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.


  1. I love that she says the agent/writer relationship is her favorite part! Now that's someone who loves their job :)

    Great interview, Ebyss!

  2. Looking forward to making contact with Ms. Panettieri in the near future.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wonderful post, Eb. Love how you ask all the pertinent questions. Thanks for sharing a little insight into yourself, Gina. I'll be sure to add you onto my list for when people ask me for agents. :D

  4. Gina, you sound like a great agent. I have one, but I will recommend you to the talented authors I know who are looking!

  5. This is such good advice for writers. Thanks for setting it down so clearly. " 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 . . ."

  6. A super interview, eb.

    I enjoyed learning about you, Gina. Thanks.

  7. Thanks for the interview, Gina. It was nice to hear from you. And thank you, Ebyss, for hosting.

  8. What a great interview! Thanks so much for asking such perfect questions. Thank you so much, Gina and Ebyss!