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Publishing Interviews: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency

In our new Publishing Interviews Series, Kody Keplinger sits down with people on the other side of book publishing -- agents, editors, and more -- providing insight into industry happenings and just what goes into getting a young adult novel on shelves.

Today I'm honored to be interviewing agent Jennifer Laughran of Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Jennifer began working for Andrea Brown in 2007 where she now represents a wide range of children's and young adult authors and illustrators. Some of her clients include Tara Kelly, Daniel Pinkwater, Jackie Dolamore, Kate Messner, and more.

1. Thanks for joining us, Jennifer! First things first. How did you start working in publishing?
I started as a bookseller when I was about 12. I worked in bookstores my whole life, pretty much, as a children's bookseller, buyer and events person. I went to college for Drama and English, only because I was good at them and not much else, so I knew it would be easiest. I got an opportunity to intern for an agency, and I loved it, so I stayed! :-)

2. I know that your agency, Andrea Brown Literary, specializes in children's and YA fiction. Did you always know these were the kind of books you wanted to work with? Why did you decide to work in children's fiction?
I prefer to read children's books, and always have. I think grownup books are often pretentious or dull. (So are grownups in general, for that matter.)

3. When someone queries you, what are the things that automatically make you say "no"?
Practically everything makes me say no. No is the default. A better question would be, what makes me say "yes" -- and the only answer to that is great writing and/or a killer concept and great characters, plus a cool setting and an 'x-factor' that I can't define.

4. By that same token, is there anything specific that catches your eye? Is there anything you are particularly looking for right now?
I would dearly love to see something that I have never seen before. I should rephrase that. Something AWESOME that I haven't seen before. I actually really like realistic middle grade stories, and teen stories about human teenagers. I wouldn't mind fantasy if it is really well executed historical-fantasy or adventure-fantasy. I like well-done mysteries and thrillers. I love a great romance. I am a sucker for unusual setting, and I like things to be upbeat -- Funny is great, bittersweet is great, but I am not into things that are depressing or unrelentingly bleak.

5. I'm always fascinated by "trends" and what people seem to all be writing about at once. Have you noticed any trends in the submissions you've recieved lately? May I ask what they are?
Ugh. I am so NOT fascinated by trends. I am the opposite of fascinated by them. I would say 95% of my inbox at the moment is paranormal romance with some sort of creature (mermaid, selkie, siren, werewolf, unicorn, vampire, zombie, mummy, or some combo like selkwolf or mercorn) - and I am totally not interested, unless it is truly, totally genre-busting. I have enough. No more room at the inn!

6. Once you recieve a submission you really love, do you follow a process before you offer representation? Do you look at the author's online presence if they have one? In your experience, how does a manuscript go from a request for the full to an offer?
If I love it, I look up the author to see what else they have, and if their website is a total turn off, (Do they promote a Nazi party agenda, for example? That'd be a dealbreaker). If they have a blog, do they seem like somebody that I might get along with? I will also often chat with my co-workers and boss, and possibly have them read some of the text -- particularly if I am on the fence about if I should take it on or not.

Then I make an appointment to chat with the author. Then we chat, usually for a half hour or more, about what the agency is like, what we expect, what we want from their book. revision ideas, etc. Then the author goes and decides if they want to sign up with us. Then we send them an agency agreement.

7. Can you explain to us a little bit about how submitting to editors works? How do you decide which editors to submit a manuscript to? How does the process of submission work?
Well, I make a list. This list is based on my offhand knowledge, combined with combing through our extensive database, combined with asking for my colleagues advice. Usually the list has 6-8 editors on it for a first round. Generally, I email or call all those people and pitch the book. Most of them usually say, go ahead and send. Then they read, and hopefully buy the book! I like to do a fairly small number at a time so if we are getting rejections and feeback we can go back and tweak the manuscript.

8. And, because we have to ask, what are some of your favorite non-client YA novels or authors right now?
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford
SUITE SCARLETT and SCARLETT FEVER by Maureen Johnson
WHITE CAT by Holly Black
LIAR by Justine Larbalestier

BUZZ QUESTIONS (answer these as fast as you can without thinking, ready, go!)

1. Favorite book-to-movie? (Doesn't hae to be YA): PRINCESS BRIDE
2. Book you are most looking forward to reading this year? PENNY DREADFUL by Laurel Snyder (middle grade)
3. Best title you've heard recently? HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT; A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND
4. Something no one would guess about you? I used t o be in the circus. (Oh wait - people probably WOULD guess that about me.)
5. Favorite book cover? HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT

Thank you so much for talking ot us, Jennifer!

Want to learn more? Check out Jennifer Laughran on the Andrea Brown Literary Agency website and follow Jennifer on Twitter.
Kody Keplilnger

Kody is the NYT bestselling author of The DUFF, Shut Out, and A Midsummer's Nightmare, all from Little Brown/Poppy, as well as Lying Out Loud, Run, and the middle grade novel The Swift Boys and Me, from Scholastic. Born and raised in Kentucky, she now lives in NYC.

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19 comments:

  1. That was very informative. Thanks for the interview!

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  2. Great interview. Love the response about trends. Yay, my book concept isn't a trend. :D

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  3. Such a great interview! Thanks for sharing.

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  4. Great interview! Thanks, Jennifer, and great questions, Kody :)

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  5. She sounds harsh and spunky at once... I like her! :D Great interview!

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  6. Awesome interview! Thanks, Jenn and Kody!

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  7. great post! love learning about this side of the book world.

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  8. awesome interview! thanks ladies!

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  9. Wowee, this was a great one! I just did a post on LIAR (our book club read it and it had interesting reviews), so it was soooo cool that she named that one in particular--she would have been a GREAT addition to our debate!

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  10. Excellent interview. It was great to get to know you better.

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  11. Awesome, informative interview! (And The Princess Bride is my fav, as well!) :)

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  12. Thanks for the review! I think that the HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT sounds really funny.

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  13. Very informative interview! It's scary to hear her say everything makes her say "no" and she needs that reason to say "yes." It's realistic, though. Thanks so much!

    Marissa

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  14. Super informative. Also, Robot is now on my to-read list. :)

    Thanks, Jennifer and Kody!

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  15. Re #5, one of my biggest fears is that I will write a book, and by the time I send out a query it will be a trend, and agents will be like "Gosh no! Not another sparkly vampire romance!"

    :'(

    Great interview. I think all the LBA agents are fantastic. Definitely on my list for 2012 when I start querying- if the world ahsn't imploded.

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  16. "Practically everything makes me say no. No is the default."

    This.

    This a million times over (speaking as someone who reads submissions). It just has to have that WOW factor.

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  17. Thank you, Kody and Jennifer, for taking the time out. Great post!

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Item Reviewed: Publishing Interviews: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kody Keplinger