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Authors and agents have what I would call an ambiguous relationship. It's not precisely love/hate, but it does involve a clash of expectations.

This clash is the inevitable result of a business mentality coming in close contact with artistic sensibilities. (That is, writers who are devoted to the craft or, more specifically, devoted to their own writing).

(I've previously written about that conflict at some length. See my astonishingly perceptive post: Literary Agents: The Writer's Ultimate Ambiguous Relationship.)

Launching into the publishing world can be a painfully enlightening experience for a writer. Not surprisingly, it can be equally as vexing for agents who may not realize that their clients are not only unprepared, but are quite confused as to what is expected of them. But in some cases, it is not merely confusion that causes problems. With increasing numbers of writers submitting their work, exacerbated by fierce competition for publishing slots, frustrations can arise, leading to complaints on both sides.

Here are some of them.

Ten things writers hate about agents

1) Agents who charge a fee, or who are really book doctors, but don't let you know until you have submitted your work. This is the most egregious of sins in the agent community. Fortunately, it is becoming relatively rare - but it still exists. If an agent charges a fee, especially after they have requested pages (and given you glowing compliments), do not pay them a cent, and run for the hills. NO LEGITIMATE AGENT CHARGES A READING FEE.

2) "No reply means no." The majority of agents no longer send rejections. They simply do not respond at all. In this age of automatic email replies there is no excuse for that kind of behavior. We all understand that agents are busy people, but we also expect them to be professionals. It is highly unprofessional to leave writers hanging.

3) Agents who ask for partials or fulls, and then either don't reply or send a canned response. This is something I personally really dislike. If an agent asks to see a manuscript, the writer will assume, rightly, that the agent has taken an interest. At this point, a lack of reply is somewhat like inviting a girl (or boy) to the prom and not showing up. It's not only rude, it's unconscionable.

4) Agents who say they want "great writing" but don't request sample pages along with your query. C'mon agents! Put your money where your mouth is! If you want great writing, then take a look at the first chapter! Every agent worth his or her salt knows that writers are piss poor at writing queries, so skip the query and spend  a few minutes on the first ten pages.

5) Agents who expect writers to compose copy. There is a huge difference between writing a novel and writing copy. A book is self-expression. Copy is what your boss hires you to churn out in order to sell his (or her) products. Agents cannot reasonably expect writers, especially fiction writers, to suddenly know the rules of advertising. That is a skill unto itself, and one in which writers are not trained.

6) Agents who promise the moon. Most agents won't take on your project unless they are "in love" with it. (To translate, "in love" means "I can sell this to a publisher and make money.") It is perfectly reasonable to expect enthusiasm from agents. What isn't reasonable is when agents tell you that your book is going to be a bestseller, that it will be a "breakout" novel, or that they are sure you will get a movie deal.

7) Agents who promise nothing. At the bare minimum an agent should be able to tell you what he or she can do for you. Agents should let you know what their contacts in the publishing industry are, what kind of track record they have, whether they have sold books like yours. They should have a game plan for selling your book. It goes without saying that they should be well acquainted with the terms of a contract, and should be willing to explain those terms to you.

8) Long, convoluted contracts that are filled with legalese. Back in the day, when there were no contracts between agents and authors, a simple handshake (verbal or physical) was enough. Now, there are lawyers. Contracts that are written by lawyers will always favor the agent for the simple reason that lawyers represent the people who pay them. Contracts written by lawyers can contain anything, including a promise on the part of the author to produce additional books (that happens), a promise to maintain a certain physical appearance (that also happens), and no termination clause. A fair contract should be no longer than a page or two, should state which book the agent is representing, and include a termination clause applying to both parties. It should specify how much the agent will take in commission, and how funds will be disbursed to the writer, as well as which services the agent will provide in clear language. (I highly recommend that writers join the Authors Guild. The Guild provides legal reviews of contracts to its members.)

9) Agents who, once they have decided to represent your work, do not maintain contact. It is the agent's job to market your book to publishers. Any decent agent will keep you apprised of how that quest is going. They will tell you which publishers they have approached and give you feedback. If they don't touch base with you on a regular basis, they are not doing their job.

10) Agents who drop their clients after a few attempts at selling a manuscript to a publisher. When the going gets tough, some agents are all too willing to simply drop their "difficult" client in favor of a manuscript that is easier to market, or which they perceive is easier to market. Shame on them.

Ten things agents hate about authors

1) Writers who do not research who they are querying. Nothing will turn an agent off faster than a query addressed to "Dear Agent." (Seriously, don't do that.) Make sure you are addressing your query to an individual agent, and that you have spelled the agent's name correctly. Also, make absolutely sure that you have gone to the agency's site and have read the bio of the agent you are querying.

2) Writers who do not follow instructions. This is such an easy thing to do; there is no excuse for not submitting your query exactly the way the agent has specified.

3) Bad spelling and grammar. Agents are not forgiving about error-ridden query letters. If you can't spell, or don't know the difference between "lay" and "lie" (my pet peeve), they will become irritated. It is not a good idea to irritate someone you are wooing.

4) Writers who do not know how to write a query letter. Writing a basic query is not rocket science. You need a short opening with your book's title, genre, and word count, a paragraph that summarizes your book, and a brief paragraph about your qualifications as a writer. Make it short and to the point. Don't waste the agent's time.

5) Authors who pester agents. Nothing ticks agents off more than clients who make repeated phone calls, text constantly, or email incessantly. An agent's job is to sell your book, not hold your hand.

6) Authors who do not disclose that they have submitted to publishers, or who have already self-published their work. Very few agents are willing to take on manuscripts that have been "shopped around." How can they be expected to pitch your work to editors who have already rejected your manuscript? And while some agents are willing accept work that has been self-published, read their submission requirements carefully to make sure that's allowed.

7) Writers who submit to more than one agent at the same agency. Do writers really expect agents who work together to compete with one another? Only submit to one agent at an agency. And if you get a rejection, make sure that agency allows subsequent submissions to other agents. (Some agencies share; a submission to one agent is a submission to them all.)

8) Writers who submit queries for fiction that is not completed. Novels have to be finished and fully edited before a query can be sent. It's disappointing for an agent to request a partial or a full, only to be told that the book is not finished. It is equally distressing for them to receive a rough draft. (Make sure your manuscript is as error-free as possible before you send it!)

9) Lack of professionalism. Writers who don't seem to be aware that the agent-client relationship is a business arrangement can be very annoying. What does being professional mean? First, a manuscript that follows standard manuscript guidelines (double spaced, Times New Roman or another standard font, etc.) is professional. Submitting your work promptly is also professional. Keeping appointments is professional. Remembering that the agent has a job, and is not available at all hours, is professional.

10) Writers who get angry when they receive a rejection, or get upset at an agent's suggestions for improvement. Not many agents offer a critique of work they've received. They simply don't have the time. But those who are willing to go the extra mile by offering feedback are performing a service. The proper response should be "Thank you," not a snarky reply, or a pissed-off blog post. The same holds true for rejections. If writers are upset by a rejection, they should keep it to themselves.

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To writers: For God's sake, learn to write a proper query letter! Query Shark is your best resource. There are also successful queries on Writer's Digest. And read my Best Method for Handling Rejections (and getting published). It will keep you sane.

To agents: For God's sake, learn to write a proper rejection letter! Please, oh please send us rejections. Don't leave us in limbo. We are human, and your silence makes us suffer. Also, if we are expected to know your name, do us the courtesy of not addressing rejections to "Dear Author."

 
 
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Your manuscript is complete and polished, and now you are ready to embark on the task of sending query letters. 

(Or alternatively, you can go to a conference and pitch an agent in the flesh. Go here for a list of conferences: Writing Conferences )

Before you send your query, you need to do a little research. Does the agent accept your genre? Does the agent have a track record? Does the agent clearly describe his or her submission requirements? And when the agent starts describing what it is he or she wants, what on earth are they talking about?

Agents, like publishers, use jargon - it's one of the hazards of the trade. But as an author, you may have no idea what they mean by "high concept," "upmarket," "literary." Speaking reasonably, your job is to write your book; theirs is to find a niche for it. Unf, writers are also expected to define not only their genre, and their audience, but also their market niche, which is something they may know nothing about.

It's never too late to learn!

Here are some terms you may run across on agent bios when they describe what it is they are looking for.

High Concept means the book can be made into a movie. In general books that fall into this category have a single premise ("what if..."), clear story lines, are highly visual, appeal to a mass audience, and have a well-defined emotional focus that fits into a movie category (Family comedy? Drama? Romcom?). If you can sum up your book in one sentence, you may have written a high-concept novel.

Up-market fiction is any novel that has mass appeal and is also well-written. Memoirs of a Geisha falls into that category. These are books you want to keep. Frequently, non-genre fiction may be used to mean up-market.

Commercial fiction is entertaining, has a plot that moves right along, and may or may not feature writing that makes you cringe. The Stephanie Plum mysteries would fall into that category, as well as most popular mass market paperbacks. (Romances, in particular.) These are books you read in a dentist's office, because you found them there, and which you will probably leave in the waiting room after your teeth have been nicely polished. Most genre fiction is commercial.

Literary fiction is art. Almost every writer who has won a Nobel Prize fits into this category, as well as a few who should have but didn't. (Pretentious wannabes also fall into the category of literary fiction, but people often can't tell the difference.) In literary fiction, the way you tell a story is more important than what actually happens. (What exactly happened in White Noise?) The exploration of character, style, and theme is what moves these books along. If you are reading a book, and you have to stop because the prose is stunning, revelatory, or just plain deep (and you are not stoned) you are reading literary fiction. If you need a half hour to explain what's in your book, you may have written something literary.

Narrative non-fiction is any non-fiction book that reads like a novel. The Poet and the Murderer is a great narrative non-fiction book that tells the story of how ... no, I won't spoil it for you. You'll just have to read it.

Strong platforms are what agents representing general non-fiction like to see (though not necessarily narrative non-fiction). Are you the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation? Have you been a quarterback in the NFL? Are you a surgeon doing experimental brain transplants at a famous hospital? Does everyone on the planet know who you are? Those are people who have strong platforms. If you have a few thousand followers on Twitter, or a blog with a couple thousand followers, or lots of "friends" on Facebook, you do not have a strong platform - although all those things are important to mention if you write any kind of fiction.

These articles will help you find an agent who is right for you

How to Research an Agent

Beggars Can Be Choosers - How to Pick an Agent

Valuable Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor

Finding an Agent – Look before you leap

Are You Ready to Contact an Agent? Take This Short Quiz and Find Out

What Not to Do When Contacting an Agent

 
 
Here are two new agents looking to build their client lists. Both are from established agencies with good track records. Be sure to read the agency's website to get an idea of the type of books they have represented before you submit.
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Abby Saul of Browne & Miller Literary Associates

About Abby: Abby joined Browne & Miller Literary Associates in 2013 after spending five years on the production and digital publishing side of the industry, first at John Wiley & Sons and then at Sourcebooks. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Wellesley College. A zealous reader who loves her iPad and recognizes that ebooks are the future, she still can’t resist the lure of a print book. Abby’s personal library of beloved titles runs the gamut from literary newbies and classics, to cozy mysteries, to sappy women’s fiction, to dark and twisted thrillers.

What she is seeking: Abby’s looking for great and engrossing writing, no matter what the genre. Her top picks from the current Browne & Miller agency wishlist: (1) Complex, literary-leaning psychological thriller/crime novel. We love a dark story really well told—think Tana French or Gillian Flynn (or, for the TV junkies, True Detective, Top of the Lake, or The Fall). (2) Gothic novel, contemporary or historical—anything that takes a cue from Rebecca, Victoria Holt, or The Thirteenth Tale but offers a fresh twist. (3) Substantive women’s historical fiction with romantic overtones—love American, English, and French history, but we are definitely open to other settings and time periods. Check out Abby’s manuscript wishlist online.

How to submit: Query Abby at mail [at] browneandmiller.com. Please send only a query letter copied in the body of your email and addressed to Abby. If she is interested in your idea, she will contact you about seeing more material (which will typically include a detailed synopsis plus the first five chapters for fiction and, for non-fiction, a full proposal plus the first three chapters).
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Melissa Edwards of The Aaron M. Priest Literary Agency

About Melissa: Melissa is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School. She is a member in good standing of the New York State bar. While Melissa began her career as a commercial litigation attorney, she always maintained aspirations to work in publishing. At present, Melissa handles foreign rights for Aaron Priest and is actively reading to develop her own list.

What she is seeking: Melissa’s taste ranges in genre from classic Victorian literature to hard-boiled crime dramas. She is interested in reading international thrillers with likeable and arresting protagonists, lighthearted women’s fiction and YA, female-driven (possibly small-town) suspense, and completely immersive fantasy. Ultimately, Melissa is looking for a book that will keep her glued to the couch all day and night, and continue to occupy her thoughts for weeks later.

How to submit: Submit a one-page query letter via e-mail that describes your work and your background to queryedwards [at] aaronpriest.com. Do not send an attachment, but if interested, you can paste into the body of the email the first chapter of your manuscript.
 
 
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PitchMAS is a biannual pitch fest for writers held in December and July. It is co-hosted by Jessa Russo, a native Californian who describes herself as "the most extroverted introvert you know."

Most pitch fests are for screenplays, so this is a rare opportunity for those who write books to present their pitches directly to agents. (For a list of agents participating in December's pitch fest click HERE.)

Does PitchMAS actually work? 

The answer is yes. Vicki Leigh found an agent, and subsequent publisher, through participating in PitchMAS. (Read her story HERE.)

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From the PitchMAS website:

FRIDAY 12/5/14

*PITCH-HONING WORKSHOP*

(A blog post will go LIVE on 12/5, right here on the PitchMAS blog, where you will post your pitches in the COMMENT SECTION. Your peers will then hop around and critique/advise you on what works/doesn't work. Tamara and Jessa WILL NOT be participating in the workshop; this is for peer critique/help only.)
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SUNDAY 12/7/14 - MONDAY 12/8/14

*SUBMISSION WINDOW*

For this event, we will be accepting your 35-word pitch submissions VIA EMAIL ONLY--email address will be posted when submission window OPENS. Submission window will be open from Sunday 12/7/14 at 9:00 am PST until Monday 12/8/14 at 6:00 pm PST

We will delete any submissions received before or after that submission window, and it is up to you to figure out your own time zone differences.


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THURSDAY 12/11/14

BLOG PITCH PARTY

{35 Words or Less}

The TOP 50 pitches will go live on the PitchMAS blog at MIDNIGHT on Thursday, 12/11/14. Agents and editors will have the entire day (as well as all day Friday!) to comment and make requests. 

Please do NOT comment if you are not an agent or editor. THE ONLY EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE is if an agent/editor has asked a SPECIFIC question. Any other non-agent/editor responses or comments will be deleted. 
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FRIDAY 12/12/14

TWITTER PITCH PARTY


{140 Characters or Less}

All day long on Friday, 12/12/14, we will have our PitchMAS Twitter Party! Agents and editors will follow the hashtag #PitchMAS, reading your awesome pitches. ANYONE can participate, even if you didn't make it into the 50 selected blog pitches. However, your manuscript MUST BE COMPLETED and POLISHED. 

Twitter pitches MUST BE 140 Characters or Less and HAVE TO include the hashtag. Don't make the agents and editors work by breaking your pitch into more than one tweet. That will just annoy them and your fellow pitchers. We also advise against making them click a link to get to your pitch. Guess what? They won't.  

Please keep your Twitter pitching to no more than TWO PITCHES PER HOUR. Do not fill up the feed with your pitch over and over again. This will annoy the agents and editors involved, as well as ruining it for everyone else and people WILL remember you for it. 

Follow along with the hashtag: #PitchMAS

Click HERE for more information.


 
 
New agents are a boon to authors. They are hard-working and enthusiastic about their clients. (Nothing convinces an editor to take on a project more than an enthusiastic endorsement.) Jane Rostrosen Agency is located in NY. Rebecca Friedman Agency is located in LA.
About Rebecca: Unable to narrow her focus to just one subject, Rebecca Scherer earned her BA from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College in Political Science, English Lit, and German language. After several years at the agency, Rebecca now has daily opportunities to put her wide range of interests to use as she actively builds her client list. Find her on Twitter: @RebeccaLScherer.

What she is seeking: women’s fiction, mystery, suspense/thriller, romance, upmarket fiction at the cross between commercial and literary

How to submit: Contact Rebecca via e-mail: rscherer [at] janerotrosen.com. Put “Query: [Title]” in the subject line. Send a query letter, brief synopsis (1-2) pages, and the first three chapters. Please paste the letter and synopsis in the body of the email, though the chapters can either be pasted or attached.
About Kimberly: Kimberly fell in love with reading when she picked up her first Babysitter’s Club book at the age of seven and hasn’t been able to get her nose out of a book since. Reading has always been her passion, even while pursuing her business degree at California State University, Northridge and law degree at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. By joining the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency in 2014, she has been able to merge her legal background with her love of books. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books that are different and will surprise her, with empathetic characters and compelling stories. Follow her on Twitter at @kimberlybrower

What she is seeking: Kimberly is interested in both commercial and literary fiction, with an emphasis in women’s fiction, contemporary romance, mysteries/thrillers, new adult and young adult, as well as certain areas of non-fiction, including business, diet and fitness. Kimberly is interested in representing English-language writers from all countries

How to submit: Email a query to Kimberly at kimberly [at] rfliterary.com. Submit a brief query letter and your first chapter (pasted into the email, not to exceed fifteen double-spaced pages) and for security purposes, do not include any attachments unless specifically requested.
 
 
Here are two new agents looking for clients. New agents are great for first-time writers. They are enthusiastic, eager to make sales, and don't have a mile-high slush pile. While they may be new as agents, they often have connections in the publishing world and work in established agencies.
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Monika Woods of InkWell

About Monika: Monika Woods began her publishing career working for Ellen Levine at Trident Media Group after graduating from the Columbia Publishing Course, where she worked with authors such as Marilynne Robinson, Ayana Mathis, Russell Banks, and Paul Harding. She joined InkWell Management in the Spring of 2013 to work with Kimberly Witherspoon and start building her own client list. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two cats and can be found writing about the book she just finished at www.booksijustread.com or on Twitter at @booksijustread.

What she is seeking: Her interests include literary and commercial fiction, memoir, and compelling non-fiction in food, popular culture, science, and current affairs. Some of her dream projects include historical fiction about feminists, the Roma, and Maxim Lieber, darkly suspenseful stories (both true and made-up) with unreliable narrators, anything about Poland and its history, nonfiction that is creatively critical, and above all, novels written in a singular voice.

How to submit: Query Monika at monika [at] inkwellmanagement.com. Please send both a query letter along with a short writing sample (1-2 chapters) in the body of your email, and she’ll be in touch if she would like to read more! Monika is very interested in representing writers from all over the world.
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Linda Scalissi of 3 Seas Literary

About Linda: Linda Scalissi is excited to join 3 Seas Literary as their newest agent. Not only has reading been a lifetime passion, but she has a strong background in professional proofreading, editing and sales. She’s looking forward to receiving submissions and building strong, long-term relationships with her clients. She resides with her husband, two dogs and four rescue goldfish.

What she is seeking: Linda is interested in representing authors of women’s fiction, thrillers, young adult, mysteries and romance.

How to submit: E-queries only: queries [at] threeseaslit.com. No attachments; paste everything into the email. The subject line should begin as follows: “QUERY FOR LINDA: (The title of the manuscript or any short message you would like to relay to us should follow.)” Please email the first chapter and synopsis along with a query letter. Also, be sure to include the genre and the number of words in your manuscript, as well as pertinent writing experience in your query letter. Read submission guidelines HERE.

 
 
Here are three new agents actively building their client lists. Writers House is a large well-established agency located in New York. If you google Alec Shane and Cassie Hanjian, you will find several interviews with them. The Purcell Agency, which specializes in children's books, was founded by Tina Schwartz.
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Alec Shane of Writers House

About Alec: Alec majored in English at Brown University, a degree he put to immediate use by moving to Los Angeles after graduation to become a professional stunt man. Realizing that he prefers books to breakaway glass, he moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue a career in publishing. Alec quickly found a home at Writers House Literary Agency, where he worked under Jodi Reamer and Amy Berkower on a large number of YA and Adult titles. Twitter handle: @alecdshane.

What he is seeking: Alec is now aggressively building his own list. On the nonfiction side, Alec would love to see humor, biography, history (particularly military history), true crime, “guy” reads, and all things sports. “What I’m looking for in fiction: mystery, thriller, suspense, horror, historical fiction, literary fiction, and books geared toward young male readers (both YA and MG). What I’m not looking for: Romance (paranormal or otherwise), straight sci-fi, high fantasy, picture books, self-help, women’s fiction, food, travel memoir.”

Submission guidelines: I accept e-mail and snail-mail queries (although email is preferable), and will usually respond within 4-5 weeks. Please send the first 10 pages of your manuscript, along with your query letter, to ashane [at] writershouse.com with “Query for Alec Shane: TITLE” as your subject heading – no attachments please! If sending via regular mail, please include a SASE with proper postage.
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Cassie Hanjian of Waxman Leavell Literary

About Cassie: Prior to joining Waxman Leavell as an acquiring agent this year, Cassie held positions at the Park Literary Group, where she specialized in author support and foreign rights, and at Aram Fox, Inc. as an international literary scout for publishers based outside the United States. She holds a B.A. in English/Creative Writing from the University of South Florida, a Graduate Certificate in Publishing from the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute and an M.S. in Publishing from Pace University. Follow her on Twitter: @Cjhanjian

What she is seeking: page-turning New Adult novels, plot-driven commercial and upmarket women’s fiction, historical fiction, psychological suspense, cozy mysteries and contemporary romance. In nonfiction, she’s looking for projects in the categories of parenting, mind/body/spirit, inspirational memoir, narrative nonfiction focusing on food-related topics and a limited number of accessible cookbooks. Cassie does not accept submissions in the following categories: science-fiction, fantasy, paranormal, Young Adult, Middle Grade, Children’s, literary fiction, poetry, and screenplays.

How to submit: Send a query letter only to cassiesubmit [at] waxmanleavell.com. Do not send attachments, though for fiction, you may include five to 10 pages of your manuscript in the body of the email.
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Tina Schwartz of The Purcell Agency

About Tina: Literary Agent Tina P. Schwartz is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), and is the Co-Rep for her local chapter. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College (Chicago) in Marketing Communications. After a long career in Radio Sales and Marketing, she turned to her true passion, selling manuscripts. Schwartz started The Purcell Agency in July of 2012 after spending twelve years writing and marketing her own work, along with helping several others get published. She sold her first book contract in 2004, and sold ten nonfiction titles for one author to traditional publishers in the Teen and Youth markets. Since opening the agency, she has sold several middle grade and young adult novels, along with some nonfiction works for teens. 

What she is seeking: Chapter books (all kinds except fantasy); Middle Grade (contemporary/realistic, sports, mystery, humor, multicultural, issue driven [no fantasy]); Young Adult (edgy, issues, contemporary/realistic, light romance, sports, mystery [no fantasy]). Tina is also seeking nonfiction Chapter books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult – all topics. She is not seeking: Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Paranormal or Picture Books submissions at this time.

How to submit: TPAqueries [at] gmail.com. Mention if you are a member of SCBWI. 

To submit nonfiction for a teen or grade school audience: Table of Contents + Intro and sample chapter, author’s credentials. To submit fiction: Query, 1st three chapters + synopsis. No attachments. Include sample work in body of e-mail.
 
 
Here are two new literary agents actively building their client lists. Patricia Nelson is an agent at Marsal Lyon, one of the most respected literary agencies in the country.

As always read the agency website to see if your book will be a good fit, and be sure to follow all submission instructions. (Click on the name of the agent and agency under the photos for links.)
Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

About Patricia: Before becoming an agent at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press. Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing. Follow Patricia on Twitter at @patricianels.

What she is seeking: Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. On the adult side, she is interested in literary fiction and commercial fiction in the New Adult, women’s fiction, and romance genres. For YA, she is looking for contemporary/realistic fiction as well YA mystery/thriller, horror, magical realism, science fiction and fantasy. She is also interested in finding exciting multicultural and LGBTQ fiction, both YA and adult. In general, Patricia loves stories with complex characters that jump off the page and thoughtfully drawn, believable relationships – along with writing that makes her feel completely pulled into these characters’ lives and worlds.

How to contact: Please send a query letter by email to: Patricia [at] MarsalLyonLiteraryAgency.com and write “QUERY” in the subject line of the email. Please note that the agency now accepts electronic submissions only. In all submissions, please include a contact phone number as well as your email address. “If we are interested in your work, we will call or email you. If not, we will respond via email. Our response time is generally 1-4 weeks for queries and 4-8 weeks for sample pages and manuscripts. We welcome unsolicited materials and look forward to reading your work.”
Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency

About Julie: Before joining The Seymour Agency, Julie Gwinn most recently served as Marketing Manager for the Christian Living line at Abingdon Press and before that served as Trade Book Marketing Manager and then Fiction Publisher for the Pure Enjoyment line at B&H Publishing Group, a Division of LifeWay Christian Resources. Last year she was awarded Editor of the Year from the American Christian Fiction Writers and won B&H’s first Christy award for Ginny Yttrup’s debut novel Words. She has more than 25 years public relations and marketing experience and has also worked in marketing for several Nashville non-profit organizations including the TN Assoc. for the Education of Young Children, the Nashville Area Red Cross and the YWCA. She is married and has two children.

What she is seeking: Christian and Inspirational Fiction and Nonfiction, Women’s fiction (contemporary and historical), New Adult, Southern Fiction, Literary Fiction and Young Adult.

How to submit: E-query julie [at] theseymouragency.com. Be sure to include: genre/target audience, word count, contact information, references (conference, recommendation, etc.). No attachments, please. All of The Seymour Agency agents ask that you paste the first five pages of your manuscript into the bottom of your email. “Simultaneous submissions are acceptable for queries and partials. However, we only review complete manuscripts on an exclusive basis.”
 
 
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Aspiring authors spend a great deal of their time and effort researching agents, writing queries, and perfecting pitches. Often, they are so delighted when an agent - any agent - takes an interest in them, that they tend to say "Yes, a thousand times yes!" before giving the long-term consequences of the union the cold, hard reflection it deserves.

You are not married to your agent. But, if you are not well suited to one another, getting a "divorce" can be tricky, especially if your agent has already sold one of your books. A split-up can involve a custody battle: changing the terms of your contract, lawyers, hard feelings.

And there will be gossip. The publishing industry is more provincial than you might think. Editors love to gossip among themselves about authors, and those editors often become agents, who also do their fair share of gossiping. If you end up divorcing your agent, everyone will know about it.

Guess whose side they will be on?

So, before you leap into the arms of the first agent who is willing to get down on one knee, consider the following:

Does the agent have a good track record with authors? Ask around. Find some authors they have represented (you can even ask the agent for a list), and ask how happy they have been. Go to conferences, talk to writers. Try to get a sense of how the agent interacts with people. Google the agent's name and see what pops up on absolutewrite, a forum where writers talk about their experiences in the publishing world.

Does the agent adore your work? Agents can only sell work that thrills them. Does the agent stand behind your book 100%? Will the agent be willing to spend a couple of years, if that is required, to get a contract? Or will he/she dump you after a few tries?

Does the agent like you? It is important for agents to be professional, but it is equally important for them to take an interest in you. I am not talking about sharing "worst date" stories. You need to feel comfortable enough to be able to ask your agent important questions.

Can you trust your agent? A publishing contract is not the end of the road. Contract negotiations are nerve-fraying experiences. If your agent is curt, or doesn't respond to your questions (particularly if it is your first contract ), or if your agent does not explain things to your satisfaction, you may want to bail out of the relationship before your contract is finalized. (This happens a lot more than you may think.) Talk to the agent about how he/she handles contract negotiations. And listen to your gut. If you have doubts, there may be a good reason for them.

There are other considerations as well: How many clients does the agent have (too many, and they won't have time for you, too few and they aren't successful); How many publishing houses has the agent worked with (if their publishing contacts are limited to houses that also accept unagented manuscripts, it's not a good sign); What genres has the agent represented (YA fiction is all the rage right now, but if an agent has not represented YA authors before, he or she may not have the contacts you need).

Ideally, you want a long and happy relationship with your agent. If you stand back and ask yourself whether you and your prospective agent are a "good fit" right at the start, you will avoid many problems further down the road.

 
 
Here are two agents actively building their client lists. Brent is a new agent at TriadaUS. Lana is an established agent with a list of clients that she is seeking to expand.
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Brent Taylor of TriadaUS Literary Agency 

About Brent: Prior to joining TriadaUS Literary Agency, Inc., he completed numerous internships in publishing, most recently at The Bent Agency. Find Brent on Twitter @NaughtyBrent

What he is seeking: “My tastes are eclectic, but all of my favorite novels are similar in that they have big commercial hooks and fantastic writing. I am seeking smart, fun, and exciting books for readers of middle grade, young adult, new adult, and select mystery/crime and women’s fiction.

Middle Grade: for younger readers I am on the hunt for a humorous, intelligent fantasy; a scare-the-pants-off-me ghost or haunting story; fast-paced literary writing similar in style to Jerry Spinelli and Cynthia Lord. I have soft spots for larger-than-life characters and atmospheric setting (creepy and/or quirky).

Young Adult: I’m always looking for genre-bending books that can be an exciting puzzlement when thinking about how precisely to market; specifically mystery and crime for teens, the grittier the better; high-concept contemporary stories with addicting romantic tension. I’m a sucker for themes of finding your place in the world, new beginnings, and summer-before-college stories. 

New Adult: my tastes in New Adult tend to be more darkly skewed but I would love a well-executed story that shares the same excitement, wonder, and invigoration of books like LOSING IT. Although I appreciate any story that’s told well in great language, in New Adult I’m more concerned with being entertained and gripped by the edge of my seat than in being stimulated.Adult: I would love a psychological suspense based on actual events, i.e. CARTWHEEL by Jennifer Dubois which fictionalized the Amanda Knox trial and hooked me from beginning to end. Alternatively, 

I’d love high-concept women’s fiction; either an exquisitely told story huge in size and scope, or a less ambitious novel that simply warms my heart.”

How to submit: Send your query letter and first ten pages pasted in the body of the message to brent [at] triadaus.com.
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Lana Popovic of Chalberg & Sussman

About LanaLana Popovic holds a B.A. with honors from Yale University, a J.D. from the Boston University School of Law, where she focused on intellectual property, and an M.A. with highest honors from the Emerson College Publishing and Writing program. Prior to joining Chalberg & Sussman, Lana worked at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth, where she built a list of Young Adult and adult literary authors while managing foreign rights for the agency.

With an abiding love for dark, edgy themes and shamelessly nerdy fare—Battlestar Galactica and Joss Whedon are two of her great loves—Lana is looking for a broad spectrum of Young Adult and Middle Grade projects, from contemporary realism to speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and historical. For the adult market, Lana is interested in literary thrillers, horror, fantasy, sophisticated erotica and romance, and select nonfiction. An avid traveler, she has a particular fondness for stories set in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia, although she also loves reading deep and original stories about American subcultures. She will be a panelist at the Boston Book Festival this year, and also the AWP 2015 conference.

You can follow her on Twitter at @LanaPopovicLit.

What she is seeking:

Young Adult/Middle Grade Fiction: Contemporary/realistic, mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, historical, horror, sci-fi

Adult Fiction: Literary thrillers, sci-fi, horror, romance, erotica, women’s literary fiction

Adult Nonfiction: Pop culture, blog-to-book, literary memoir

How to contact: To query Lana, please e-mail lana [at] chalbergsussman.com with the first ten pages of the manuscript included in the body of the e-mail. Lana accepts queries by e-mail only

 

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