Five Reasons I Said No This Month
by Melissa Jeglinski
1: The project wasn’t unique. Not that I’m looking for an alien space odyssey set on a ranch, but I would like the premise to contain some elements that can set it apart from others in the genre. This will allow it to stand out not just for me but for the potential publisher as well as the reader.
2: The middle sagged. I see this a lot. The project has a great premise, the first third is polished, and the ending is exciting. However, the middle portion doesn’t live up to the promise of the beginning—it’s just filler. If the middle sags in pacing and emotional impact, no one is going to keep reading to find out what happens.
3: I don’t represent this type of work. Agents will always list the genres they represent either in their bios or somewhere on their agency’s website. Do your research and you will save us both precious time.
4: I didn’t connect with the writing. It’s an old-hat saying and yes, rather vague. But if I don’t really like the writing, there’s no point in my taking on the project. Besides, you want an agent who really enjoys your style and even if I think the project is highly marketable, I have to like every element to really get behind it.
5: Lack of professionalism. A query or submission is supposed to be a professional document. When something crosses my desk with an ultimatum or some other inappropriate approach, I will just say no, regardless of the project’s possible merit.
Agents of the Roundtable
What part of being a literary agent do you find most challenging?
PAMELA HARTY: There are challenging editors, authors, manuscripts, mornings, and afternoons. It’s why I have loved this job for sixteen years. To paraphrase Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get." So my challenges might include following up with an editor, getting a client to agree to my editorial suggestions, managing another author’s expectations, delivering bad news to a client I adore—and just fitting it all into one day. I can’t pick a specific one but it’s fair to say, it’s a box of chocolates.
ELAINE SPENCER: I think this depends on the day and how much sleep I’ve had the night before. I think the hardest part is balancing out the rejection and finding a way to maintain positive vibes and optimism regardless of external circumstances. This can be a real challenge, particularly in this market, but it’s crucial that we not let things that are outside of our control to “get in our heads”. And then of course there is the never-ending reading load. Your inbox is always a moving target, and getting a good read in isn’t something that you can easily just fit in between other things. It’s always at the expense of something else. You have to find a way to completely put everything and everyone else around you on hold. It’s the thing we love the most, but also the part that becomes the biggest challenge.
LUCIENNE DIVER: I’ve been agenting for twenty-three years now, so a lot of what I used to find challenging—like writing rejections or making cold calls to new editors—isn’t so difficult anymore. They’ll never be my favorite parts of the job, though. That’s reserved for getting offers, calling authors to give them good news, running auctions, and basically every aspect of deal-making. Also, receiving great reviews for my clients, award notifications, bestseller list placement…. I’m still challenged not to let rejections or bad reviews or various struggles get me down. My authors’ triumphs aren’t the only things I take to heart!
MELISSA JEGLINSKI: It’s very challenging to have to break bad news to a client. When you both believe strongly in a project and work so hard on it, and then it doesn’t find a home—or it does, and then things don’t work out the way you had both hoped—it’s very tough. It’s so important to be upbeat but also give a client the truth, so the delivery of bad news is my least favorite aspect of this job.
JANNA BONIKOWSKI: For me, the most difficult part of being a literary agent is rejecting a manuscript, knowing how hard the author worked, how monumental a task it is to write and finish a story, and the dreams they’ve likely attached to it.
New Clients On the Block
» Terri-Lynne DeFino: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Mylo Carbia: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Kristin Wallace: Website | Twitter | Facebook
» Powerhouse bestselling authors Rachel Caine (represented by Lucienne Diver) and Ann Aguirre’s (represented by Laura Bradford of Bradford Literary Agency) thrilling young adult science-fiction series, The Honors, to Claudia Gabel of Katherine Tegen Books, in a significant six-figure deal
» Jules Bennett's Ranchers’ Heirs series, about six cowboys who return to the family ranch to avoid their problems, only to discover they're each about to get a lesson in fatherhood, again to Stacy Boyd at Harlequin Desire, in a six-book deal by Elaine Spencer
» Lisa Child's contribution to The Coltons of Shadow Creek continuity series, featuring a new branch of the Colton family tree, to Patience Bloom at Harlequin Romantic Suspense, in a nice deal by Melissa Jeglinski
» A HIGHLAND KNIGHT'S DESIRE by Amy Jarecki is a finalist for the National Reader's Choice Awards.
» FLESH AND SPIRIT by Carol Berg, THE KILLING MOON by N.K. Jemisin, LUCK IN THE SHADOWS by Lynn Flewelling, and SLAVE TO SENSATION by Nalini Singh were listed on the 100 Must-Read Sci-Fi Fantasy Novels By Female Authors by Bookriot.
» Scorching Book Reviews did an exclusive cover reveal for Tibby Armstrong's upcoming SURRENDER THE DARK.
» INK AND BONE by Rachel Caine was a Beehive Book Award Nominee for Young Adult fiction. It was also included in
Bookriot's 100 Must Read Books about Books.
» Ginger Garrett, whose protagonist in her debut MG novel THE LAST MONSTER is an amputee and has a metal prosthetic leg, showed her support during Limb Loss Awareness Month by tweeting with the #ShowYourMettle hashtag.
» KJ Charles was interviewed about the Society of Gentlemen trilogy at All About Romance.
» Jenna Kernan's TRIBAL LAW made Publishers Weekly's bestseller list.
» Jules Bennett's FROM FRIEND TO FAKE FIANCE was featured on She Knows.
» Mia Siegert's JERKBAIT was listed in Paste Magazine as one of The 10 Best New Young Adult Books in May 2016.
» Check out ten reasons you should be reading Gena Showalter's upcoming THE DARKEST TORMENT:
Mia Siegert is the debut author of the Young Adult novel JERKBAIT. She received her BA from Montclair State University, where she won Honorable Mention in the 2009 English Department Awards for fiction, and her MFA from Goddard College.
She currently works as an adjunct professor and a costume designer. She enjoys riding horses and watching hockey.
TKA: Please share a bit about JERKBAIT and what inspired you to write it.
Mia: JERKBAIT is the story of identical twins Tristan and Robbie Betterby as they prepare for the NHL Draft. While Robbie is destined for stardom, Tristan, fed up with being in his brother's shadow, dreams of performing on a Broadway stage. After Robbie attempts suicide and Tristan is forced to be Robbie's caretaker in order to ensure his draftability won't be affected, Tristan discovers that Robbie is gay and caught up with the pressure of being an out-athlete. As Robbie deteriorates, his friendship with an online stranger takes a terrifying turn.
JERKBAIT originally was a semi-autobiographical novel chronicling the end of my career when I was training in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics in Show Jumping, a toxic relationship with a person who blamed a non-existent suicide on me, and my personal encounter with an online predator who later was convicted as a sex offender (child predator). The novel isn't so autobiographical now, but its roots were my life.
TKA: Was writing from the perspective of teenaged boys difficult for you? How were you able to make their struggles come off so authentically?
Mia: I identify as nonbinary so honestly the male mindset is something that I think I always have had. Sure, there are things that I couldn't physically experience, but overall, it feels comfortable. The struggles were rooted in feelings I've had for years, probably from the extensive bullying I faced since I was maybe seven (probably because I had so many broad interests without much overlap). I remember what it was like to be harassed, to be punched, to be strangled, to be taunted over appearance, and to not have friends for years except my horses.
I think I'm able to convey some of that pain through characters that have trouble communicating as that's a huge issue in my life. One of my mentors, Rebecca Brown, referred to my characters as "wounded, outsiders, and marginally articulate." I think that sums up not just my characters but me as a person.
TKA: JERKBAIT takes on many big problems teens face, including sexual identity, suicidal thoughts, cyber-stalking, and bullying. What was the main message you were trying to convey in the novel?
Mia: If I could convey one message, it would be to not be afraid to get help. A career isn't worth suicide attempts, sexual orientation is something we often skirt around rather than speaking about it directly, cyber-stalking is something that's very real and can happen to anyone, and bullying is just... horrible.
I hope JERKBAIT might encourage teens to take advantage of their school's guidance counselor office or perhaps join their school's Gay-Straight Alliance, and I hope that it teaches parents about warning signs to prevent irreversible decisions.
TKA: Was JERKBAIT the first novel you ever wrote? Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
Mia: JERKBAIT was the second novel I wrote. Prior to it, I wrote a novel called OUTGROWN HORSES, which was my MFA thesis at Goddard College and solid lyrical prose about the dirty side of the horse- show world.
My journey to publication was rough but sort of a fairytale. I had 208 rejections before my offer of representation from Travis Pennington and, within three weeks, the sale of JERKBAIT to Jolly Fish Press. Seventy-seven of those rejections were on JERKBAIT alone, with many agents who loved it but weren't willing to take a chance on me. On the phone, Travis said something about knowing he was going to offer after reading the first paragraph, and it was neat to learn that it was a unanimous yes from Jolly Fish Press. It's great working with someone who supports me writing three genres (contemporary YA, literary fiction, and commercial thriller).
With a small publisher, I knew I had a ton of work to do, so I brainstormed with Travis about how to get this book read. We are endorsed by You Can Play (a nonprofit devoted to LGBTQ Athletes of all ages) and received blurbs from Chris Kluwe (former NFL player) and Patrick O'Sullivan (former NHL player). Since then, it's been fast. We received a wonderful review in Publishers Weekly, made Goodreads’ Best YA Books of May, and gained the attention of Barnes & Noble Teen Blog, Teen Librarian Toolbox, ANDPop, MaximumPop UK, and many more pop culture sites. Our distributor, Independent Publishers Group, listed it as #1 New and Notable on their website.
It is possible to have success with a small publisher. It just takes time, hard work, and the determination to not just check boxes but turn those checks into stars.
TKA: What advice would you have for authors who are just starting out and hoping to have similar success with their debuts?
Mia: Work as hard as possible, but make sure it's smart-work. If you have an agent (or publicist), discuss what you should be doing in order to make sure your odds are good for success. Cut toxic people from your life and be prepared for some people to try and shake you off your game out of petty competition. If you go with a small publisher, figure out realistic sales goals with your agent and exceed them. Avoid drama—seriously, it's not worth it. Be grateful for every success, and don't wilt at failure or critique—it's part of the process. And, most importantly, don't give up.
Visit Mia's official website, follow her on Twitter, and join her fans on Facebook.
Author Tip of the Month
Aimie K. Runyan is the author of PROMISED TO THE CROWN, the first novel in the Daughters of New France series.
One piece of advice that rings true to me in writing and in many other aspects of life is Know thyself, and that’s my tip for you. Plato knew what he was talking about.
You’re struggling at drafting a book? Know thyself. If you have a day job, as most of us do, chances are your peak hours are while you’re at work. If you find yourself staring at the screen for three hours with only 150 words to show for it, change up your schedule. Try writing late at night, after dinner, at lunchtime, or at the crack of dawn. Really examine when you work best. You may not be able to use your best hours, but you can find the best available.
You’re ready to sell a book? Know thyself. Know what you want from an agent. Know what you want from a book deal, and don’t worry about the dream everyone else is chasing. If your goal is to hit the NYT Bestseller List and rise to fame and fortune, your plan of attack will be different from the writer who wants to simply see their name in print and make some modest side money. There is no right path, but you have to find yours.
Whenever a roadblock or decision comes my way, I look at it as an opportunity to dig deeper and learn about myself. After all, we’re the most complex characters we’ll ever write.
To learn more about Aimie, visit her official website.