Author Corrine Jackson interviews her fabulous agent, Laura Bradford!
Laura: It is usually hard to put into words what exactly makes me decide to ask for a partial. It isn’t always anything easily identifiable like a REALLY AWESOME FONT. It can often be kind of nebulous, some vibe I picked up or a word or phrase that hit me just right. I can take the original query letter and highlight what caught me:
Dear Ms. Bradford,--YA suspense I don’t get a lot of queries for YA suspense so it isn’t completely “mined-out” if you know what I mean. Clearly this material is paranormal, though she didn’t label it that way. This label hooked me because it was somewhat more unusual in the market (i.e. I haven’t read 10 billion YA suspense novels and already feel sick to death of them.) This material turned out to probably be more properly labeled as a YA paranormal romance but the suspense stakes are VERY high. So she didn’t misrepresent the type of material she was presenting but she may have spun it. Which is totally allowed.
I would like you to consider Touched, my YA suspense novel. The manuscript is complete at 99,000 words.
Seventeen-year-old Remy O’Malley heals people with touch, but her power comes at a steep cost. Every illness or injury she cures becomes her own. The pain she can handle, but she worries a day will come when she won’t recover from healing some terrible disease. Then she meets eighteen-year-old Asher Blackwell. Scarred and dangerous, he knows more about her abilities than she does, and she can’t resist wanting to know everything about him.
Once a Protector of Healers, Asher sacrificed his ability to touch, taste, and smell to become immortal. Only by killing a Healer can a Protector feel a shadowy echo of their human senses, and Remy’s kind have been hunted into near extinction to feed their enemy’s hunger for sensation. After a century of living a half-life, Asher yearns for mortality. Remy is more powerful than any Healer he’s known, and the intense pain he feels each time he touches her shocks him, almost more than his inexplicable desire to be near her.
Falling in love is against the rules between these two enemies and could destroy them both. Because Remy has the power to make Protectors human again, and when they find out, they’ll be coming for her, if Asher doesn’t kill her first.
I have a Master’s in English Literature and am working on my MFA in Fiction at Spalding University. My work has been published in Dash Literary Journal. I'd be glad to send my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Corrine Leslie Jackson
--99,000 words. That is pretty long. The length may have made me pause for a half second but ultimately it isn’t such an outlier than I decided to skip it. Had this been 10k longer, if I wasn’t TOTALLY feeling the vibe, I would have passed probably. Word counts are important.
--steep cost Oh goody, HIGH STAKES! --she meets eighteen-year-old Asher Blackwell. Scarred and dangerous Even better! This is looking like it might have some strong romantic tones—I love that—AND the hero is a bad boy. Danger can make romance complicated. Complicated is good.
--can’t resist So the hero is irresistible even though he is bad for the heroine. Excellent.
--Asher sacrificed his ability to touch, taste, and smell to become immortal. Pretty compelling
--Remy’s kind have been hunted into near extinction to feed their enemy’s hunger for sensation. And the hot dangerous hero is her enemy? And like the ones who have hunted her kind into extinction he, too, is hungering for sensation? This should be good.
--the intense pain he feels each time he touches her shocks him, almost more than his inexplicable desire to be near her. Intense pain = tortured hero. Yeah. We love this. Pair it with inexplicable desire (I am a total romance hound) and I’m sold.
--Falling in love is against the rules between these two enemies and could destroy them Star crossed lovers. A classic since Romeo and Juliet.
--if Asher doesn’t kill her first. Boy, I hope he doesn’t kill her. I hope they fall in luuuurrrve! And make out a lot.
Just imagine reading a query letter can sometimes be like when the teacher is talking in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Wah Wah Wah Wah Wah if Asher doesn’t kill her first Wah Wah Wah. A lot of it can kind of drop away and we either catch something that grabs us or we don’t. You’ll notice I didn’t highlight anything in the last paragraph. It is usually the hook of the story that grabs me not the author’s credentials. Unless the author says he/she has been multi published in a big way (traditionally with a major pub, or with an epub with HUGE sales numbers, relatively recently), in which case, OF COURSE that draws my attention.
Laura: Agents wear a ton of hats and our work day/week is not at all 9 to 5 or 40 hours/week. This work requires a lot of… personality wrangling for lack of a better term. Authors come in infinite variety and we need to shrink or expand to fit their needs. We are charged with handling the business end of something that can be intensely personal and emotional for an author so we have to be mindful about business and sensitive about the emotions. Giving a pep talk to an author who feels defeated and discouraged is every bit as much a part of my work as negotiating a higher advance. Some days it can be hard to switch gears from ball-buster to hand-holder but we do our best to be responsive to our clients’ needs. I really only sign clients I intend to be with for the long haul and like a marriage that means being in it during the good times AND the bad times. And there will be bad times. I love that my work day is always varied. I love that authors come in all varieties. It keeps everything new. The hours are long but I really, really love my work. I joyfully work. And even when the work is hard, or complicated, or emotionally intense, I still think this is the coolest job ever and I would rather do this than anything else.
Cory: What happens if you can’t sell an author’s first book?
Laura: It happens. There are a lot of ways to handle it…sometimes the timing is just wrong. It might be a great book but the market is just too saturated for that theme and editors won’t touch it. If that is the case, maybe it needs to be tabled for a while until the market climate changes. Or maybe it needs to be revised and resubmitted. Maybe non-traditional publication venues need to be considered. In any case, an author should ALWAYS be working on the next thing. I have certainly had the experience where the 1st book I pitch doesn’t sell but the 2nd one does. Or the 3rd. A writer needs to write and keep writing, keep improving their skill, keep developing. I certainly don’t lose faith in the author if we don’t sell the 1st book we send out into the cruel, cruel world.
Cory: What do you look for in an ideal client?
Laura: Someone who is professional. Someone who is serious about his/her career. Someone who can communicate openly.
Cory: What would you love to see in your sub pile?
Laura: I am looking for a great, intense YA thriller. I would love a YA mystery with series potential. In the adult market, I am seeking historical romance especially and I would love to take on a historical mystery with strong romance tones. Of course I am always looking from anything in the genres I handle: romance (all types except inspirational), women’s fiction, mystery, thriller/suspense, urban fantasy (and subcategories of this like steampunk) and YA.
Cory: What’s one thing you would love to change about the industry?
Laura: Well that depends on the day I am being asked that question. For right now I’d really like someone (myself perhaps) to come up with the most reasonable, fair, mutually beneficial, logical business model for the intersection of literary agencies and self publishing. Lots of agents are trying different models on for size and seeing what works. Lots of authors are trying self-publishing on and seeing if it suits them. Some authors are kicking their agents to the curb for being irrelevant in this new age where access to publishing options is more open. Some agents are alienating authors but choosing business models that authors feel pushes a conflicting agenda. Things are really in flux and I’d love to know what the magic pill is. I know that we can work together and all benefit from that.
Corrine Jackson's young adult novel If I Lie will be published by Simon Pulse in September 2012. Touched, the first book of her young adult paranormal romance trilogy, will be published by Kensington in December 2012.
Laura Bradford established the Bradford Literary Agency in 2001. She considers herself an editorial-focused agent and takes a hands-on approach to developing proposals and manuscripts with her authors for the most appropriate markets.