I worked as an editor for 16 years at Ballantine
Books, and five years at Avon before that. When I
left Ballantine I knew I never wanted to work for a
corporation again. It was fun, it was real, but time
to be my own boss! It took me a while to come around
to working as an agent, but it suits me in the same
way being an on-staff editor did. I like to be
involved with quiding the whole process of publishing
an author, the whole career. I like writers. And I
love reading books.
I was privileged to work with the agent Russ Galen as
an independent agent for a while, and learned a lot
from him. Then I started my own agency in 2001 so
that my in-box could be upstate where I live--90 miles
north of Manhattan. I have a web page with more
information that I keep updated:
What are you currently acquiring? Are you looking for inspirational fiction
and genre romance-can you elaborate on these? Sub-genres?
I like a wide variety of women's fiction and romance,
and look for fresh voices and writing that really
grabs me by the throat and drags me along. I love
big, complex women's fiction and was involved with
Dorothea Benton Frank's first novel SULLIVAN'S ISLAND.
But I do handle genre romance writers--I have a new
young writer with Harlequin Blaze, Marie Donovan, who
is great fun, and of course I hope she will grow and
mature as a writer over the years. I also work with
an Englishwoman, Nicola Cornick, who has written for
Harlequin Historicals and we were able to move her up
to HQN, one of their mainstream or "single title"
lists. I look at paranormal, at historicals, at
romantic comedy, at suspense, at Af-Am romance...
Inspirational can be a whole different group of
publishers and editors, but I see that too, sometimes.
If another CHRISTIE came across my desk, I hope I'd
know what to do with it!
Realistically, what is your average response time, right now? We hear so much that the longer it takes, the better the odds of acceptance-any truth to that in regards to your agency?
Well, probably not. It certainly can happen that I
will hold a ms. to read in entirety if I don't have
time at a certain point. But more often I kinda lose
interest in a project and move on to other things
(sorry) and then later have to go back and make a
decision to decline.
I try to stay on top of queries, definitely hold the
interesting ones to read the ten pages of text that I
request. I think it's fairly safe to say that I
respond to queries within 1 to 4 weeks.
Often, my offer to represent a writer will come fairly
quickly--a matter of a few weeks--it will be a project
that really resonates with me personally, a ms. that I
cannot stop reading, or a published author who is
obviously terrific and can use some help to move her
Pet peeves of submissions?
Please do not tell me that your book would make a
great movie! I also get queries for nonfiction which
I do not handle at all. And if your query email goes
to my "bulk" folder I have to wonder how many agents
you are querying. I expect multiple submissions, but
be cool about it and don't have your entire submission
list at the top of your email...
What would be your dream submission?
Um, you mean Jayne Ann Krentz calls me up ;-) ?
Do contest finals/placements/wins have any influence in whether you'll read
a certain ms?
Yes they do, especially several wins. It catches my attention and seems similar to a recommendation from a client or another writer.
What makes your agency stand out? Personal attention? Career development?
Certainly both of those things! But my special
strength is that I was a senior editor on the inside
for a long time. I understand editors and understand
what goes on inside the houses, and can explain these
things to my clients. I also am an editor by
inclination and experience. I read my clients' work
usually before their editors do, and often at several
stages of development. I am my clients' biggest fan
and I love their works.
Best/worst part of being an agent?
The best part is that thrill of finding a new book
that I really love, and also the day to day of working
with a fun client and seeing her grow.
The worst, well, I am disappointed when I can't seem
to sell a novel that I really love--yeah it happens
especially with quirky first novels... Also, clients
who seem determined not to listen, or fly off the
handle, or who don't communicate.
Walk us through what happens from the time you decide to accept an author's piece until the ms is sent out for submissions to publishers.
She and I talk about her goals and what approach we
will take to reach those goals usually even before
committing to work with each other. We also discuss
our business styles and whether we will be compatible.
I for example am a dreadful worry-wort, I will always
be worrying about Your career and it's a tough
business, but not everyone likes this style! With a
first novel, or one that is going to be a step up for
an author, or one with which she wants to make a move,
I will often offer advice for editorial revision.
Then I will work on a submission list and letter and
consult with the author on those.
A synopsis seems to be the bane of the writer's existence-are they REALLY that important in landing an agent?
More important for me, is the ability to convey very
briefly what the book Is. One or two sentences, like
TITLE is contemporary women's fiction, 100 thousand
words in length, with this Cute "high concept" or
plot/theme in a nutshell.
It's important to be able to write synopses too, and
really tell what happens at the end. But I personally
do not want tons of plot description in the query
letter. One short paragraph is plenty for me at that
Robin again: Thank you, Pam, for taking the time to answer these questions!