Developmental Agent and Submission Strategies | Middle Grade Ninja: Literary Agent Molly O'Neill

Developmental Agent and Submission Strategies | Middle Grade Ninja: Literary Agent Molly O'Neill



tell clients that you know when we first start working together it's gonna feel like a lot of me crawling around inside their brain because I'm trying to understand what they're thinking about what what's what inside of them is compelling them to tell this particular story how are we getting all of that on the page how did that process go if you've just signed somebody and you're trying to crawl in their head what kind of questions are you asking what are nabel's you to do that it's different for every project unfortunately again there's not one easy answer which is you know the sad anthem if it were widgets man it would all be all be totally different um you know sometimes people ask me I mean I'm gonna segue for a second and come back to the question you're asking sometimes clients ask and I think this is a common thing that's talked about writers writers talk together about this when they're looking for an agent they say are you an editorial agent and I think for me they sort of assume that I am because I have a whole background as an editor but and again this is one of these things that I couldn't have told you three years ago when I started agent in but I understand it about myself now is I'm never looking to do the editors job and in fact I'm very aware from having been on the other side of the table that I can't do all the fun parts and then try to sell a book you know I can't try to sell already chewed gum it's not to say that a perfect book wouldn't get acquired of course it would you know and and you could get it on to a publishing schedule sooner you could get it out faster if like a book came to an editor meeting no work done but at the same time something would be lost in that process because part of what makes an editor say yes to something is they see the role that they can play in it they see I think I have exactly the right key to help the writer unlock the thing that's not working yet you know like I am stand a lot about slaughter I understand a lot about character I realized that if you just took out this character that seems important but it's actually distracting from the emotional growth whatever it is like they see the value that they can bring to it that's what gets them excited because editors go into the job of editing wanting to live inside stories all day and instead they spend most of their day living inside conference rooms having meetings and effectively being project managers inside a corporation so when they get to really sit down and do the work of editing that's the part they love best that's the part that keeps them in the job so my role isn't to seal that or or to do it for them because also you know most projects would be a different book if you handed it to five different editors you'd end up with five very different books because each of those editors would see the road a little differently so what I have realized for myself is an agent my job I describe myself as a developmental agent and by that I mean that I involved at the early stage of a story I'm never doing the line editing I'm never tweaking word for word sentence for sentence what I'm looking at is the entire shape of the story and the movement of the story the pacing the emotional arc the plot and I'm thinking about how to get it to the point where the potential is strong enough to make an editor say yes to it but all of the joy has not already happened which is a very nebulous line and different for every project but it's to me it's it's the important creative part of the work or one of one of the important creative parts of the work I do is helping and I tell my clients two things I tell them we're gonna edit this we're gonna work on it we're gonna develop it you know I don't tell I don't know what the rejection letters are going to say which doesn't mean that we get them but if I can already anticipate that half the rejections we are gonna get are gonna say this character is underdeveloped emotionally or plotz gets really dense and confusing in the middle or the ending didn't feel satisfying in terms of a trade-off for everything that it took us to get there you know I already know what an editor is gonna say no to I'm gonna work with the author to fix it because we only get to have so many chances to put it into the editor of hands and have it be the first time they read it and get excited about it and hopefully move it forward so we work on it in that way which is different than the way an editor works on it they're they're thinking about different questions even though they're related they're thinking a little bit more about the end reader I am as well because naturally I'm thinking about that question of audience but my first audience is an editor is how do we get there it's an agent my first audience as an agent is the editor how do we get the editor to say yes to it because if we don't it doesn't matter if I can see what the librarians are gonna think and what the booksellers are gonna think with the first person we have to literally sell it to is the editor in the publishing house so that's mine you're just the editor are you also thinking of the people that they've got to go then and take it to get approval to follow it I have you separate the two in your mind um well I think the editors that I try to submit to are ones that I know are good at doing that part of their job which is an entirely different skill set but understanding how to maneuver the machine that is a publishing company how to rally all of the folks behind it I was just today with with a client who we we had a meeting with the publishing house and it was the first time most of the publisher was meeting this editor or what I'm sorry I was meeting this author and it was the editor knowing that the salespeople and the marketing people and the subsidiary rights people and the special sales people that hearing this author talk about some of their previous life experience was going to be valuable in helping sell the book ultimately so she asked the author to come in and do a presentation which would give each of these different professionals what they needed to do their job better so this particular I don't feel like it's my place to go into too much identifying information which is why I'm being a little vague but this particular author had a background working for some corporations that the special sales team who their job is to sell books into any place that's not a bookstore so special sales sells books into places like anthropology or urban outfitters or cratenbarrel or the you know national park gift shop you know all the places that like oh yeah there's a couple books there but there's not like endless books there so for them hearing that this author had had some experience working for some of those corporations gave them a certain ammunition to go into their meetings with some of those buyers for similarly hearing some of the things about creative process gave the sales reps a story to tell when they go to their buyers at the book stores they can talk about you know they they heard some things about how this author came to write their books in the first place and what what the personal part of the story was for the author so everyone sort of collecting the nugget they need to go do their job better make sense and you can definitely hear how your time as an editor is very definitely informing your your life as a literary agent because one I've never heard the insight that make sure you save some of the fun for the editor that's fantastic but also it sounds like you're kind of helping to arm these editors with the ammunition they need ahead of time to make sure you're yielding it's done or might hear that yeah when when publishing works best we are all on the same team the author the agent the editor their team like we're all pulling together for the sake of the project sometimes things go off kilter and we're not able to be on the same team or you know I'm having to stand up for the author's needs and ahead of the publishers needs you know so sometimes like there are situations that are not so perfect and beautiful but when it's working at its best version we're all together building this thing you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *