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.