie Kinder
Barbara Pope, Brenda Janowitz, Jess McCann, David Levy to name a few...


Lenore Skenazy/ FREE RANGE KIDS
Rafe Bartholomew/PACIFIC RIMS
Elizabeth Eslami/BONE WORSHIP

E.I. How does a new writer, or a veteran author, make a seven figures in one sale? Is it the works of both the agents, editors or is it luck?

Molly Glick: The old adage is definitely true: it takes both preparation and luck! These days in publishing, decisions are often made by committee. Back in the day, a single editor would fall in love with a project and take it to her publisher to get permission to buy it. These days, with a few exceptions at houses like Ecco and FSG, most editors have to get projects they want to acquire past a whole board full of editors, sales people and marketing and publicity people, so it's much harder to get a 'diamond in the rough' past. That's why I do a lot of editing and revising with my authors, polishing the novel before submitting. But once the submission itself is in the best possible shape, it's time to think strategy-- figuring out how many editors to submit to, and which ones, how to position the work, and whether to go to auction or not-- that's part of what goes into a good sale, too. But as for seven figures? There's a bit of pixie dust sprinkled over a deal that size as well.

E.I. Your taste in books is obviously eclectic based on the genre categories you are willing to represent, including literary, young adult fiction, narrative nonfiction and memoir. That's a lot to juggle. What particular qualities do you look for in work by a first time young adult writer, for example?

Molly Glick: This question made me laugh because it's so true: it's hard to represent multiple types of books! My life would be so much easier if I were "the cookbook agent" or "the narrative nonfiction agent" or "the young adult agent", and there are lots of genres I'm just not the right agent for (such as picture books or genre fiction). But one of my favorite parts of this business is that it's my job to fall in love with a book, and I really enjoy learning something new with every project I take on, so for me it's worth the extra work. And really, what I'm looking for in anything I take on is the same. I'm looking for a book with a unique voice. I'm looking for a great plot and great characters that convey a bigger idea. And I'm looking for a book I can't put down.

E.I. How do you feel about working with first-time authors? How many and what kinds of first-time authors have become published through your efforts with Foundry Literary Media?

Molly Glick: I love it! One of the biggest thrills in my life is making a first time author's dream come true by selling their book. And I also really enjoy that moment of sitting down with an author and asking "what do you want to achieve in your writing life" then helping them make that dream a reality. Almost all of my novelists, even ones like Johnny Evison or Dorothy Hearst or Zoe Klein who are now working on second or third books, came to me as first time novelists. I plan to be in this business a long time, so I'm always looking for authors who I can break out and grow from project to project!

To learn more about Mollie Glick, please visist their website

Thursday, June 3, 2010

INTERVIEW: Molly Jaffa - Agent - Folio Literary Management

Ms. Molly Jaffa, has been working closely with Folio Literary Management's clients’ projects since 2008, when she began editing manuscripts and writing book proposals. Her editorial background, previous work experience in the e-publishing industry, and intimate knowledge of the Folio list has led to her current position as Subsidiary Rights Associate. She actively pursues sales of all unsold subsidiary rights, helping Folio clients’ books reach wide audiences in as many formats as possible.

She loves fiction set in another country, time, or place that opens up a rich new world for the reader to discover. She also like to see: Edgy YA that’s not afraid to explore controversial and complex social issues, middle grade and YA with elements of magical realism, multicultural fiction, verse novels, reality-based fantasy, and –most importantly – books with a voice that makes the reader think.

She is an avid reader, and when she’s not devouring manuscripts, she can usually be found camped out in the aisles of her local bookstore.

WHAT SHE'S LOOKING FOR: YA fiction with a literary voice that challenges the reader intellectually and emotionally.

SHE'S NOT LOOING FOR: Mysteries, thrillers, suspense, romance, boy books (no gross-out humor, aliens, gore, etc.), paranormal fantasy, diet/fitness, or religious/inspirational.

E.I. Do you see the demand for first novels increasing? Any difference between literary and genre work? What is your opinion?

Molly Jaffa: The demand for first novels is increasing only in the sense that it’s often easier to sell a novel by an author with no publishing track record than it is to sell a book by a previously published author whose work wasn’t a commercial success. In this economy, publishers are sometimes unwilling to take another financial risk on a writer whose books haven’t sold through for them in the past. From a purely artistic standpoint, I’m especially looking for debut novelists-- I love the process of helping new writers build their career and achieve their writing goals.

It’s true that literary fiction is typically a more difficult sell than genre fiction, but that doesn’t mean that an agent won’t fall in love with and fight for a beautiful literary novel. Many of my colleagues continue to take on gorgeous literary projects. Write what you love, not what’s “on trend.” I’m always looking for YA and MG with a literary voice, and I’ve never taken on a project simply because I thought it looked like what was “hot” at the moment.

E.I. Is it true that the first 3 chapters in a MS is crucial, but if the narrative is awkward or the prose poor, won't that be obvious right away? Why would an editor or agent need to read past the first 3 chapters?

Molly Jaffa: The whole manuscript is crucial. If I request a partial manuscript (50 pages) from a writer and really love it, I’ll still ask to see the full before discussing representation. I need to be able to see how the author develops his or her characters over the course of the story; if the internal and external conflicts continue to build; if the pacing stays strong; and if the narrative arc comes to a satisfying, organic conclusion. The quality of the work should be consistent throughout-- it shouldn’t be obvious that you’ve spent more time developing one portion of your manuscript than another. It’s definitely important that you can start a story off with a great idea and a strong opening, but for me, what really counts is your ability to follow through on that premise in a way that’s consistently intriguing, well-written, and believable.

E.I. What qualities must a manuscript possess in order for you to really push to see it published? Do you base it on the query letter?

Molly Jaffa: I represent YA and Middle Grade fiction, so for me, it’s all about the voice. The reader has to absolutely believe that your character understands them; is them. Being able to write from a young person’s perspective is a gift, and when I find a writer who can do that really well, I’m smitten. Of course, the manuscript also needs a unique hook, well-drawn characters, strong world-building, and that elusive “unputdownable” quality. I’m always looking for the next manuscript that will grab hold of me and force me to read it in one thrilling, electrifying sitting. As an agent, those are the moments I live for. Though I love working closely with clients to help them further develop their work, those basic tenets still need to be in place before a manuscript hits my inbox.

As for the importance of queries – they’re hugely important, though a query alone isn’t enough to make me take on a project. In my submission guidelines, I ask for the first ten pages of the manuscript to be pasted at the end of the query. I feel that this format really gives me the best possible opportunity to connect with an author’s work. I read every query—my clients come from the so-called “slush pile”—and I always reply to each query within two weeks.

My clients:

I’ve been with Folio since 2008, when I began assisting Jeff Kleinman, one of the agency’s partners. Over the past few years, I’ve been working with Folio’s foreign rights and selling our clients’ subsidiary rights. I’m delighted to be a part of Folio Jr., a new initiative of the agency devoted to developing and nurturing the careers of children’s, Middle Grade, and YA authors. I’ve been aggressively looking to build my list over the past few months, though nothing’s hit shelves yet. I’m really enjoying the process of finding fresh, new voices in children’s and YA literature, and I’m definitely hungry for more.

To learn more about Molly Jaffa, please visit their website

Saturday, May 1, 2010

INTERVIEW: Barry Goldblatt - Founder of Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency

Barry Goldblatt, is the founder of Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency and has been an agent for twenty years. BGLA is a leading U.S. literary agency headquartered in Brooklyn, New York. He represents talented authors of highly illustrated book for childrens, teens and adults including picture books, middle grade and also young adult. He welcomes older young adults, science fiction and fantasy. He founded the agency in September of 2000.

He first arrived in New York with dreams of acquiring an editorial position for a science fiction magazine. He came to New York in 1989 and holds a B.A. in English after graduating from University of Kansas and a B.S. in Journalism.

After several dead ends in the sci-fi field, he began exploring the possibility of a career in subsidiary rights. Eventually, he ended up at Dutton Children’s Books with a job as rights assistant, where he first discovered his love for the world of children’s publishing

Mr. Goldblatt can recognize whether or not a manuscript will work almost right away. He suggests that his preference towards children's books echoes his sense of the importance of the children's literature.

He finds the market for children's books, especially those for young adults and teenagers, to be an ever-changing and expanding one, and those children’s books, in themselves, are becoming more and more accepted as a "literary art form."

He thinks that Fiction for teens can be as powerful and liberating as any adult book on the market. He knows that it can often even reach an adult audience, which only helps to bring young adult literature more well-deserved attention.

Barry Goldblatt knows what he likes when he finds a new authors and manuscripts. He describes his ideal submission simply as a manuscript that blows him away. For him, he need to be marveling at the intricate details of a plot or fascinated by an extraordinary voice.

He represents such talents as Holly Black and Theo Black, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lauren Myracle to name a few. Mr. Goldblatt is married to bestselling author Libba Bray.

E.I. Has any one genre over the past five or ten years gained a greater share of the market? For example, have sci-fi total book sales increased a few points? Any trends to be aware of?

Barry Goldblatt: Well, this is pretty obvious; all you have to do is walk into a bookstore and see the huge number of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and steampunk novels currently dominating the shelves. Harry Potter started it, Twilight kicked it in a new direction, and The Hunger Games opened the dystopian flood gates. Who knows what will be the next major trend?

But I'd stress here that it's extremely important for all aspiring writers to note that trends are totally unimportant. By the time a writer sees a trend showing in a bookstore, it's already in effect over as far as editors and publishers are concerned, because they'll have their lists loaded with titles for the next three years. If you're trying to write to a trend, you're wasting your time. Write the story you have to write, and if it's fantastic, some agent will sign it up.

E.I. A well-crafted sci-fi book can be a fun read, but are there many modern science fiction works that would qualify as “literature”? Any science fiction books that would qualify as literary masterpieces?

Barry Goldblatt: Of course! Science fiction gets a bad rap from most quarters, as it's still considered to be for geeks and nerds. There hasn't yet in YA been that transformative book that makes SF acceptable on a mass level, which is a real shame, and something some agents and editors are really trying to change. But there have been phenomenal literary SF writers publishing for years, and there are loads of classics: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller just to name a few that leap to mind. Recent literary gems I've read include Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl, as well as his recently released YA Ship Breaker, which is a book I really hope blows out the doors and windows and lets us sell a whole lot more true science fiction down the road. (I also note here with a bit of chagrin that I've mostly mentioned male authors, which is not because there isn't great SF being written by women; it just shows I need to be looking around more to find it.)

E.I. Would you describe an ideal cover letter you would want to see pop in through the mail slot tomorrow. What elements would it contain?

Barry Goldblatt: I don't know that there really is such a thing as an ideal query letter for me. A query letter has one purpose and one purpose only: does it make me want to read the manuscript? Anything else is just decoration. It needs to be concise and present the plot of the novel quickly and clearly, without a lot of flowery language and overly detailed plot description. It's a quick introduction, nothing more.

Photo of Barry Goldblatt by Ellen Datlow
To learn more about Barry Goldblatt, please visit his website

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

INTERVIEW: Emmanuelle Alspaugh - Agent - Judith Ehrlich Literary Management

Emmanuelle Alspaugh was born in France and grew up in Eugene, Oregon, before settling in New York City to work in publishing. She enjoys developing long-term relationships with her clients, helping them to build strong and lasting literary careers.

What Emmanuelle is currently looking for:

Urban fantasy
Paranormal romance, particularly the dark and edgy kind shape-shifters & werewolves
Historical romance, mainly sexy Regencies
General historical fiction set in Europe
Upmarket, high-concept women’s fiction with strong female protagonists
Literary fiction with an international setting
Select nonfiction categories including memoir, psychology, and relationships.

Literary agent Emmanuelle Alspaugh has relocated from Wendy Sherman Associates and was an Editor at Fodor's, the travel division of Randon House to Judith Ehrlich Literary Management in August of 2008. In the last six months of 2009 she sold five debut romance authors, all in two- or three-book deals.

Ms. Alspaugh has made deals for the following authors: Marie Claire editor Sarah Wexler, romance authors Jenny Brown, Alissa Johnson, Marcella Burnard, Christina Phillips, and Laurie London; Marie Claire editor Sarah Wexler; memoirists Adrienne Kane and Catherine McCall; and anthology editor Andrea Richesin. She was also briefly an agent with Creative Culture, where she connected Canadian novelist Danielle Younge-Ullman with Plume; that book was Falling Under.

E.I. If you could pick the perfect literary novel to represent this coming year, what would be its defining characteristics?

E. Alspaugh: Probably a gorgeously wrought, epic historical novel, along the lines of Sarah Dunant, Michelle Moran, Emma Donoghue, Philippa Gregory, or Pamela Kaufman. It would have a primary and multiple secondary plot lines, romance, details about historical settings and dress, and plenty of intrigue.

E.I. There are many qualities a writer must possess in order to be a successfully published author. What quality do you find most important?

E. Alspaugh: Professionalism, hands-down. It’s a word that encompasses so many aspects of the job: researching the market, knowing the competitive titles and authors, working at the craft of writing, having the ability to narrow down a book idea to a concise pitch, being available to the agency and publishing team, promoting the published book through all avenues, and generally understanding that publishing is a business.

To learn more about Emmanuelle Alspaugh, please visit their website

Friday, February 26, 2010

INTERVIEW: Laura Rennert, Sr. Literary Agent - Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Laura Rennert is a senior literary agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency and a published author of children’s fiction. Following a distinguished career in academia, she joined the Brown agency in 1988, where she currently specializes in young adult fiction. Dr. Rennert’s academic accomplishments, teaching and writing experience imbue her with a unique ability to identify and develop new emerging talent. It also gives her the professional credentials to work with established authors like Ellen Hopkins. Her expertise runs from adult fiction: literary fiction, women‘s fiction, mysteries and thrillers (particularly those with a female perspective or angle) to memoir, and narrative and popular nonfiction.

Dr. Rennert is at the top of her game. Some successful agents tend to limit their search for new clients to known quantities. Laura Rennert represents award-winning and best selling authors, National Book Award Finalists, as well as first-time authors. Some of her more noteworthy deals exceeding a half a million dollars were brokered with Random House and Simon & Schuster. She also logged six-figure YA deals with Razorbill/Penguin, Knopf, Feiwel & Friends, Margaret McElderry/S&S, Scholastic, and Harper, plus a film deal with Nickelodeon/Paramount.

Middle-grade, young adult, and crossover books remain Ms. Rnnert’s specialty. In the MG/YA market, she's seeking contemporary fiction with real emotional power. Examples would be urban fantasy, paranormal with a literary bent, gothic or neo-gothic novels (going back to her 19th Century Brit Lit roots), mysteries, suspense, and thrillers, and multi-cultural fiction.

She likes characters with an insider-outsider perspective. Dr. Rennert has spent time abroad and has an affinity for books that explore different cultures or worlds to which the young reader wouldn't otherwise have access. She values books that make us see the ordinary in new ways, especially works that are ambitious in intellectual, emotional, or narrative terms, and books that make her laugh or cry. Across all categories her unique talent lies in identifying books with "literary voice, and commercial conception."

Dr. Rennert, published the picture book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR in the Fall of 2009, as well as a highly illustrated book for young readers inspired by her daughter, EMMA, THE EXTRA-ORDINARY PRINCESS, coming in Spring 2011.

She speaks at writer's conferences throughout the country and abroad. Dr. Rennert was awarded her Ph.D. in English literature by the University of Virginia. She has worked as a freelance editor in the United States and Japan, and has nine years of experience teaching on the faculty in the English Departments of the University of Virginia, Osaka University of Foreign Studies, and Santa Clara University. She has published articles in various scholarly journals in the United States and internationally.

Writer's Digest in 2004 named Andrea Brown Literary Agency one of the top twenty-five literary agencies for developing new writers. The Andrea Brown Literary Agency Inc. has been in business since 1981.

Her notable clients includes:
Ellen Hopkins,
Catherine Ryan Hyde
Jay Asher
Kathleen Duey
Maggie Stieffvater,
Christina Meldrum,
Jeff Stone,
Ying Chang Compestine,
Robin Brande,
Andrew Smith,
Kimberly Derting

E.I. What advice do you have for debut literary fiction writers looking to break into this tough category? Is it just about the writing, or are there other factors you often see overlooked?

Laura Rennert: My advice to debut fiction writers is work on craft; educate yourself regarding the market (especially the category in which you are writing); present yourself professionally and personably; develop visibility even before publication; and stay passionate about writing and your own work. So a word about each of these things.

Hone your craft. Seek out opportunities to learn from successful authors and from editors and agents, who are strong in your category and who work with writers you love. Form a critique group or find writing partners who push you to be better, who will tell it to you straight, and who don't let you get away with anything.

Focus on the fundamentals of strong story-telling. What I’m looking for in fiction is works with a fresh voice, original perspective, complex characters, a strong narrative structure; and real emotional power. Some examples of my authors who nail these criteria are Ellen Hopkins, Maggie Stiefvater, Jay Asher, Christina Meldrum, and Kathleen Duey. The good news is, it begins and ends with what is on the page. This is the part you can control. Write the best books you can – the kind of books you want to read.

It may seem like commonsense but I’ll say it anyway: make sure the work you put out there is your best. In other words, don't send your work to agents and editors prematurely. I have a checklist for fiction on my website, (see the "for writers" page) that offers some guidelines to help you decide if your work is ready.

Know the market. As a debut author, if you can situate your work in terms of other successful novels in your category, you give us a useful understanding of where your work fits in the market, and you demonstrate that you've educated yourself and done your homework. Telling us who your audience is, why your work will appeal to that audience, and how you can reach a readership will definitely capture agents' and editors' attention.

Build a strong online presence through author websites, blogs, and use of social networking. The good news is that internet presents an incredible opportunity for writers to connect with their audience and to publicize their books at minimal cost, apart from the time and energy commitment. If you combine this kind of author visibility with irresistible, powerful, well-crafted writing, you’ll be unstoppable.

E.I. Are you a huge believer that good books will always sell even in a bad economic climate as it is? Do people stop buying books except for the authors who pioneered the genre and were bestsellers from the beginning?

Laura Rennert: I believe that even in a bad economic climate, maybe especially in a bad economy, people have an appetite for good books! I don't think our desire for great stories is going away, regardless of the changing face of publishing. However, as technology evolves and the publishing landscape shifts, there may be more and different models for delivering content. Of course, with new ebook readers coming on the market and the ability to read ebooks on mobile phones and other devices, this is already happening.

As publishing suffers these growing pains, the most important thing you can do as a newer writer is work on building your brand. It's true that established authors who already are existing bestsellers have an advantage in this regard, but I have to believe that authors who write strong books and find creative and smart ways to connect with their readers will succeed.

Since you don’t necessarily know whomever and however your next book will be published, your most important move as an author is to establish the broadest, strongest, direct connection with your readers. Facebook, Twitter, contests, and blogs are your marketing tools. If you use them to build a direct connection to your readers, you’ll be in a good position, no matter what comes, because you can take your email list, your Twitter list, your Facebook list with you.

Because traditional publishers are generally doing less than ever before to promote authors, the job of publicizing one’s book typically falls to the author. A web presence is especially important in this down fiction market because it’s frequently author-generated visibility and exposure that are leading to publishing success. It’s crucial for middle-grade and young adult authors, because their readers are online and so computer savvy, and it’s even becoming a requirement for other categories of children's books, as well. As an author myself, I am using my website and social media, as well as book signings, books festivals, and school visits, to promote my own picture book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR (Oct. 2009, Knopf), illustrated by Marc Brown.

My husband, thriller writer Barry Eisler, likes to analogize what’s happening in publishing to what happened in the music industry with the advent of MTV. All of a sudden, there was pressure on recording artists and musicians to be beautiful as well as talented. So, in the current publishing climate, there’s pressure on the authors to be savvy marketers and promoters of their own books, as well as to craft amazing stories. This may not be a desirable or fair change. After all, authors got into the business of writing because of their talent for writing, not their PR ability. But, regardless, the ability to market one’s own books is increasingly a requirement for publishing success.

In this brave new world, authors have to think of their books as their own business, the publisher as their partners, and have to develop their own marketing strategies for connecting with readers and building a brand as authors.

Photo of Laura Rennert by Janelle McCuen.
To learn more about Laura Rennert please visit the following websites bellow.
Laura Rennert agent’s website
Laura Rennert author’s website

Thursday, February 18, 2010

INTERVIEW: Erin Murphy - President, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

Erin Murphy, is the President of Erin Murphy Literary Agency and has been an agent for 10 years. EMLA is a leading U.S. children's book agency headquartered in Flagstaff, Arizona. She founded the agency in 1999.

The agency focus on connections—between writer and editor, story and reader—as well as on helping their clients build their careers and grow as artists.

Ms. Murphy has a unique submission policy and only likes queries from writers she has met at one time or another, or writers who come through an impressive referral.
She works with publishers of all sizes all over the U.S., and has placed clients' books with every major children's house in New York and Boston, but she cut her teeth in regional publishing.

Erin currently negotiates contracts for over 60 clients and is held in high regard by a number of closed publishing houses. Her recent manuscript placements have included Bloomsbury USA, Simon and Schuster, Dutton, Candlewick, and Knopf. Prior to starting the agency, Ms. Murphy was the Editor-in-Chief of Northland Publishing.

She began her career at Northland Publishing/Rising Moon Books for Young Readers (a beloved decades-old Flagstaff company that was bought out in 2007), eventually becoming editor-in-chief, and was a member of the board of directors of PubWest, a professional development organization for small and mid-sized publishers in the West.

She represents writers and writer-illustrators of picture books, novels for middle-graders and young adults, and select nonfiction. She is especially drawn to strong characters and heart-centered stories. In her spare time she loves walking, baking, kayaking, knitting, traveling, and reading.

Her notable clients list includes:
Ruth Barshaw, Chris Barton, Elizabeth Bluemle, Penny Bluebaugh, Elizabeth Bunce, Mellisa Glenn Haber, Deborah Halverson, Mary Hershey, Roebrt Kinerk, R.L. LaFevers, Natalie Dias Lorenzi, Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich, Janette Rallison, Laura Resau, Cate Tiernan, Susan Vaught and many more!

E.I. In an industry that gets increasingly difficult to break into, what are a few things first-time writers can do in their query letters that might convince you to take a chance on them?

ERIN MURPHY: The worst thing they can possibly do is convey an overinflated sense of confidence about their work alongside a clear lack of knowledge of the industry. I don't read as many queries as other agents do, as I'm closed to cold queries (simply for volume control, to keep a handle on my own time), so I don't see as much of this. But nothing is more of a turn-off than a writer who is clearly a dabbler and envisions himself reaching fame and fortune through what he is certain will be the next Harry Potter. It's even worse if this query has clearly been mass emailed in the same form to dozens of other agents. I like to get a sense of a writer as a professional, even if she's not-yet-published--someone who takes a real interest in the industry as a whole, who has bothered to find out something about me before approaching me, and who can pitch her manuscript in a simple, concrete way.

E.I. A well written query letter is a key to snagging an agent's attention. Can you briefly explain what components the ideal query should include? Should the writer attach a page or two of prose just so the agent can get a feel for writer's ability?

ERIN MURPHY: It varies from agent to agent. There is no one wholesale answer. For me, I like to get a sense of the breadth of a writer's work, even if he focuses on just one pitch for the initial query. Something like, "Additionally, I have one other completed YA novel awaiting revision and a contemporary middle-grade adventure that is currently on submission" or "Although this is my first completed novel, I'm one draft into my work in progress, a middle-grade novel from the point of view of a cabin boy on Columbus's famous voyage." I will often ask to see sample chapters of the other works mentioned, in addition to the main one the writer is querying about. I prefer not to see samples until I ask for them.

I really do recommend that writers research the agents they are interested in and try to hone their approaches accordingly; that said, if I get a query email with some sample text pasted in at the bottom, I don't discard it out of hand because the writer didn't follow the rules.

Because I like to have a sense that the writer has spent some time getting to know the industry, I'm often more interested in queries from people that hint at personal or professional industry connections, time spent in leadership positions at conferences, graduate programs in writing for children, and the like--and lists of previously published books or a list of magazines the writer contributes to regularly are always helpful, of course!

Finally, the main thing for me is that a query letter is also a writing sample. Professional is good; cold and mechanical is not. A little personality in the writing, a sense of the writer's own true voice--that's often what knocks me over the edge in asking to see someone's work.

Photo of Erin Murphy by Katy Grant.

To learn more about Erin Murphy, please visit their website.

Monday, January 25, 2010

UPCOMING INTERVIEW: Joëlle Delbourgo - President of Joëlle Delbourgo Associates, Inc. & Former publishing executive of Random House & Harper Collins

Joëlle Delbourgo is a highly energetic former publishing executive turned entrepreneur. For over 28 years, she has been astute in identifying and developing talent, first in her executive posts at such companies as HarperCollins and Random House, and more recently, through her literary agency, Joëlle Delbourgo Associates, Inc., founded in 1999.

Joëlle Delbourgo Associates, a literary management company based in New York City, has subagents around the world and co-agents in film and television.
The agency strives to bring an author's work to greater visibility globally and in as many formats as possible.

Clients of the agency include: historian Philip Mitchell Freeman; Pulitzer-Prize winning Wall Street Journal writer, Geeta Anand; for her book "The Cure". The book that inspired the movie "Extra Ordinary Measures", starring award-winning actor, Brendan Fraser and four time Golden Globe nominee and Oscar nominee, Harrison Ford.

Other clients also includes award-winning Southern novelists Pamela Duncan and Roy Hoffman; feminist psychologist, Phyllis Chesler; renegade philosopher, Lou Marinoff; clinical psychologist, Jonathan Grayson; Business Week editor, Chris Farrell; commentator and opinion-maker, Dr. Marc Siegel; poet and acclaimed novelist, Elizabeth Rosner; and memoirist Elaine N. Orr.

Prior to founding the agency, Joëlle Delbourgo was Senior Vice-President, Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of HarperCollins, Adult Trade Division. Earlier she spent over fifteen years in various editorial and executive posts at Ballantine Books, division of Random House, including Vice-President, Editor-in-Chief.

Joëlle Delbourgo holds an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature with Honors from Columbia University, and a B.A. from Williams College, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa with a double concentration in History and English Literature. She also attended Vassar College from 1970 - 1972.

Joelle Delbourgo is a member of the AAR, Author's Guild and Women's Media Group.

To learn more about Joelle Delbourgo, please visit their website

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Hello, Blogosphere! It's been a bit of stretch since my last entry, so I wanted to catch up with all of you. I have received numerous emails from my readers, authors & friends who were concerned about my health. The outpouring of supports I received was so overwhelming,

There was so much support behind my recovery, and I thank you all for your thoughts, well wishes and kind words concerning about me.

Well, I’m back now..... I’d like to announce that new interviews, blog updates and website updated materials will be posted here starting NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you.


E.I. Johnson