Friday, December 28, 2012

Interview with Agents Marisa Cleveland and Nicole Resciniti

The YA agent highlight this time is an interview with Marisa Cleveland and Nicole Resciniti from The Seymour Agency. They were gracious enough to spend their time during the holiday season talking with me, and they have some fantastic and insightful answers to my questions.

How long have you been agenting, and what led you to being an agent?

Nicole: I’ve been agenting less than two years. I had interned with Mary Sue Seymour and she gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, in becoming an agent. I. Love. My. Job.

Marisa: After interning for a year, Mary Sue and Nicole offered me my dream job - representing authors of middle grade and young adult fiction. As a recovering teacher, I promote literacy development in the classroom, and partnering to put books in the hands of young readers is beyond thrilling.

I always love seeing how passionate book people are about their jobs, and it sounds like you ladies are no exception. Besides having written a book you love, what makes you know a particular author is someone you just have to represent?

Nicole: We talk before signing. It is about developing a relationship. The author I work with has to trust me, and I want to know that they are equally invested. I sign a lot of clients with the understanding that we’ll edit a book a couple of times prior to submission, I like to know that the author is willing to do that work. Authors that have career goals and who are dedicated to their craft are the types of authors I LOVE to work with. Every client I have is smart, ridiculously hard working, creative, and in this biz for the long haul. I adore each of them and feel blessed to be able to play a small part in their success.

Marisa: The clients I have offered to rep all have one thing in common - amazing voices! So much about this business is able to be learned from workshops, conferences, mentors, etc. An author's voice is the most unique quality that will shine even after a hundred thousand words, and though I do believe voice can be "revised" to fit a certain persona, if I read and love a manuscript based on voice, I know that person is someone I could "listen to" day after day, book after book, year after year.

This sounds like something that goes both ways! I’ve heard from so many authors that having a personal connection with their agent makes a huge difference in being able to trust the agent’s judgment.

What are you tired of seeing submitted right now? What would you love to see land in your inbox?

Nicole: YA Paranormal/Supernatural/etc. is getting to be a bit of a downer. There are tons of it already on the shelves and it seems like all my queries have a paranormal element of some kind attached to them. The really great projects still stand out, but the majority start to sound like the same premise after a while. I’d love to find some contemporary YA or NA, something with a coming-of-age/coming-to-terms type plot, with a strong romance element.

For adult fiction, I’d love to see more romance. Any genre of romance. A strong voice is what will always grab me.

Marisa: My inbox is at the tipping point of riotous right now. I started accepting slush submissions one month ago, but I've been quietly recruiting projects from other venues. I'd love to see a middle grade adventure or a contemporary YA.

Well, with both of you actively looking for YA contemporary, perhaps one of our YA Stands readers will have something you’ll love. Be sure to check their query guidelines, readers! Nicole, it’s great to see you looking for NA, too!

What are three things you love, and one thing you can’t stand? (Hobbies, favorite TV shows, professional interests, etc).

Nicole: Good friends, good food, good weather. I’m simple. I love my husband. I don't know what I would do without his support. I can’t stand mean people.

Marisa: Nicole stole my answer! *pouts, grins, and steals her wine* Three things I love... my husband, our families, and my friends. One thing I can't stand... I can't stand ignorance.

My own answers to that question would be very similar to yours. A good red wine on a sunny afternoon is hard to beat. Marisa- you’re an author as well, correct? How does this affect your perspective as an agent?

Marisa: I write about relationships through contemporary adult romances, and while everyone's journey is different, some truths remain the same. The waiting is difficult. Rejection hurts. Jealousy and guilt suck. I now regard every situation and the relative importance through my own journey, whether accurate or incorrect. Because of this, I always reply to my clients within two business days (unless I'm on vacation), even if it's just a quick note to let them know I received their message. That's important to me, because I send stuff into cyberspace and am relieved when I receive confirmation of receipt.

That’s so true, Marisa. Getting a reply of some kind does wonders for reducing anxiety. I’m sure I speak for most (and probably all) writers when I say thank you for dedicating the time to doing that.

Nicole- The ACFW named you as the 2012 Agent of the Year, correct? Can you talk about what makes you a successful agent?

Nicole: I am totally humbled and still amazed that I won that award. I’d like to thank Mary Sue Seymour and my oh-so-brilliant author Amanda Flower for that. I don’t know how to address what it means to be a successful agent, but I guess for me, it’s always being accessible to my authors, and refusing to give up. When I believe in someone, come hell or high water, I will find a way to make their dream come true.

I’m sure “successful” varies in its definition from person to person, but being so determined is almost certainly a common factor! Tell me about one work you’ve recently signed or sold. What made that project something you just had to have?

Nicole: In the last month, I’ve sold several projects. The most recent ones include:
--Amanda Flower’s middle grade mystery series from Zondervan, ANDI UNEXPECTED
--Lorie Langdon's & Carey Corps' YA Fantasy series DOON, also from Zondervan (Sept. 2013)
--Macy Beckett’s funny, sexy N’awlins set contemporary romance series featuring the Romain brothers, from Penguin, (Fall 2013)
--Cole Gibsen’s YA INCUCHEN, a kick-ass follow-up to her Katana series, from Flux (2013)
--Lauren Layne’s second contemporary romance series, AFTER THE KISS, which kicks off her Sex, Love & Stiletto series, to Loveswept
--Kim Falconer’s BLOOD & WATER novella, which introduces the Mar—a vampiric race that rises from the oceans’ depths to lure humans to immortality—or death—alongside Kerrelyn Sparks, Pamela Palmer and Amanda Arista.

I love all of these projects.

That’s something that I would say often makes the difference between whether I sign something or not. For me, I have to LOVE it. I have to wholeheartedly believe that it is commercial and marketable, that I can sell it. It has to be a book I absolutely adore. Every author I represent gives me this feeling. I can’t emphasize enough how lucky I am to work with so many talented people.

Marisa: Nicole inspires me every day! Her advice and brilliance help shape me as an agent, and her love for her projects and her authors guided me in my own search for talented authors. Currently, I have four clients, but I have two with submission-ready projects.

- Colleen McCarty-Gould queried me with a middle grade mystery. It had the right everything, and I knew I had to represent her and her work. After chatting on the phone, I realized her vision for her series matched my own, and it's been an absolute pleasure working with her.

- Tamara Mataya hosted a pitch-fest, and I fully blame her for the bags under my eyes. While deeply debating another project, I opened her manuscript - just to take a peek. Three hours later, I knew I had to sign her.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Nicole: Keep writing. No matter what, just keep writing. Rejection is something we deal with every day (and as agents, we get hit with more rejections than anybody else, lol). But never give up. If you believe in yourself, you will succeed.

Marisa: Take time to enjoy the journey. Every author's writing journey is singular to that writer. Enjoy getting there, because there will always be someone ahead and someone behind. Oh, and wear sunscreen.

Fabulous advice. Thank you so much for your time, ladies. It’s been a pleasure hearing your responses. To both of you and our readers, Merry Christmas, and have a wonderful new year!


  1. I may be a bit biased (since I work for the Seymour Agency, work as Marisa's intern, and am signing on as Nicole's client!!!!) but this agency is first rate, baby! Marisa and Nicole work HARD. They have amazing relationships with their authors and are passionate about what they do. If you are in the query trenches, I highly recommend this top notch group of ladies!

  2. Great interview (especially the shoutout to my beloved Tamara Mataya!), and ALWAYS glad to hear about agents on the lookout for contemporary YA!!

  3. Loved the interview. And double yay for contemporary.

  4. I second Tonya. Nicole and Marisa are the best!!

  5. Marisa is the best, and I knew she was the one for me even before we spoke on the phone!

    I had bags under my eyes from Pitchmas too - I'd never worked a sub window, or held a contest before. SCARY! But if not for it, we wouldn't have found each other.

    ~Feaky Snucker AKA Tamara Mataya