Today I'm happy to welcome associate agent Sara D'Emic of Talcott Notch Literary Services. She has some insightful and informative answers to my questions, and according to the Talcott Notch website, she's looking for adult and YA fantasy, horror, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, science fiction, mystery, thriller, or crime fiction. She will also gladly take non-fiction science and technology.
How long have you been agenting, and what led you to being an agent?
I've only been agenting since last May (2012), so I'm quite new. Talcott Notch was looking for a new associate and I got the link to their website from an editor at Last Light Studio, where I was interning. A friend of mine was interning with an agent in Boston so I was somewhat familiar with what the job entails. Creative writing has always been a passion of mine. I wanted to be in the side of publishing that works with authors directly.
Besides having written a book you love, what makes you know an author is someone you just have to represent?
A few factors. If what I love about the book jives with what the author was going for then we're a good fit. I might love the moral ambiguity of a character only to find out that the author didn't intend any ambiguity and wanted the character to represent a moral absolute. So there's a dissonance in how we interpret the work.
What are you tired of seeing submitted right now? What would you love to see land in your inbox?
I'm tired of derivative fantasy/scifi/paranormal. Not just those that follow recent trends, but those with character and premises we've seen a million times before. For example, a fantasy query will have a unique magical conceit but then the plot is the standard chosen one vs. evil guy. Replacing the vampires and werewolves in Twilight with unicorns and centaurs doesn't make the idea fresh.
I'm looking for a strong fantasy, horror, or mystery in particular. I'd love to see something with an unforgettable plot. I want to be so involved that I don't realize I've skipped lunch to finish it.
What are three things you love, and one thing you can’t stand? (Hobbies, favorite TV shows, professional interests, etc)
I love hiking, Italian food, and the show Venture Brothers. Even though I just used it as an example, I can't stand Twilight. I have a long time beef with it.
What’s the most surprising thing about the publishing industry to you?
Hm... How not cynical people are. In college, studying and writing literary fiction, the common perception was that most published books are shlock because publishers are just in it for the money. Yes, it's a business, money is important. But I haven't met anyone who's philosophy is "let's find the lowest common denominator of culture and pander to it." Agents and publishers are looking for genuinely good books. Plus, genre fiction gets a bad rap.
What’s one thing you wish writers knew about signing with an agent?
That the agent-writer relationship is a partnership. Signing with an agent isn't a 100% guarantee you'll get your dream deal, and you have to have a lot of patience. But writers shouldn't treat agents like queens-- you should be communicating about what's happening with your manuscript. And just because you get an offer doesn't necessarily mean you should sign.
Tell me about one work you’ve recently signed or sold. What made that project something you just had to have?
I signed a New Adult scifi. I fell in love with the world and the themes the author brings to the table. It's dystopian but atypical in that rather than an oppressive government there's a harsh environment that makes basic survival difficult. The main characters are leaders and they worry if they're doing the right thing. The focus is on responsibility and how these people make decisions when the stakes are high and one choice isn't clearly better. For New Adult to distinguish itself from YA (aside from having more sex) it needs to show what happens when you really become an adult. Teenagers rebel against authority but when you become the authority it's scary.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Take your time with editing, especially when it comes to the story as opposed to just the writing. Whenever I ask for revisions from clients I beg them not to rush it, or to revise based solely on my notes. I'm always looking for exceptional characters and plots, but those are hard to come up with, hard to craft. There's no formula. Don't settle on a good idea, tweak it until it's fantastic.
Thank you so much for joining us, Sara! It's been a pleasure interviewing you. Readers, be sure to follow Sara and check out Talcott Notch at the links below.