Have agents on my mind after joining a conversation on Nathan Bransford's blog and having spent a day with four other agents at a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators event in Newport Beach.
Bransford asked a question: Who is your favorite character in a novel? There have been about 500 posts and probably more coming. People chimed in for Sam Gamgee, Hannibal Lecter, Atticus Finch, Lestat, Yossarian, Anne Shirley, Jo March and Mr. Darcy. You can see the range. I went for the obscure because I guess I like characters who are eccentric, mysterious and either tragic or humorous: Fleur Pillager, Sophie Hatter, Ged and Stargirl. Do you know the novels they are from? Care to tell me your favorites?
The agents in Newport -- Chris Richman of Firebrand, Michael Bourret of Dystel & Goderich, Stephen Barbara of Foundry and Tina Wexler of ICM -- all were marvelous speakers and gracious in their answers to audience questions.
Richman defined his job this way, "I fall in love with books, and it's my job to make other people fall in love with them, too."
Here are tips for writers:
Don't query an agent if you have not completed your novel and polished it. Richman said Firebrand recieves 600 letters a week, so you need to stand out and be prepared. "If I request a full manuscript and you need three months to finish, I won't wait."
Do work on your pitch so it sings. Richman: "The pitch is so important, because no one will pick it up and read it unless they have a reason to. It is important at every stage of the book's life."
Wexler suggests reading book jackets to get ideas on how to write a good pitch.
Bourret is hot on branding. He wants writers to have a recognizable image. "Authors need to think about it, so when people hear your name, they know what that means. The key to this is focus."
Barbara joked that he likes books aimed at precocious children and immature adults. "If I can find something that works for all ages across the board that is my dream." And while he was the only agent to show up in a suit for the conference, he said he loves stories that are off-beat, irreverent and surprising, and so was he. It was a fun, satisfying day.