Sorry readers, I’m a day late in getting this out. But, come on, Conference (you know––that thing I’ve been preparing and planning for for a year) is THIS WEEK! Whoohooo!!! I’m so excited to see everyone! Today I have the lovely, Taylor Martindale from Full Circle Literary. Taylor is the final agent I’m interviewing who is coming to the 2014, ANWA Conference which starts Thursday. There is still time to sign up and I promise it will be worth your while if you can attend! Click ANWACon for more info.
Taylor Martindale is a literary agent with Full Circle Literary, actively acquiring fiction and non-fiction projects. She began agenting with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and is a graduate of The College of William and Mary, where she studied English and Hispanic Studies. When not working, Taylor can be found traveling, cooking, spending time with loved ones, or (surprise!) lost in a good book.
TSB: What are you looking for right now?
TM: I am particularly looking for young adult and middle grade novels, and I am hungry for books that have real heart. I love seeing manuscripts from every genre, and I’m looking for something that moves me. Chances are you’ve heard every agent/editor say they’re looking for fresh perspectives with unique voice, and I’m no exception! I want to see projects that are unique because only you could have written that book, only you could tell this story that won’t let me go.
To offer some more specifics, though, here are a few things I’d love to see in my inbox: contemporary love stories, well-developed character casts, multicultural stories, unique settings and time periods, family stories. I’d also love to see something with fantasy elements, a super unique interpretation of a classic, something that reminds me of Edith Wharton’s work (I’m a Wharton nerd), and projects that take me by surprise regardless of genre.
TSB: What do you expect from your authors? And what should they expect from you?
TM: When I begin working with an author, what I expect is collaboration, open and honest communication, and trust. They can expect the same from me. One of my favorite parts of being an agent is that I get to seek out the authors I am particularly passionate about, whose work I want to read over and over again just for fun. It is my goal to establish a strategy for their long-term careers in publishing and my authors can be confident that I refuse to give up. Every author-agent relationship takes work and adjusting to one another’s individual styles. Be honest, be professional, and be ready to fight – as a team! – for your career.
TSB: What are the top three things that turn you off to a query letter, and top three that get you excited?
TM: Please do not…
- Start your query letter with a question. This drives me crazy. Way too often I see authors using this intro as a way to hook attention. “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly through space at warp speed dressed in a hot dog costume?” If I can answer NO, and I usually can, then you have lost my attention.
- Let the plot overwhelm your query. I don’t need to know everything about the book and the intricacies of the plot. I need the big ticket information, the things that will hook my interest and make me want to dive into your sample pages.
- Send out your queries before the manuscript is ready. A project isn’t ready when you’ve written “the end.” You need to take it through revisions, through critique partners, let it sit for a little while, then re-read it again with fresh eyes. This can be exhausting, and I totally sympathize – heck, I’ve gone through this with many of my authors, reading and re-reading along with them. But if you haven’t put your manuscript through the ringer before querying, it shows.
I love it when…
- I can get a sense of your voice as an author. I love when the query shows that I’m dealing with a pro, someone who knows his or her style, and uses the query to pull me in before I’m even reading the book.
- I see unique concepts that don’t feel outlandish. I think many authors mistake “unique and fresh” with “bizarre and off the wall.” I love wacky novels, but don’t make your concept twisty just because you’re trying to write around a trend. Write the novel you want to write, and use every tool you have to make it the best it can be.
- I can’t wait to read the pages after seeing a query. At its basic function, the query letter is your opportunity to introduce me to your work. Make me excited about your writing, about this story that I have to read.
TSB: How important is the first line and first chapter of a manuscript?
TM: The first line and first chapter are hugely important. When you’re querying, you have very limited space to make an impression. The first few pages of a manuscript are that chance, and you don’t want to waste the opportunity on unnecessary language or the wrong scene. When I read sample pages and I notice multiple mistakes – bigger grammatical errors, flaws in the world-building logic, flat characters – it’s likely that you’ve lost my attention and I won’t be compelled to continue reading.
TSB: What is one of the biggest mistakes you see aspiring authors make?
TM: The biggest mistake I see, hands down, is when authors send out a manuscript too soon. So many authors feel as though they’re in a rush, that they have to get the project out in the world or they’ll miss their chance. When you hear success stories from established authors, it didn’t happen all at once. Have the courage to wait for the right time, rather than right now.
TSB: What do you know now that you wish you would have known five years ago? (excluding stocks and lottery numbers)
TM: This may sound cheesy, but I wish I had known what amazing authors I’d be representing – and I know I’ll feel the same way in another five years. It is my joy to be around such creativity and passion every day and I’m so proud to be a part of their careers. I can’t wait to meet the authors I’ll begin working with next.
TSB: Thank you, Taylor, for sharing some great tips! I can’t wait to meet you on Thursday!
Along with taking pitches at ANWACon, Taylor will be teaching two fantastic classes: Writing and Selling Successful children’s Books and Hearing Voice in YA. However, if you are not able to attend the conference, you can get submission guidelines for querying Taylor at Full Circle Literary.
I hope to see you all at the conference where we can, hopefully, become experts in the craft––or at least a little more knowledgeable in it. Keep writing, my friends!