Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Interview with Literary Agent Ken Sherman

Ken Sherman is the President of Ken Sherman and Associates, a Los Angeles-based literary agency. An agent for more than twenty years, Ken represents screen, television and book writers, and also sells film and television rights to books as well as life rights.

A few of Ken's clients include David Guterson, author of “Snow Falling on Cedars”,Tawni O'Dell, whose first novel, “Back Roads”, became an international best seller and Oprah Book Club selection, Starhawk, considered the best-known witch in the world, Anne Perry, the world's best-known Victorian murder mystery writer and author of 60 books, and the estates of Luis Buñuel, John Hersey, and Simon Wiesenthal.

Ken will be attending the June 22-24, 2012 Crested Butte Writers Conference.

1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart? 



Answer: My literary agency handles film, tv and book writers and often sells film and tv rights to books. We don't personally acquire but act as the middle man between the writer and any of the people who do buy the areas above. We are open to most adult fiction genres including: Literary, romance, women's fiction, fantasy/SF, suspense/thriller/mystery, memoirs and horror and nonfiction.

2. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: Maximum 2 page synopsis and 1.5 spacing.

3. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: Like to see well thought out stories with relatable characters with whom we want to spend hours and hours of our lives.

4. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good 
 read? What particularly grabs your attention?



Answer: Not being aware of the writer as writer and am totally caught up in the flow of the story telling.

5. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?

a. Answer: It depends on the writer and the work. Too general to react here.

6. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Often, though the writing has to speak for itself, with or without a meeting.

7. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: Simply fine story telling and craft behind it all. And that can take years to develop.

8. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Not really, though saying 'I'm submitting my 9 million word manuscript' can be daunting anticipating reading each word. Suggest not saying how many words are in the manuscript. The writing will have to speak for itself and if it's engaging it won't matter how many words.

9. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Good wine, good food, travel and fine conversation.

10. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: Live permanently between Paris and New York and paint/draw the whole time while continuing with my clients.

11. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: Less is more.

Final words of advice: Quote: 'Do Not Think" (meaning, don't edit yourself as you're creating/writing your first-draft..............just let it happen with all the wrinkles and misspellings and lousy grammar........I find, when I draw, if I quietly say those words, slowly, I open up and do my best work.........we can all go back and edit after the first moments/hours/days of creating).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Interview with Kerri-Leigh Grady, Assistant Editor at Entangled

Kerri-Leigh Grady spends her spare time perfecting canning techniques and stockpiling machetes, coffee, and QuikClot. When she’s not preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she drinks an insane amount of coffee and pretends to be just another soccer mom.

She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she studied urban fantasy, horror, and romance. And tortured the faculty. Who are glad to see her gone.

This week, KL lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Next week, she’ll be wherever the Navy sends her family. KL will be attending the Crested Butte Writers Conference, June 22-24, 2012.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
    Answer: I acquire romance. Any flavor, any sub-genre, any trope. My favorite stories will always be thrilling or terrifying, whether that's because of high stakes adventure or because of the bogeyman in the closet. I also love paranormal romance and urban fantasy, though I am sick unto death of kitchen sink worldbuilding. Pick a few beasties, define your world, and work within it. Also: death to vampires and werebeasts! Or undeath. Or something.
    If I find something compelling in my inbox, but it's not my cuppa, I pass it along to one of my fellow Entangled editors.
  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I don't want a synopsis unless it's the two paragraphs in your query. Send the query with the first five pages pasted at the end. If I like what I see, I'll ask for the full. And then, I still don't want a synopsis. They're made of evil and doom.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: No vampires. No werebeasts. Unless vampires are irredeemably evil villains and werebeasts are wild, ferocious murderers stalking the hero and heroine. Then I might change my tune. Maybe. I'd actually love to see some romantic comedies. Dark or light, as long as they're smart (please no slapstick) and make me laugh out loud, I'll love them and cuddle them and call them Susie. Oh, and romantic thrillers/romantic suspense.

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?

    Answer: Voice is the obvious answer, but beyond that, a snappy pace, atmospheric setting, and clever worldbuilding (even if the world is a tiny town in Kansas) tend to hook me fast. Consistent pace with escalating conflict are essential to a good read.
  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?

Answer: When I read, the first thing I think about is how much time it'll take me to edit the story. If it requires a lot of work or if the missing or flawed elements are major, I will pass. However, I tend to offer a revise & resubmit (R & R) if it's something I think the author can fix. With a few exceptions, a professional writer can fix just about anything. Assuming below that everything else is at least acceptable or even compelling about the story:

    1. Voice Reject
    2. Weak Grammar Depends on how bad it is.
    3. Common plot Reject
    4. Poor character development R&R
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) Controversy isn't an issue if it's handled right, but if the author fumbled or pulled her punch, I'll offer R&R.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing Reject
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing Full request (kidding) - this is an easy fix
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building R&R
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow R&R
    10. Story starts in wrong spot R&R
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory R&R
    12. Lack of tension R&R
  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Absolutely. It helps knowing an author is serious and knows how to connect professionally. It's an important trait to have with your publisher and your readers. Even chatting me up online lets me know you've taken the time to Twitter- or blogstalk me. I appreciate that. Just no actual stalking, if you please.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: Understanding the importance of using social networking to build a community of readers.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Interviews. (Theresa: Ouch—I must be high on your favorite people list today thank you for answering a few questions for me, KL)

Also, I very much dislike dealing with authors who refuse to learn and improve craft. I don't care if you've won a RITA or a Nebula. If we've discussed your unnatural relationship with the word "just," I expect you to run a search and destroy on that word before you send me your manuscript. Especially since I've offered to pay for your "just" rehab.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Twitter. And background noise.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: Get my PhD.

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: From the poem "The Old Astronomer to His Pupil" by Sarah Williams: "Though my soul my set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; / I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Twitter Tips for Writers

This weekend, I tweeted some tips for writers on how to use Twitter effectively. I got a lot of great feedback, so I'm sharing it with you guys. As authors, it's important to establish your online presence. How involved you are is up to you, but I find that Twitter sucks the least amount of my time yet somehow builds amazing communities. I can post tweets easily from my phone when I'm out, and it gives me a platform to find others of like mind.

Community is what social networking is about, and it should be your central focus when you reach out to readers. Build a community for them to share space with you and others of like mind, and you've built your platform. Engage with your community, show them you're interested, and the readership you build becomes a happy bonus.

Keep these tips in mind when you tweet to most effectively build your community:

Tip 1: Don't hashtag . It's and doesn't unless you're . Even then, 't .

Tip 2: If your tweetstream looks like a billboard, you're doing it wrong. We're not here to look at ads. If we were, we wouldn't get angry about spam.

Tip 3: Social networking is about building relationships and extending your tribe. It's about community. Your content should reflect that.

Tip 4: Respond to people who @ you. Otherwise, you're using Twitter as your bullhorn, and your followers will consist entirely of spambots.

Tip 5: If you want to build community through (#followfriday - a list of recommendations for your followers to follow) or (#writerwednesday - a #ff type of list but of writers only), don't make a list. Give people a reason for following your recommendations. E.g. #ff @theresarizzo b/c she's snarkily delicious and tweets photos of Crested Butte.

Tip 6: Twitter is a constantly evolving conversation. Jump in and take part. Don't holler at us about your book from the corner of the room.

Tip 7: Peppering your tweetstream with tips that don't add to or start a convo is pointless. ;)

Tip 8: Ditto for copy/paste tweets/auto-tweets we've seen every day this week.

Tip 9: If you avoid Twitter too much, we'll find you. Actually, we'll unfollow you at the next housekeeping round.

Tip 10: If you're on constantly, you'll clog our stream, and then we'll either unfollow you or put you on tweet mute.

Tip 11: If you clog our stream with awesome, you can ignore Tip 10.

Tip 12: To come up with agreeable content, figure out who your community is. It's like writing to an audience. Give it a try.

Tip 13: Don't expect every tweet to start a convo, but tweet as if it will.

Tip 14: If you're a serial retweeter, you're doing it wrong. Again, offer real content between accolades and reviews.

Tip 15: Don't tweet about your breakfast unless your community involves food and your breakfast was notable.

Exception to Tip 15: When your breakfast is coffee. We all want to know about your coffee.

Tip 16: Don't tweet about your book unless it's an announcement. We'll buy ALL your books if we feel like we're part of your community.

Tip 16.2: And by announcement, I mean big news, not that you were just thinking about your book and felt compelled to tweet your squee.

Tip 17: Twitter is a noun. Tweet is a noun or verb. Mix this up, it's grounds for shanking. This tip is not directed at writers alone.

Tip 18: It's okay if you do more than write. Your community wants to know what else you do. Overlapping communities means cross-pollination.

Tip 19: It's okay to do those "In case you missed it earlier" re-announcements. Once. Not once per hour.

Tip 20: Recommend authors you love to your followers. You'll strengthen and broaden your community by helping others.

Tip 21: If there's something important you want to stay around, don't tweet it. Blog it and tweet the link. Like this list!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Interview with Mary Kole, Agent at Andrea Brown Literary

Mary quickly found her passion at Andrea Brown Literary Agency and, after a year of working behind the scenes, officially joined the agency in August 2009. In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked at Chronicle Books and earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco.



At this time, Mary is only considering adult literary fiction, and, for the children's market, young adult and middle grade fiction and truly exceptional picture books. She prefers upmarket premises with literary spark and commercial appeal. Her favorite genres are character-driven fantasy, paranormal, dystopian, thriller, horror, adventure, humor, contemporary/realistic, romance and mystery.



She operates the Andrea Brown East office from Brooklyn, NY, and blogs a Kidlit.com. Mary is the C/YA final judge in The Sandy Writing Contest and is attending the Crested Butte Writers Conference June 22-24, 2012.

1) Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: Picture books, middle grade, and young adult on the children's end of the spectrum, and food narrative, food memoir, and cookbooks on the adult and non-fiction side of things.

2) What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I do not request a synopsis with submissions, but if the writer has one, double-spaced and two pages is the way to go.

3) In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: Poorly written queries top my list, as do writing samples that do not start in the right place for the story (it's very easy to tell once you've read slush for any length of time). Queries that aren't personalized and that come with attachments (not allowed per our submission guidelines) are the best way to shoot yourself in the foot. I would like to see more voice in writing samples, right off the bat.

4) What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
Answer: Voice, characterization, and starting in action with a very strong sense of conflict and the present moment. I see a lot of writers start with a lot of telling and too much information, or start in a moment but yank the reader into a flashback on page two…that means they haven't found the right opening yet. And beginnings are crucial because that's often the only part an agent or editor will look at.

5) For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?

Voice Weak-- Voice or voice that seems incongruous for the character's age (important in children's books) is a dealbreaker.

Weak Grammar-- Also a dealbreaker…if a person can't handle grammar, how will they handle revision and other more important craft issues?

Common plot-- For a popular market like children's books, plot really needs to be fresh. If it feels too contrived, an agent or editor won't go for it.

Poor character development-- Characters are our curators through a story, so if there's a weak character, the reader has no emotional foothold. I, personally, can't bring myself to care about characters who feel too slight or ill-defined.

Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?)-- This doesn't bother me. For children's books, though, keep in mind that it's often a more squeamish gatekeeper who is buying the book, whether it's a parent, teacher, or librarian…they're the ones who tend to have issues with controversial topics, especially for younger readers.

Mediocre / uninspired writing --Complete dealbreaker, same as voice.

Excessive use of violence or cursing-- I don't mind it but, again, see my above comment about gatekeepers.

Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building --Categories and genre are really important in children's books. I urge writers to learn the guidelines, read what's on shelves, and fit into the mold of today's marketplace (but put their own unique spin on it) before doing any genrebusting or other shenanigans. Learn the rules first, then break them.

Pacing is off—plot is too slow-- A dealbreaker, especially in children's. Tension, pacing, conflict…all of that has to be present, often in spades.

Story starts in wrong spot-- This is hard to pull off until you know better, so it's fixable…if you get editors or agents to read past your problematic opening. Honestly, that might be the bigger hurdle...

Ending is unsatisfactory-- This is also fixable. The elements you can't really fix easily are character, voice, and writing craft. Plot is nothing compared to those.

6) Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: If the writer left a mark and their story is promising, they will usually get a more personalized message from me. I do tend to look more closely at conference submissions where the author made a good impression.

7) Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: Knowledge about how the publishing industry works, a tech or marketing savvy, a willingness to work on making the book a success even after it's published, and a sense of realistic expectations…those elements all make for a dream client. Too often, we meet people who have no idea about the business or unrealistic stars in their eyes. Optimism and energy are great, don't get me wrong, but it's often the practical, resilient, and hard-working authors who enjoy long and successful careers.

8) Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Tons. Way too many to discuss here. Plus, listing them all out would just spike my blood pressure. I'd have to say that the biggest is that writers obsess over query letters at conferences and in questions instead of delving deeper into writing craft issues. I understand this, but I also think that writers need to think more deeply about craft first, and then obsess over getting published. Put the horse before the cart, not the other way around.

9) What are you addicted to?

Answer: Cookbooks! And the food they inspire me to cook--dining, food issues, and discovering new flavors and cuisines is a long-standing passion of mine. I used to work in the kitchen of a two-Michelin-star restaurant in California.

10) What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: I want to visit every state in the US, ideally on a cross-country drive in an RV, and sample lots of regional eats along the way. I've been to 34 states so far. After that, I'll move on to countries. I've been to 18 and can't wait to add more to the list. In addition to cooking and cookbooks and food, I honesty think I am addicted to travel.

11) Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: Too many to mention, but one specifically about children's books is from legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom: "The writer of books about the real world has to dig deep and tell the truth."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lois Winston Talks about Rejection

One of the things Five Scribes is known for is that it's a writing blog.  Lois Winston is on blog tour of her Readers' Choice-nominated book, DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL.  Yet she finds time to stop in and talk with aspiring authors.  Her articles are frank, but lest I rhyme, when it comes to the publishing industry, you can take her advice to the bank.  Please welcome both literary agent and author, Lois Winston. ~ Donnell

Once in the proverbial blue moon, someone writes a first book, gets an agent, and scores a six-figure, multi-book deal, all in the course of a few weeks. For most writers, it takes years, even decades, for that first sale to happen. During that time we deal with lots of people telling us our baby is butt ugly. We try to develop a Teflon-coated skin to keep the rejections from getting to us, but it’s hard. Part of what makes us writers is our emotional awareness. Who among us hasn’t cried while reading or writing a poignant scene? That same heightened sense of emotion is what makes it so difficult for us to deal with rejection.

But publishing is a tough business. It’s run by bean counters, and bean counters are notorious for only looking at the bottom line. Not only do you have to convince the editor you’ve written a wonderful, saleable book, the editor has to convince the bean counters.

The truth about publishing is that you WILL get rejected. Everyone gets rejected, even bestselling authors. If you can’t deal with rejection, stop before you start.

When I started writing, no one told me the facts of life, publishing style. I had no idea the odds were stacked against me. By the time I discovered this, and received my share of form rejection letters, I’d been so infected by the writing bug that I couldn’t stop writing.

If you HAVE to write, if writing is as much a part of you as eating, sleeping, and breathing, then keep writing. But know that you may never get published.

Eventually, an agent liked my work enough to offer me representation. By this time, I had several manuscripts ready for publication. But the rejections continued to pour in. No longer were they form letters, though. I was now receiving rejections filled with praise. The following are comments made about one book:

  -- …many intriguing elements involved in this contemporary romance.

  -- I found this to be an enjoyable read. I think the writing is solid. The characters were interesting as well.
  -- …the writing was strong and the sexual tension high.

  -- …a solid writer. She creates an intriguing world that is full of interesting and compelling characters.

  -- …the author caught my attention right away with the opening scene and held it with her strong, engaging writing style.

  -- …this is very readable, and the author does a good job balancing the romance and suspense elements.
  -- The conflict for both the hero and heroine is strong.

But no matter how praise-filled the letters, they were still rejection letters. Few editors indicated the same reason for rejecting, so there was no clear clue as to what was wrong with each manuscript. What one editor praised, another mentioned as the reason for rejecting.

Here are some of the reasons given for rejecting the same book:


  -- I didn’t find the characters compelling enough.

  -- The heroine isn’t as sympathetic as I’d wish.

  -- I felt (the romance) had a “too good to be true” quality.

  -- The writing is not as strong as that of other submissions currently under consideration

  -- (The hero) was completely unconvincing.

  -- The story line didn’t hold any appeal for me.

  -- The emotional conflict was not as strongly developed as it needed.

Then I began racking up *near* sales. The reasons for my rejections changed. The senior editor who had to approve the buy didn't like the book. The marketing department didn't think they could sell a book the editor loved because it didn’t fall neatly into one genre. A senior editor wanted one of my books for a new line the publisher then cancelled. The editor who loved the book took a job elsewhere, and her replacement didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the ms.

Do I have luck or what?

Sadly,
it’s not good enough to write the best book you can. And it’s not good enough to have an agent who believes in your work. If your book doesn’t wind up on the right editor’s desk on the right day, you don’t win the publishing lottery.

I eventually sold my first book in 2005. Not for 6 figures, not even for 5 figures. For an extremely low 4 figures.

And that’s another sobering reality of the publishing industry. Those 6 and 7 figure deals you read about in the news are literally 1 in a million. The average advance for a first sale to a New York publisher nowadays is less than $5,000, often much less. So if you think that you’re going to write your way into a life of luxury, think again. Many a NY Times bestselling author can’t afford to quit her day job these days.

And just because you’ve sold a book, there’s no guarantee that you’ll sell another. The rejections don’t stop after your first sale. My first two books received dozens of fabulous reviews. Both won awards. Yet after having a release in 2006 and another in 2007, I didn’t sign another contract until 2009.

So if you can’t handle the rejection, get out now while you still can. If you have the tenacity to continue writing against all odds, then each time you receive a rejection letter, pull up your big girl (or big boy) pants, sit your butt back down in front of the computer, and keep writing. If the writing gods are smiling down on you, your efforts will eventually pay off.


The Top 10 Reasons a Manuscript is Rejected (in no particular order)


1. author hasn’t done his/her homework (book not appropriate for targeted editor or agent)

2. sloppy editing/proofing

3. poorly written query letter

4. poorly written synopsis

5. no opening hook to grab an editor’s or agent’s attention

6. poor technical skills (grammar/punctuation, POV, passive voice/telling instead of showing the action, etc.)

7. poor story-telling skills (plot, characters, dialogue, etc.)

8. she’s just not that into you(r voice/style)        

9. poor timing

10. book not yet written (pitching or querying on a book that isn’t finished, and by the time it is finished, the editor/agent is no longer interested)

About the Author:
After selling her first book, Lois Winston was invited to join the agency that reps her. Now she experiences rejection for both herself and her clients. Lois is
currently writing the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt at http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptap2.html. Visit Lois at her website: http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.

Throughout January, Lois will be on a blog tour to promote the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll. Post a comment to any of the blogs on the tour to enter the drawing to win one of 5 signed copies of the book. You can find the complete tour schedule at her website and Anastasia’s blog. Lois is also giving away 3 copies at Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/15173-death-by-killer-mop-doll

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Interview with Agent Kevan Lyons

Kevan Lyon has more than 20 years in the publishing business, including 5 years as a Literary Agent with the Dijkstra Agency and 17+ years on the wholesale, retail and distribution side of the business. Kevan's background on the buying and retail side of publishing affords her helpful insight into what types of books will sell and how to market them.

Kevan handles women's fiction, with an emphasis on commercial women's fiction, young adult fiction and all genres of romance. Authors on Kevan's list span a broad range of genres in women's fiction from more literary, commercial projects to all genres of romance including historical, contemporary, suspense and paranormal. She loves to be surprised by a unique plot or characters and is always looking for a new, fresh voice or approach.

Kevan is the mainstream final judge in The Sandy Writing Contest.

  1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart? Answer: I am looking for primarily fiction – all types of women’s fiction, with an emphasis on contemporary and historical women’s fiction, and all genres of romance, with the exception of inspirational romance. I also love mystery, particularly historical mystery and a good “cozy” series. I am also looking for young adult fiction of all types.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I generally don’t ask for a synopsis, but rely on the opening chapters of a novel to determine if I want to see more or a full. If I do ask to read a synopsis I will ask for double spaced, anywhere from 3 to 10 pages or so.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I can’t really think of anything that I am “sick of”, but I would love to see more women’s fiction with a high concept plot or hook (great “book club fiction”) as well as historical fiction of all types and I am particularly look for stories set in the WWI to WWII periods

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
    Answer: The first thing that draws me in is usually the voice of the story. If I love the voice and then the writing I am immediately intrigued. From that point, a dramatic opening that draws me in (and never lets go) is what I am hoping for.

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice – critical, and really can’t be fixed. You either have it or you don’t.
    2. Weak Grammar – some can be fixed. If it is a “big” problem may not be indicative of other problems with the writing.
    3. Common plot – Can’t really be fixed, but if the voice is amazing I may give it a shot.
    4. Poor character development – can be fixed, not terminal. But everything else has to be pretty close.
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) probably headed for an early rejection at pitch letter.
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – this is often something you cannot see until you read a partial (may have a great pitch letter), and is a pretty quick pass.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – can be fixed, but may not make it past the reading of a partial.
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building – probably an early pass – at pitch.
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow – often can be fixed, but everything else needs to be strong.
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – can be fixed, but the story has to be worth the effort.
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – can be fixed.
    12. Other

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: Yes, I try to get to them a bit more quickly if I can. But, client stuff always come first.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: The writing, the story and the talent are key, I need to LOVE the work, and then we both need to make sure that we are a “good fit”. We will hopefully be working together for a long time and it is important that we feel that we are a good match.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Walking on the beach in the morning so that I can sit in front of a computer all day!



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Interview with Thomas Dunne Assistant Editor Kat Brzozowski


Kat Brzozowski is an assistant editor at Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. She has had extensive experience at literary agencies and has interned at Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc, Writers House, and Foundry Literary + Media. She enjoys a broad range of adult fiction and non-fiction, as well as young adult fiction. Her recent projects include an edgy mystery series set in Santa Barbara, California and Milton T. Burton’s Texan mysteries Nights of the Red Moon and The Devil’s Odds. **Kat is the final judge in the Thriller, Suspense, Mystery category of The Sandy Writing Contest.

1. Which categories do you currently acquire? Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
Answer: I have a broad range of interests. In my spare time, I read almost everything (except for serious sports and history books). As for what I’m looking to acquire, I love adult books in the genre of mystery, horror, suspense, and thriller. I also like some literary fiction (especially if it has a great voice) as well as certain types of women’s fiction (in the vein of Jodi Picoult). I’m also looking for young adult fiction. My young adult tastes are very broad.

  1. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial? Single spaced or double?

Answer: I like a synopsis to be 2-3 pages. If it’s any longer, I feel like I might as well just read the book! I prefer single spaced, but I’m not too picky.

  1. In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Answer: I’m sick of certain types of cookie-cutter young adult books, especially if I can tell from the first page what book this one is trying to be (Twilight, The Hunger Games). As for adult books, I’m open to most types of books if they have a great voice and a gripping plot. I like strong women – no pushover, needy types for me!

  1. What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?
    Answer: I like books with a strong voice. If you have a great voice, you can go almost anywhere with the plot and I’ll be interested. I also like interesting settings.

  1. For you, which elements in a fiction submission are terminal problems garnering automatic rejections and which are tempting and fixable meriting a look at a revision if a talented author is willing to accept your advice?
    1. Voice – very important, as I noted above. Probably my number 1 priority when I read a manuscript.
    2. Weak Grammar - easily fixable, but bad grammar often seems like a sign of laziness to me
    3. Common plot - this can be tweaked, but it needs to have a good basic plot for me to work from.
    4. Poor character development – very bad. I need great, well-rounded characters to stay hooked
    5. Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) – I like controversial elements if they have a purpose. I can’t stand them if they’re piled on top of each other just to be controversial
    6. Mediocre / uninspired writing – terrible. Hardest thing to fix, in my opinion.
    7. Excessive use of violence or cursing – I feel mixed. Again, if it has a purpose, I’m fine. Gratuitous violence or swearing seems lazy to me,
    8. Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building - not as big of a deal to me
    9. Pacing is off—plot is too slow - this can be worked on, definitely.
    10. Story starts in wrong spot – can be fixed through editing
    11. Ending is unsatisfactory – can be fixed through editing
    12. Other

  1. Does meeting an author face-to-face at a conference make a difference in your response time, the submission process, or the rejection process (ie. Form letter vs a few sentences of advice)?

Answer: It sometimes helps, but it can also hurt if the author is too pushy, which signals me that they might be difficult to work with. It’s nice to meet an author in person at some point in the editing process, though. A lot of work can get done in a short period of face to face time.

  1. Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Answer: I love to work with mystery writers who are already part of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, among other organizations, especially because it makes things easier when it comes to getting blurbs. It’s always important for authors to have a good social media presence by the time their book publishes as well. Facebook fan pages and Twitter followers are essential in building an author’s platform.

  1. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Misspellings in submissions. Just run a spell check! It’s not hard.

  1. What are you addicted to?

Answer: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and CW TV shows (which are all pretty bad, admittedly). I also love Project Runway, Veronica Mars, and Nip/Tuck.

  1. What have you always wanted to do?

Answer: I’d love to travel to new places. Ireland, Australia, and Thailand are on the top of my list.

  1. Do you have a favorite quote?

Answer: I don’t! I’ll work on that.