I’m so excited that Laura Biagi, literary agent with the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, will be speaking this weekend at our 2015 SCBWI OK Spring Conference. This year’s theme is “Ignite the Spark”. In Laura’s talk, entitled “The Spark an Agent Brings to the Table”, she will be discussing “insights from the front line about what literary agents do and what they offer clients”. She’ll also discuss what red flags may make an agent pass on a manuscript, among other issues.
Laura graciously consented to giving an interview here on the blog to entice us with a little preview.
Valerie Lawson: What advice would you give to querying writers?
Laura Biagi: One of the more obvious pieces of advice is to do your research on agents so you’re not querying agents who wouldn’t be likely to represent the type of book you’ve written. But there are many other pieces of advice that writers too often take for granted: Be persistent–not only in submitting to many agents or reworking your query letter to make it the strongest possible, but also in writing new material.
Your writing will keep growing and become stronger the more you write, and sometimes it’s the next book right around the corner that will be your breakthrough. Prior to querying, make sure your manuscript is as polished as you can possibly make it. Show your work to your writer friends or anyone else you trust and get their feedback, then incorporate it organically. Don’t skimp on the time you devote to revisions. Revisions are usually THE most important part of a successful writer’s process! Be sure to read very widely in your genre, not only so you know whether your book is unique enough to stand out in the crowded marketplace, but also–and more importantly–so you can learn better how to write with authority and grace and build tension.
VL: Do your research, don’t skimp on revising, and read a wide variety of books. Great advice!
What makes you stop reading a query?
LB: This varies widely depending on the book. I make sure to consider each query on its own terms. However, some examples of things that might convince me to pass include stereotypical characters or plots, too many adjectives and adverbs that get in the way of conveying a clear image, too few details about the characters and their relationships with one another (this makes me worry the characters aren’t developed enough in the manuscript), too few details about the plot (this makes me worry the pacing isn’t strong enough and the stakes and conflict aren’t developed enough).
I’ll be discussing more red flags in my talk at the conference–so for more info, please come!
VL: Yes! You definitely don’t want to miss out on this conference!
What’s one major aspect of a manuscript that hooks you? What doesn’t?
LB: What hooks me right away is an immediate voice that cleverly and organically reveals details (even better if they’re unexpected details!) about the characters, setting, situation, etc.
What doesn’t hook me is a tepid opening that feels too familiar or unintriguing or takes too long to reveal its purpose.
VL: What type of manuscript would you love to find in your inbox?
LB: I’d love to find more magical realism YA novels with literary bents. I’m very interested in books set in the South or Kentucky, as that’s where I’m originally from. I’d also love to find a literary YA with Romani characters. I’m searching for more middle grade, too, but the voice, characters, and plot must be stand out; quiet middle grade novels can be very challenging. I’m also always glad to find more humorous picture books in the vein of Jon Klassen or with heartwarming, big-voiced characters, and early chapter books.
VL: Oh, those are are intriguing ideas – a Romani character in Kentucky. Hmm. Thoughts are churning here…
Tell us what happens after an author signs with you; what’s the next step?
LB: It’s always so exciting after an author signs with me!
If I think the manuscript needs some revision before I submit it out to editors, I’ll send detailed feedback and discuss it all with the author and we’ll work on revising the manuscript until it’s ready. Then I’ll create a list of the best editors to go to for submissions and get them excited about the book. There are many more steps afterwards, including negotiating the deal and contract, selling subrights, working with editors on getting my authors the best publicity and marketing possible for their books, and more.
To learn more behind-the-scenes details about what an agent does for her clients, please come to my talk at the conference!
VL: I for one, cannot wait to learn more.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Laura.
Learn more about Laura from her agency bio here.
Follow Laura on Twitter here.
ONLY A FEW SPOTS LEFT BEFORE CONFERENCE IS SOLD OUT!
For more details on the conference or to register online, click here. I hope to see you there!
And for those who’d like more enticements, another one of our speakers for the conference this up-coming weekend, Editor Erica Finkel of Abrams Books for Young Readers will be our special guest this evening on our 2nd official OK SCBWI Twitter chat! Join us from 7-8pm CST and use the hashtag #okscbwichat. Follow Erica on Twitter here.
***If you missed the chat, CLICK HERE to view the recap on Storify. Enjoy!