I always like to get to know literary agents.When I first started writing, they scared the stuffin' out of me. They were the gatekeepers between me and the publisher. I'd see them walking down the halls of conferences and I'd practically bow. Not that I worshiped them or anything. It was simply because they were so cool and aloof and knew so many important people and I was just a lowly ant among the hundreds of other ants trying to get published.
Experts say you should face your fears. So, I volunteered to work the agent/editor appointment desk for OWFI. You know what I discovered? Agents are people. I was shocked! Not only that, they were kind. Not only were they kind, they provided guidance to lowly ants like myself. They were professional and courteous. Of course, I've yet to convince one that I'm the next Dan Brown, but there's still time. After all, we have several attending the 45th Annual OWFI conference in May. Surely, one will be wowed by my brilliance. Right?
I thought it would be a good idea for our members to get to know the agents who will be taking pitches at our May conference. Sara D'Emic has very kindly answered a few interview questions for us. I have to admit that after reading her responses, I thought it would be fun to sit and have a drink with her. I'm sure you can probably figure out which answers got my attention, but I'll tell you anyway: #6 and #7.
Ms D'Emic will fit in just fine with our OWFI members. I'm looking forward to meeting her.
1. What do you think makes a good story?
It needs to say something about something. Not that there needs to be Social Commentary (nobody likes a story that tries to shove something down their throats). But readers need to be able to take away from it. That could simply be what a character learns about themselves or the world, or how an event shapes characters' lives. It's the old rule that that by the end of the story a character has to change. If everything stays the same then what was the point of telling it in the first place?
2. What book are you reading now?
In my free time, I've been powering through A Song of Ice and Fire.
3. What makes you want to take on a client?
Quality of the book and salability are the two big factors. But there's also whether I think I'm the right agent for the book-- is it a genre I'm familiar with, do I know the market, and do the author and I have the same goals in mind for the work.
4. What do I need in a query?
There's a lot out there on query writing so first I will say that google is your best friend ever. But I'll hit a few big points that come to mind. Always include a ten page sample even if the submission rules don't technically require it. Put everything in the body of the e-mail, no attachments. Don't waste time talking about how the book will make a great movie, how it encompasses every theme and genre and will appeal to every person ever, how this book is your baby and it comes from your soul; none of these speak to the quality of your work. Focus on conveying the central conflict, characters, and tone of your book. And if it sounds like a Hollywood tagline, get rid of it.
5. New York or LA? Why?
New York. You can be whoever you want in New York, and if it exists you can find it. Plus, you can't jaywalk in LA which I find bizarre.
6. If you could select one book that you could rewrite and add your own unique twist on, which book would that be and why?
I'd take a Jane Austen novel and make it really sordid. Probably Emma. Everything about her world is so strict and chaste, I'd want these characters to go crazy. (Admit it. You want to read this!)
7. You have a time machine. What time period would you visit and why?
The 20s, for the jazz, the outfits, and the speakeasies. It's also about the farthest back when people still bathed regularly. (Speakeasies and bathing. Really good arguments for the Jazz Age, don't you think?)