Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Meet Agent Gina Panettieri

Today, I have a special guest.

Ms. Gina Panettieri SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!

*Star Wars size orchestra with cartwheeling clowns*

You might ask.."Eb, how in the world did you get another agent to visit your little rinkadink blog?" And my answer is the same...."NETWORKING!" Fabulous people, I tell you.

Gina is President and Executive Editor for Talcott Notch Literary Services. You can be like me and creep quietly behind her on twitter

Let's meet Gina....

Can you share a little bit about yourself....

Well, in one way or another, I’ve been doing something in publishing for more than twenty years now. I started out writing, believe it or not, for the confession magazines, like True Romance and True Confessions! And I’ve written my own book, the Single Mother’s Guide to Raising Remarkable Boys. But my real passion is agenting. It’s always exciting to get a great query letter, or dig into a proposal that just transports you. Nothing is better than getting to the end of the sample the author sent and wishing it hadn’t ended. Then you know you’re really on to something. It’s like being on a really great first date!

When you were a child, what was your favorite book of all time?

Wow, this is going to sound really, really weird. There was a huge hardcover book of short horror stories in the school library, an Alfred Hitchcock collection with ghastly, scary illustrations. I used to check that out constantly! I loved anything scary – movies, books, everything Halloween-y (so now my house is really decked out wildly).

Within the last twelve months, what book did you read and absolutely could not put down?

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. Amazing. It’s about a hitman in Hell who breaks out by killing one of Satan’s right-hand men and stealing a key to get back to Earth to avenge the murder of his lovely, sweet, innocent girlfriend and fry all the magicians who sent him to Hell in the first place. It presents a completely fresh vision of Hell and Heaven and Angels. It’s also surprisingly funny.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Whatever is currently in my face that’s really got my attention.

Who is your favorite literary character of all time?

Oh, hmmm….that’s tough. Depends on my mood. If I feel like kicking butt and overcoming obstacles, it’s Scarlett O’Hara.

When did you decide to become an agent?

Ha! I had been helping other writers with their contracts and their manuscripts for a couple of years and a multi-published author who was part of the writers group we had that met in my house literally lectured me on the fact that what I was doing was a paid profession. That was in like 1988.

What made you come to that decision?

I realized she was right and that I really enjoyed the work and could do it full time!

First thing that pops into your mind time...

Favorite food?

Chocolate, Godiva if possible

Most memorable kiss?

Jimmy Stewart kissing Donna Reed for the first time in It’s a Wonderful Life. Boy is that a kiss of total commitment.

Vampires or zombies?

Vampires, unless the zombies are really funny.

Favorite movie?


Watching a movie at home or skydiving?

Movie. My kid’s a paratrooper with the 82nd, so there’s no fun thinking about that!

Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

What are looking for right now?

Urban fantasy for adults and young adults, period urban fantasy/steampunk, great funny horror for adults and kids, funny middle-grade and tween books, cookbooks, narrative, funny history and science books, medicine and health, self-help relationship.

What genre do you not want to see?

High Fantasy, space Sci-fi, picture books, very early readers .

What is the worst mistake a writer can make in a query?

Tell me how badly they probably did everything because they’re new.

Part of your submission process, you ask for a synopsis. What do you look for in the synopsis?

Main plot, major subplot, main characters, major secondary characters, motivations and conflicts. Resolution to the story. Give me the complete story arc in a condensed and understandable form.

What is the biggest mistake you find in a synopsis?

Author is too close to the story and writes it from that angle, assuming the reader understands leaps in the action or reasoning of the characters, or the author leaves out of the resolution, like ‘if you want to know what happens, you’ll have to request the book!’. Please don’t do that!

When you do request a manuscript, what is usually the one thing that turns that request into a rejection?

Well, we’re usually quite selective in what we request, so if the voice doesn’t capture us once the book comes in, or the work starts out frontloading the backstory, so it begins with endless pages of narrative describing the town, the characters and all the history, that’s going to quickly shut us down.

Do you read all the pages you request or is there a certain point when you know..."This is not for me." Or maybe, "This is for me?"

It all depends on what we get. If we realize on page one it’s really not working, we stop reading. You can tell at that point with some books. Others we give it a while to get going and see if the work just had some bumps getting rolling. Others you read all the way through and mull it over and may come back and read again. It’s entirely individual. You may ask for someone else to read it for a second opinion. We do not guarantee to read all the pages we requested if it becomes quickly obvious we aren’t the right place for the work, though.

Do you represent unpublished authors?

Naturally! Probably one-third to one-half of our authors were unpublished when we took them on.

Can you give a brief description of what happens after you offer representation?

We discuss with the writer what the plan for presenting the book is, get a feel for what the writer wants long-term from her writing career, and begin any work that’s necessary to get the book necessary to take out. So refining the proposal, any editing of the manuscript, etc. Then we approach our A list editors with the book, create a rights offering to let the rest of the world know about this great new project we’re representing and it’s off to the races!

For a writer to be represented by you, what are the things their manuscript has to have?

Great voice, compelling characters, something fresh in the approach. It’s a crowded market out there and you need to be able to give editors something new to get excited about. Even a twist on a familiar theme.

What do you look for in the writer's themselves that makes you want to represent them?

Willingness to listen, cooperation, a desire and drive to help promote the story. If the author and I are on the phone and there’s good chemistry and we discuss revisions and the author is bubbling over with great ideas and not resentful of the notion of changing things, I see potential. If the author takes my suggestions for promotion and can immediately suggest ways to implement them and creative ways to expand on those ideas using the resources the author has available, that’s fantastic. And of course, new story ideas brewing are always great!

And last, what do you find the most rewarding about being an agent?

The working relationship with the writer, the partnership, finding the ideal home for a book and watching it flourish there and having a job that is constantly bringing me something new.

Thank you so much for visiting my little blog. I hope you'll visit again, soon.

Thanks! It was fun!

For my readers, please leave Gina comments and thank her for her time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Meet Agent Natalie Fischer

Today, I have a special guest. My very first agent interview.

*a big parade with a marching band and clowns*

Ms. Natalie Fischer SQUEEEEEEE!!!!!!

You might ask.."Eb, how in the world did you get an agent to visit your little rinkadink blog?" And my answer would be...."NETWORKING!" I've met such fabulous people.

Natalie is an agent for Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. You can be like me and stalk um..follow her on twitter and her blog.

I highly suggest you follow her blog. It's full of little tidbits of information.

Let's meet Natalie....

Can you share a little bit about yourself....


;) My bio has the main details, but really, what’s best to know about me is that I’m a very hands-on agent who is obsessed with email and cats. I don’t take offense easily, but I do get annoyed easily by people who submit to me blindly. I believe in lots of collaboration, am very approachable (no, really!), and can be very snarky and sarcastic at times.

When you were a child, what was your favorite book of all time?

Hmm, depends on what age you’re asking here. Picture-book age, I loved fairy-tale spin-offs, mid-age JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, and past that, it changed about every other day as I continued to devour books…

Within the last twelve months, what was the best book you've read?

Oh my. No way can I pick one. A romance I read that’s been coming back to me non-stop is STEALING KATHRYN by Jaquelyn Frank, and I just read my first graphic novel (which I LOVED), which was a re-telling of the first OUTLANDER book by Diana Gabaldon (THE EXILE).

What made this book your favorite?

I love sexy, but most of all, I love a good romance. And part of what makes a good romance is unforgettable characters that I love and care about.

Who is your favorite literary character of all time?


Can you tell us why?

Talk about patience and resilience!

From what I read in your blog, you were a writer. Can you tell us a little about the transition from writer to agent?

It was certainly an adjustment, mainly because I had to learn to evaluate from a business perspective rather than a creative one. Which means that instead of thinking, “Oh, what a great story!” I might think, “Oh, what a great story – too bad there’s already thirty more like it out there.”

Do you still do a little writing?

It’s almost impossible for me to finish anything now because I am so critical of what I write. Knowing all the issues that can go wrong in a book drives me nuts when I’m writing, because it’s impossible to write a first draft, I think while avoiding them all. And so sadly, no, not really writing anymore. I edit.

How does someone become an agent?

Well, any variety of ways, really. Ideally, by transitioning into it from a background in publishing. I interned at the agency I worked for, and others have been editors, or interns in publishing houses, readers, etc.

First thing that pops into your mind time...

Favorite food?




Your first kiss?


Edward or Lestat?


Strolls on a beach or bungee jumping?


Dream vacation?


Okay, now to what unpublished writers want to know....

What are looking for right now?

Anything that stands out. Incredible voice, sexy, hot romances, and girl-character chapter books.

What genre makes your eyes roll when you read it in a query? Like makes you go..."Not another one."

Vampires. Werewolves. Zombies. Over 100,000 words.

What is your biggest turn-off in a query?

Not following guidelines.

What is the worst mistake a writer can make in a query?

Submitting to the wrong agent.

What about in sample pages?

Starting on page 56, because that’s where the plot REALLY takes off and is TOTALLY the best part.

When you do request a manuscript, what is usually the one thing that turns that request into a rejection?

I get 1/3 of the way through and don’t really care if I know what happens next, or I do, but only enough to look at the synopsis because the manuscript isn’t well-written enough (usually pacing).

Do you read all the pages you request or is there a certain point when you know..."This is not for me."

There is a definitely point where I know something isn’t right for me, but whether that’s 1 page in, 10 pages in, or 300 pages in varies.

Let's say your requested a full and you love it, do you share the manuscript with your coworkers?


If you do, do they offer you their opinions?


(by the way, my answers in the “first thing that comes to mind” are driving me nuts, but in the spirit of the questions I won’t go back to them…) LOL!! I do admire your restraint.

Can you give a brief description of what happens after you offer representation?

When I offer representation, I like to do so by email and set up a time to chat (I’m out of the office two days a week so it’s easier that way). Then I put them in touch with our contracts manager, who sends the agency agreement, and after my new client signs, I send whatever notes I have for edits. Once edits are finished, I’ll write my pitch and put together my submission list, and then we’re on sale!

For a writer to be represented by you, what are the things their manuscript has to have?

A unique hook, unforgettable voice and characters, and proper formatting.

As part of your agencies submission requirements, you ask for a synopsis. What does a synopsis provide for you?

An idea of where the book is going. If it’s too predictable, or if the main elements of the plot are buried in slow pacing a fluff that needs to be cut from the actual manuscript.

And finally, you just recently started to take email submissions, how is that working out for you?

Fantastic! It’s so much easier, since I don’t have to lug a giant bucket around anymore…

Thank you so much for visiting my little blog. I hope you'll visit again, soon.

Thank YOU for the interview!! Very in-depth. J

For my readers, please leave Natalie comments and thank her for her time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meet Michelle Zink

Today, I have a well known author visiting my blog. SQUEEE!!

*Trumpets blaring.* Michelle Zink!

*Applause and shouts of praise.*

I met Michelle through YALITCHAT. And of course I started to follow her website and twitter. I also follow Prophecy Press on twitter.

Michelle is the author of PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS and newly released GUARDIAN OF THE GATE.

I haven't read GUARDIAN OF THE GATE, yet (yes, I know, shame on me), but PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS is wonderful and I waaaaay highly recommend it. Don't take my word for it though...take all the praise it's received: Booklist, Publishers Weekly, The Bulletin--just to name a few. Not to mention PROPHECY was named in Booklist's Top 10 First Novels for Youth.

Let's meet Michelle now....

Tell us a little about yourself.....

I'm a single mother of four who loves music, film, traveling and spending time with my kids. I'm not big on stuff! I'd rather spend my time and money on experiences - especially sharing them with people I love - than on accumulating possessions.

Who inspired you to take up the craft of writing?

I've been inspired by everything I've ever read including Stephen King, Janet Fitch, Sarah Waters, Madeline L'Engle, and Lois Duncan. I'm a firm believer that everything you read as a writer contributes to your knowledge of the craft.

We know you read, because all authors/writers read, but tell us the one book that you just absolutely love.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch, though it IS almost impossible to choose just one!

What was the very first book you remember loving as a child?

Oh, wow... tough one! I'm going to say Where The Wild Things Are.

Did you write a novel before PROPHECY? Did you query it? What do you think about it now?

I wrote four of them! LOL! I queried novel #1 and couldn't land an agent, secured an agent with novel #2 but couldn't sell it, and then jumped ahead to query Prophecy which was novel #5. That first novel was admittedly pretty bad, but that's not really the point. It taught me two important things; 1) I could do it, and 2) Writing completed me in a way I hadn't expected.

I know authors get asked this all the time, and I think it is a hard question to answer, but where did you come up with the idea for PROPHECY? Did something happen that made the beginnings of the story weave together?

I get a lot of my ideas from ancient myths and legends. Angels and demons are kind of my thing (as you can probably tell from Prophecy), so I read a lot about them. Sometimes nothing happens and I just keep reading, but every now and then, something will spark an idea, and I’ll think, “Waaaaaait a minute!”

The initial seed of the story came from the biblical legend of the Watchers, a legion of angels who were said to have been sent to Earth to watch over mankind. In the legend, the angels fell in love with mortal women and were banished from Heaven, after which they were referred to as the Lost Souls. Hearing that phrase – the Lost Souls – was my dun-dun DUN! moment.

Did you use any real life influences to shape your characters?

Well, I think EVERYTHING in our lives influences our writing in some ways, but there were no real life people that influences the characters in Prophecy, As with most of my writing, the main characters just seemed to come with the story!

Quick and fun. You have to tell us the first thing that pops into your mind...

Favorite food? Pad Thai.

Dessert? Our homemade red velvet cake.

Best kiss you ever received? ha! It's been awhile... Ask me again in a couple of years. ;)

The one guy that makes you drool? Jason Statham. He only dates model-types from the looks of it, but what a man! :D

Favorite paranormal being? angels and demons.

Favorite season? Fall!

Your dream vacation? India or Africa.

Okay, just a little for us unpublished writers...

What sources did you use to write the winning query letter?

I looked at the queries posted on sites like www.writersnet.com and lurked to see which ones had a good hit rate. I also watched as others gave advice about what to change and kept it in mind when writing my own query. Other than that, I think my sales and marketing background really helped! I was used to constructing short, to-the-point sales letters that would intrigue potential clients. Not so different from a query when you think about it!

Do you remember how many times you had to revise your query?

More times than I can count!

What was the one thing you saw in your query that made you think..."This is it. This is the one to send off."

I don't remember back that far, but I do suggest trying out your query on a small number of agents before mass-sending it. That way if you don't get any requests, you can always tweak it before blowing your whole list.

Did you compose a list of dream agents?

I did, and I think everyone should. Do your homework for sure!

Can you tell us how many revisions you had to do before your books were ready for submission?

Again, more than I can count. I'd guess six serious sets of revisions on Prophecy, though thankfully, that's gotten to be a lot less as time has passed.

How long did it take for a publisher to show interest?

I was very fortunate. Prophecy sold in a three-day pre-empt to Little Brown.

Any advice you'd like to share for us aspiring writers?

Try to finish something. If your goal is to publish a novel, force yourself to write one, complete novel. Don't think about how crappy it is or all the things you want to change while you're writing it. Just FINISH it. You'll learn more from that process than from anything else you''ll ever do or read.

And there you have it. Some excellent advice right from a published author.

Thank you so much for visiting my little blog and I hope you visit again soon.

To my readers, please leave Michelle comments to thank her for her time.