Posted in this series so far: Intro - Andrea Cascardi (Transatlantic) - Ginger Knowlton (Curtis Brown)
Today Carmella Van Vleet's agent, Marie Lamba of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency, will be sharing with us. She is currently shopping Carmella's middle grade novel, ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER.
MiGs: Why did you become an agent?Marie: Because my own agent, Jennifer DeChiara asked me to! It sounds goofy, but it's true. I'd never considered it before that moment. Jennifer and I had been working together for years, so she saw my marketing and editing and writing and professional experience first-hand, and felt these would be real strengths agenting-wise. I've always trusted Jennifer's opinions, and she saw what I hadn't -- that being an agent was a natural step for me. I've found this new role to be a great fit. Plus I've got a strong "mom" instinct, so I very much want to take care of my clients and see them soar.
MiGs: What made you pick your very first client?
Marie: My very first client is Carmella Van Vleet!!! I'd been reading queries and submissions for many months, but when I finished reading Carmella's ELIZA BING IS (NOT) A BIG FAT QUITTER, I literally jumped to my feet with one consuming thought: I have to have her as a client. Her middle grade novel, which is about an ADHD girl who must prove to others (and herself) that she's no quitter, made me laugh even as it touched me deeply. I couldn't help but fall in love with Eliza, the spunky heroine who often speaks before she thinks, but is also so deserving of friends.
MiGs: Of the most recent 100 queries you received from writers, how many did you accept as clients? (rough guess)Marie: Of the most recent 100, the answer is zero. Of all the queries I've ever read? I'd say a fraction of a percent (but then again, math is not exactly my strong suit). By now I've read thousands of queries, and I have taken on 3 clients.
MiGs: What is an ideal client?Marie: I point directly at Carmella! Carmella is professional, takes her writing seriously, listens to criticism well but politely sticks to her guns when a crit deviates from her creative intent. She's not afraid to ask me questions, but doesn't email me unnecessarily. And she's thinking about her writing in terms of her career. Carmella also has a decent online presence, and knows how to communicate appropriately with readers. Plus she's a lot of fun to work with. She's the complete package!
I'm happy that so far I have all ideal clients. But what would be a less than ideal client?Someone who is nasty, unprofessional, unreasonably demanding, or a diva who doesn't understand that writing is not just an art but a business as well. I've seen flashes of these qualities in queries, and I immediately turn them down. As an agent, you are in a relationship with a writer for years and years. Who wants to represent someone that's difficult?
MiGs: What is one piece of typical writing advice you think should go out the window?Marie: Write what you know. Really? I think it's more important to write with credibility. If you are writing beyond your knowledge, then study up and make it something you "know." That's a key part of creativity.
MiGs: Do you read the query letter first or the sample pages?Marie: Definitely the query. If there is something that's an amazing turnoff right there, such as a novel's point of view I find offensive, or an author's obvious attitude problem, or a blatant inability to use the English language, I go no further and it's a reject for me.
MiGs: What is one common misconception that inexperienced writers tend to haveabout agents?
Marie: Some think we are scary, unapproachable and powerful beings! I run into this at writer's conferences and get a kick out of sidling up to nervous writers just to set them at their ease. Before you know it, we're talking like two human beings.
Another newbie misconception? That we agents should respond to their queries right away. I've had writers send me emails wondering why I hadn't read and responded to their full manuscript yet. After all, it's been 2 weeks! If they could only see my inbox. On fulls I think I'm up to reading my mid-December submissions now.
Oh, here's just one more (see? I told you I was terrible at math): that agents will give them lots of tips and suggestions and hold their hands throughout the querying process. Just because I'm polite in my rejection doesn't mean a writer should write me 3-4 times after that asking how they should change their query, or if I'll re-read their changed first paragraph, or if I'll tell them what they should write this year so that it'll fit my needs (I got this one from a new writer just this morning). Sigh.
Marie: That in college I studied not only writing but fine art. I'd planned on being a writer/illustrator. The closest I've gotten to this goal is drawing the cover illustration for my latest YA novel DRAWN.
MiGs: What’s on your wish list?Marie: Something fresh and unusual that doesn't simply echo what's already popular. Do this with a voice that grabs me, and you'll really be cooking.
Thanks for having me here!
Check out Marie's latest book, DRAWN, a young adult paranormal.