Friday, February 9, 2018

Interview with Jennifer March Soloway of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher,
represented by Andrea Brown Agency
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Jennifer March Soloway is an Associate Agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. The Andrea Brown Agency was founded in 1981 and has offices in the San Francisco Bay area, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The agency specializes in children’s literature.  
Jennifer represents books for young people, picture books through young adult, and also literary and commercial fiction for adults. Before joining the Andrea Brown Agency, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries, including financial services, health care, and toys. She has an MFA in creative writing from Mills College and was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two sons and an English bulldog.
You can follow Jennifer on Twitter here.

Jennifer agreed to be interviewed by Quick Brown Fox….

QBF: First, a big welcome to Quick Brown Fox...
Jennifer: Thank you!

QBF: What sort of books are you especially looking for?
Jennifer: I represent authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and young adult stories, and I am actively building my list. Although I specialize in children’s literature, I also represent adult fiction, both literary and commercial, particularly crime, suspense and psychological horror projects. (I like to be scared.)
For picture books, I am drawn to a wide range of stories from silly to sweet, but I always appreciate a strong dose of humor and some kind of surprise at the end. When it comes to middle grade, I like all kinds of genres, including adventures, mysteries, spooky-but-not-too-scary ghost stories, humor, realistic contemporary and fantasy.
Young adult is my sweet spot. I'm a suspense junkie. I adore action-packed thrillers full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance, and I'm hooked. I'm a sucker for conspiracy plots where anyone might be a double agent, even the kid next door. And I am a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined.
But as much as I love a good thriller, my favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. In such stories, I am particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative. But regardless of genre, I am actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature.
That’s my wish list, but the truth is an author might have something I have never considered before, and it might be absolutely perfect for me. I am open to any good story that is well written with a strong, authentic voice. Surprise me!

QBF: Is there anything you see too much of or that seems overdone these days?
Jennifer: Lately, I've been seeing a lot of submissions with dead protagonists.

Illustration by Aurore Damant,
represented by Jennifer March Soloway
QBF: On the children’s fiction side, do you represent the whole range: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult?
I represent the whole range of children's literature, except for chapter books. I am also not the right person for novels in verse. I have tremendous respect for poets and poetry, but it is not my editorial strength.

QBF: Can you tell us about your process when you’re considering a project. What grabs your attention when you’re reading a query letter?
Jennifer: I love a tight, well-crafted pitch with a strong hook, but for me, the most important aspect is the writing sample and execution of the story. I will often read the pages first and then read the query letter. 

QBF: How do you decide if a manuscript is worth considering?
Jennifer: Because our agency receives so many submissions, we don’t have that much time to spend on each one. We only get to see a small sample of the work, and we have to make a decision fast. Our submission guidelines ask for a query letter with a short pitch about the project and the first ten pages of a manuscript – or the complete text of a picture book.
Some are easy no’s. For example, if someone sends me a nonfiction proposal for an adult book about trickle-down economics, I'm going to pass. And some are easy yes’s. If I love the writing and voice right away, I’ll request a full.
For everything else, it’s not so easy. When I’ve been reading submissions for a long time, sometimes I get what I call query fatigue, and I lose perspective as to whether I like something or not. In those cases, I always err on the side of caution. If I see potential in something, but I’m not sure, I’ll mark it a “maybe.” I might go back to that project and read it several times to make sure I’m not missing something.

QBF: What makes you decide to represent a manuscript?
Traffick by Ellen Hopkins,
represented by Andrea Brown Agency
Jennifer: I am looking for something with potential, something I think I can sell. I want to read the story and have a vision for how the work could be elevated and polished. I also need to fall in love with the story, the writing, and the voice. 
For example, I reread the first ten pages of a client’s young adult manuscript at least three times before I finally requested it. Her writing is gorgeous at the line level, but the first ten pages were quiet. There was drama, but it felt subdued. Still, I knew something was there, and I requested the full. As soon as I got past the first ten pages, the story kicked into gear, and I was hooked.
I read the novel in two days and completely fell in love with the story and characters. Every time I put it down, I found myself trying to find a way to get back to the manuscript. Best of all, I could see what might help make those opening pages become more exciting and engaging, and I felt I could give her the kind of editorial that would elevate her work even more. I offered representation right away. 

QBF: Besides a great book, what else you look for in a client? For example, do you want your clients to have a strong social media presence?
Jennifer: I want a strong working relationship with my client with an open line of communication and trust. I want to click editorially and find someone willing to revise and polish their work, so we can put our best foot forward when we go on submission. Social media is less important to me. However, if they have a negative presence, that can be a red flag.

QBF: Can you tell us something about how you work with authors. What writing advice do you give most to your clients?
Jennifer: I tell writers to get feedback from a range of readers. Share your work with others. Listen to their suggestions. Try to find other people who can give you helpful, constructive feedback. Honestly, sometimes those people are difficult to find. Editorial feedback is an art, and it is often hard for others to communicate why something isn’t working. Listen to that feedback anyway. If they find something confusing but cannot articulate what or why, think about how you could clarify the piece.
Read other people’s drafts. You will recognize in their writing the same mistakes you are making but cannot see in your own work. Think about what might resolve the issues you see and how that writer might elevate his work. The same editorial suggestions might also help your projects.

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone,
represented by Andrea Brown Agency
QBF: What would you like writers to know about the publishing industry? Or what would you like writers to know about agents?
Jennifer: If you get feedback from an agent (or an editor or reader), consider what they are saying. Literature is so subjective, and what one person loves, another person might loathe. However, if you get the same feedback from more than two or three people, think about how you might address the issue they raise, and consider revising accordingly.
Take your time to revise. If you receive a revise and resubmit request, that means the agent or editor sees potential in your project but feels the draft needs more work. Trust me, they won’t ask you to revise and resubmit unless they like it.
If I like something, I ask for a revise and resubmit. When I do, I always give some kind of specific feedback. The same is true for those people I meet at a conference. If I give you a critique and ask you to send it to me, I want you to consider my suggestions and revise. That step is a test for both of us: I want to see if you can revise, and if my feedback inspires you to produce a better draft. And you get a sense of my editorial style and if I would be a good fit for you. Win, win, right?
Unfortunately, a lot of writers will rush the revision and send it back to me right away. When they do, it is such a huge disappointment. I’m really hoping they’ll take their time and send me something I can represent.
Please don’t whip out a quickie edit. You don’t want to squander the opportunity. I tell writers to take six or more months in order to do a deep, comprehensive edit before they resubmit. Take your time! Don’t worry if it feels like you’re taking forever. I want your next draft to be amazing, and I will wait for you!

QBF: What would you like to say to aspiring authors?
Jennifer: Writing is hard; publishing is even harder. If you get rejected, don't worry. It happens to all of us. There is a lot of rejection in this business at every level, and agents get rejected all the time too. It takes guts, thick skin, and sheer tenacity to keep going. Keep writing. Keep revising. Keep polishing your craft.
Most of all, celebrate and enjoy your victories, the large and the small. If you write a great scene, celebrate. If you find that perfect phrase, celebrate. If you think of a dynamite plot twist, celebrate. If you get an agent, celebrate. If you sell a book, celebrate. If a reader sends you fan mail, celebrate! And then keep writing. Good luck!

Query Jennifer at:
But first read the agencies submission directions here.

YA author Tanaz Bhathena
If you’re interested in and finding an agent or publisher (someday soon or down the road), don’t miss the How to Get Published workshops on Saturday, Feb 24, in Oakville with literary agent Martha Webb (see here) and on Saturday, March 3, in St. Catharines with HarperCollins editor Michelle Meade and author Hannah Mary McKinnon (see here).

If you’re interested in Kid Lit, be sure to register for the Writing for Children and for Young Adults mini-conference on Saturday, April 21, in Waterloo with literary agent Barbara Berson, Simon & Schuster editor Patricia Ocampo, and Young Adult author Tanaz Bhathena (see here) and Writing Kid Lit weekly class, Thursday evenings, April 18 – June 13, in Burlington which will feature guest authors Jennifer Mook-Sang and Kira Vermond (see here).

And don’t miss Writing and Revising on Saturday, Feb 10, in Guelph (see here), How to Write Great Dialogue, Sunday, Feb 11, in Windsor (see here), and Writing Your Life with guest Ross Pennie, on Saturday, March 10, in Toronto (see here).

The hottest ticket of the spring season, though, may be How to Write a Bestseller with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on Saturday, March 24, in Caledon at the Bolton Library (see here). ~ Contrary to rumour, there are still plenty of spaces for this workshop – but don’t hold off registering too long!

Brian also offers a full range of weekly writing classes, from introductory to intensive:
Exploring Creative Writing, Friday afternoons,  February 2 – March 23, in Toronto. See here.
Welcome to Creative Writing, Wednesday, afternoons, April 18 – June 13, in Burlington. See here
Writing Personal Stories, Friday afternoons, April 13 – June 8, in Toronto. See here.
Writing Kid Lit, Picture Books to Young Adult, Thursday evenings, April 12 – June 14, in Burlington. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Thursdays afternoons, April 12- June 14, at the Woodside Library in Oakville. Details here.
Intensive Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, April 10 – June 11, in Burlington. Details to come.
Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, April 11 – June 13, in Georgetown. Details to come.
Intensive Creative Writing, Friday mornings, April 6 – June 15, in Toronto. Details to come.

For more details or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email

Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here,  including writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Navigation tips: Always check out the labels underneath a post; they’ll lead you to various distinct collections of postings. Also, if you're searching for a literary agent who represents a particular type of book, check out this post.

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