Sunday, October 30, 2011

Interview with agent Nicole Resciniti

I don't really believe in luck, nor do I hold much stock in coincidences. I'm one of those old school, faithful types who believes everything happens for a reason. This includes the divine placement of people I've met--more specifically the people I've met on my journey to becoming a writer.

From a herd of the most creative, talented writers on the blogosphere, to other hopeful authors looking to connect, to a best friend who gets me like no one else can (and loves me anyway), I've been showered with encouragement, support and love from folks who two years ago didn't exist to me.

But the blessings don't end there. Along this awesome (read: frustrating/exhausting/exhilarating) road, I've also come to know three amazing and generous ladies who have truly changed my life as a writer. And get this...THEY'RE ALL AGENTS!! (Crazy, right?! They're NOT the dream-crushing trolls we thought they were.)

Today I'd like to introduce you to the first of these amazing women. Please welcome to the Rookie Riter stage, the stupendous Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour Agency. *applause, applause, applause* Settle down everyone, as we jump in with the questions:

How long have you been agenting, and what made you decide to pursue it?

NR: I began officially acquiring clients about nine months ago, after receiving my accreditation from AAR.
Mary Sue Seymour offered me the opportunity and after studying her techniques, I thought this was a career I could excel at. I fell in love with this side of the publishing business because it is forever changing and it allows me the flexibility to read and champion an assortment of projects.

RR: What genres do you represent?

NR: Everything with the exception of erotica and poetry. We’re really selective about nonfiction—authors need to have a strong platform. I’m particularly interested in romance and sci-fi/fantasy/UF.

RR: When does a query have the “wow” factor?

NR: Let’s face it, queries are brutal. Take a 100k word book and summarize all its greatness and grandeur in a one-page letter? Plus convey how you, the author, are equally amazing?

The “wow” factor for me comes when the query resembles a book blurb—of a book I’d want to buy.

RR: What should authors avoid in their query letters

NR: Queries are tough, but by adhering to some simple guidelines, any author can entice an author/agent.

Keep it short. Include the vital information: genre, word count, logline/hook, and a concise summary (the kind you’d find on the back cover of a published novel).

There are a few things I would advise an author to “leave out” of their query. Any variations of the following are probably ill-advised:

--“I spent ___ years writing this book.” You’re trying to convey your passion and dedication to this project by disclosing the numerous years you’ve toiled over your novel, but an agent/editor takes away something entirely different, namely, “this person may not be a ‘career’ author.” Many editors will offer for more than one book, and agents want to know their authors can deliver.

--“This is my first book.” When an author writes this in a query, it may suggest that this isn’t their strongest work. Yes, some authors sit down and write bestselling work straight out of the gate, but most authors do not. Most toil and labor and have one (or several) “practice” novels stashed away in a drawer or on a hard drive somewhere, because these beginner books were the projects they learned on. Writing is a craft that develops and improves with time.

--“My mother/spouse/sibling/BFF read this and loves it.” Well, of course they do. That’s what friends and family are for. Editors and readers are much harsher critics. On the flip side, listing your affiliations with writer’s groups, previous publications, and/or contest awards will tell an editor/agent that you’ve done your homework.

--“I’m the next ________(insert NYT Bestseller’s name).” If you really feel it imperative to make this kind of statement then ‘in the vein of’ or ‘fans of’ a certain bestselling author may be a safer way to convey the same idea. Comparisons can help, but it’s usually better to be yourself, to find your own voice and style.

-- No white space. If you’ve filled virtually every line on the page, chances are you’ve said too much. Keep the exposition tight.

RR: Do you see any specific trends in the market right now? (Read: Is paranormal still the cat’s pajamas?)

NR: Dark paranormals still sell, and the darker, the better. By the time most trends are identified they’ve usually passed. I don’t worry about trends for a few reasons. First, writing is cyclical. Something that was once popular may be not be in high demand, but the market will eventually swing back to it. Another reason is because it all boils down to the writing. If the book is spectacular enough, it won’t matter.

RR: What’s on your wish list?

NR: Ooh, my tastes vary, but I can never resist a good romance. Or a thoughtful mystery. I’d really like to find more sci-fi/fantasy. Crossover YA is always high on my wish list.

It all comes down to voice—your voice, Bethany, is spectacular by the way. *blushed when I read this* Regardless of the genre, if the voice is very strong and distinct, I will seek to work with that author.

RR: What are you reading right now? (for pleasure)

NR: Janet Evanovitch’s latest Stephanie Plum novel, Explosive Eighteen.

RR: What is the typical day like in the life of an agent?

NR: Check email (usually from phone before I even get out of bed). Reply to emails, read queries. Client manuscripts/edits/marketing/contracts take up the majority of the day. I may work with a client on a manuscript several times before it’s ready for submission. Editing is a big part of the job.

I correspond with editors to follow-up on submissions and to pitch new projects. I browse PM to see what’s selling and who’s buying. I do lunches or drinks (yum) whenever possible to pitch a client’s work face-to-face. I LOVE the projects I represent, and it’s really important to convey that enthusiasm to an editor. The remainder of my day is spent reading requested partials and complete manuscripts.

And just for fun, a few of my favorite James Lipton questions:

RR: What is your favorite word?

NR: Audacity. (Do I want to see it used in books I read? No, not necessarily. But I DO like bold writers.) *Commentary from the host: I squeed out loud when I read this. Audacity is also my favorite word*

RR: What is your least favorite word?

NR: Looked. (It’s the most common repeat word I come across in the manuscripts I read. Instead of “looking” at something, SHOW what is seen.)

RR: What sound or noise do you love?

NR: Cicadas. Hands-down. It is the sound of summer.

RR: What sound or noise do you hate?

NR: My alarm clock. It’s evil. I wake-up before the alarm just to avoid the blaring beeps.

RR: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Dive instructor. I love scuba.

Wow!! If this interview doesn't earn me an Emmy...

Thank you, Nicole, for your thoughtful and helpful answers. I'm sure your inbox will be overflowing now. Sorry...

Nicole is currently accepting queries and can be reached via the guidelines posted on the agency's website.

(Any of you interested in the specifics of why I love this gal so much--feel free to email me and I'll share. I won't embarrass her publicly with all my praise.)

Please visit again, as I'll be posting interviews with my other "life-changing" agents in the near future.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Don't Skip on the Deets, Bra!

Viva Kleenex band paper towels with festive prints (prints are optional, though highly recommended)
Tropicana Trop50 Blueberry Pomegranate Juice

Labrador Retrievers

Predictable chick-flicks, coming of age tales (usually including a dance-off or ridiculous, far-fetched duel) and anything including Bradley Cooper
I could have just said; paper towels, juice, dogs and movies, but instead I gave you specifics about the things I like because that makes getting to know me a lot more interesting, right?! (Your first instinct will be to say "no, that just proves you're a picky, pain in the ass," but for the sake of the blog--just agree). Exactly. And I'm no different than the characters you're writing (Minus the hair. Nobody is brave enough to write about hair like mine).
For example, is reading about a girl who is having a snack while watching TV interesting? UH, NO! Is reading about a girl who is stuffing her face with chips and peach mango salsa while watching a rerun of The Love Boat interesting? WHY YES, YES IT IS!
It's the tiny little details that make our characters relatable, detestable or down right desirable.

If your main character has a strange obsession with David Cassidy, let us know! Though many of us will think he/she has a tiny, old man fetish, there will be a handful of late thirty-somethings who can totally relate.

If the bum on the corner is holding a hand-written sign, tell us what it says! We need to know whose working for beer and who isn't.

If your token rich bitch had plastic surgery, we need to know the cup size, how much she paid, and exact measurements of the misaligned nips.

Details make your characters come to life. Your readers want them and your book needs them.

Take short-cuts when you need to, but never, ever skimp on the details!