Saturday, February 8, 2014

Interview with Stephanie Evans, President of Fine Print Literary Agency

Stephanie Evans, President of Fine Print Literary & final judge for the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category of The Sandy.
Stephany Evans is President of FinePrint Literary Management in New York City.  She represents a wide range of primarily women's fiction, from literary to commercial, to many sub-genres of romance, mysteries - from cozy to mainstream - and suspense.
Some of her best-known fiction projects include Emily Giffin’s SOMETHING BORROWED, Molly Harper’s NICE GIRLS DON’T HAVE FANGS series, Sherri Browning Erwin’s JANE SLAYRE, and Rebecca Coleman’s THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD, Leslie Tentler’s Chasing Evil series (MIDNIGHT CALLER), Jenny Bentley’s NYT-bestselling FATAL FIXER UPPER DIY series, Waverly Curtis’s Barking Detective series (DIAL “C” FOR CHIHUAHUA), Susan M. Boyer’s Liz Talbot mysteries (including USA Today-bestselling Agatha and Daphne Du Maurier winner LOWCOUNTRY BOIL).
She’s always on the hunt for a fresh voice and strong, accomplished writing – make it smart, steamy, edgy, tough, funny, dark – or any combination of these. 

1. Which categories do you currently acquire/ represent?  Which category has a special/constant place in your heart?
                        Answer: Currently I represent virtually every type of fiction that targets a female readership – literary, commercial, “book club”, and romance of nearly every sub-genre. I also represent mysteries – both cozy and mainstream.  I always love a good, solid contemporary romance and am also a sucker for scary/hot romantic suspense. What I love is an emotional story that moves me – whether funny, scary, sexy – make me laugh, make my heart race, turn me on.  

2. What length synopsis do you prefer to see with a partial?  Single spaced or double?
Answer: I’m not a fan of the long synopsis. Usually when I ask for one it’s because I know editors will want that. Personally I prefer just a paragraph or so – about the length you’d find in a query letter – giving me the main idea about who the protagonist or hero/heroine is and the broad strokes of the plot. Enough to let me gauge whether this is potentially a story I’ll be interested in. I DO want to know how the story ends, however. Single spaced is fine.

3. 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 respond to the “sick to death” question. The good thing about queries is that you can just say ‘no thank you’ and not invite the truly terrible into your reading queue so hopefully you never get sick to death of anything. For the other part of the question I’d just have to fall back on what I’ve already said above about the kinds of books I represent. More of that. With a fresh spin. More awesome.
4.  What are the most compelling elements you feel are necessary for a good 
 read?   What particularly grabs your attention?


Answer: I love a sureness in the writing that makes me feel I’m in such capable hands I can lay down my red pen and just give myself over to the story. I love a character who surprises me, not by being overtly “different” but by having a layered and believable personality and way of taking in their world. I want meaningful conflict, that can really make me care about the outcome.

5. For you, in general, 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.                    Voice (very important; lack of distinctive voice can be fatal)
b.                   Weak Grammar (to a degree this is fixable, but too many problems can lead to “no.”)
c.                    Common plot  (there may be suggestions I can make to help this problem if I like other elements enough to invest in the author/her project)
d.                   Poor character development  (a problem, but sometimes fixable, depending on author’s receptivity and skill)
e.                    Story is too controversial (ie rape, politics, religion—what else?) (case by case – I usually can’t make a general comment about subject matter. That said, I do not want to read child molestation.)
f.                    Mediocre / uninspired writing (pretty fatal – what’s the point?)
g.                    Excessive use of violence or cursing (Not a favorite, but this would have to be case by case judgment)
h.                   Lacking genre –specific requirements like, suspense/sexual tension/ world-building (possibly fixable, but could be fatal)
i.                     Pacing is off—plot is too slow (possibly fixable, but could be fatal)
j.                     Story starts in wrong spot (possibly fixable, depending on author’s receptivity to advice)
k.                   Ending is unsatisfactory (possibly fixable)
l.                     Other – I’d just say that most of the above don’t occur in the absence of others of the above, i.e., often when a manuscript has one problem it has more than one. In instances where I’ve indicated that a problem could be fixable, the will must be there on both sides, and for me to be willing to make suggestions I need to feel very strongly about other story/writing elements, as well as strongly about the author. There is just no time to spare these days so what we have is parceled out extremely discreetly. I don’t always know exactly why something or someone has moved me to roll up my sleeves, but there’s always a reason or two.

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: I try to personalize a reply to someone I’ve met, but this can be just a matter of saying that it was a pleasure to have met. Sometimes those meetings were a matter of just a few minutes while the author pitched her story at a conference. Unfortunately, it can’t always affect the response time (just as having met an agent does not always affect the author’s response time – I may see submissions from pitches months or even longer after I’m pitched!). But if I’ve requested something, whether I’ve met the author or not, I do try to say something more than “this just wasn’t for me after all.”

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: All of the above. And patience – which we all wish we didn’t need and hope we won’t need too much of. But publishing has a lot of moving pieces and involves a lot of people so queues and triaging are endemic. I’m also looking for a level of energy – an author who really “wants it,” and is self-motivated, will take direction and go beyond that on her own behalf. And a wonderful writer with an abundant supply of ideas is pretty great to work with.  
8. Do you have any pet peeves?

Answer: Not at this time. Ask me tomorrow.

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