Friday, November 18, 2011

Interview with (MY) agent, RACHAEL DUGAS

Hip, Hip, HOORAY!
I am so excited for this second installment of the THREE AGENTS WHO CHANGED MY LIFE mini-blog series.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to MY amazing agent, Rachael Dugas of Talcott Notch Literary Services. (I do not have a head shot of Rachael, but imagine a dainty brunette with sparkly eyes and a giggle that rivals a Disney princess and you've got her).

For all of you agented readers, you how amazing it feels when someone other than your mother thinks your book is awesome. (Let's face it--your mom is still impressed that you can read an entire book, let alone write one). And for all of you soon-to-be agented folks, hang in there. Every painful rejection becomes a distant memory when you get THE CALL from THE AGENT who loves your book as much as you do. At least that's how it worked for me.

Now, on to the interview...

RR: How long have you been agenting, and what made you decide to pursue it?
RD: I have been an agent for about 5 months now. Publishing seemed like an interesting way to use my English degree and I love the idea of being a part of the process that brings amazing new material to the shelves. I previously held a long editorial internship, which was my first hands-on experience in the industry, and I enjoyed it greatly. When I was presented with this opportunity, I was excited to explore the agent side of the industry. I love having the chance to discover new material and to advocate for authors/manuscripts I really believe in.

RR: What genres do you represent?

RD: Currently, my authors fall under the categories of YA, MG, romance, women's fiction,
and cookbooks. I try to keep an open mind and give any great manuscript a chance, regardless of the genre. However, I will admit that you will probably have a difficult time winning me over with Sci-Fi/Fantasy-this is more due to my relative ignorance than lack of interest.

RR: When does a query have the "wow" factor?

RD: A query that is well-written, clear, and that captures the tone and feel of the story perfectly will always make an impression upon me. Of course, a really phenomenal idea can also generate that "wow" factor regardless.

RR: What should authors avoid in their query letters?

RD: First and foremost, really proofread your query letter before you send it. If you have awkward sentence construction and multiple typos, we will fail to be convinced that you can actually write. Additionally, while politeness will get you far, over-obsequiousness can be a turn-off. Just generally, be specific and describe your story. If something sounds too generic, I'm not likely to request anything more. To give a more specific example of something to avoid, I would highly recommend that you don't write from the perspective of your character. You might think it's creative, but we know the author is writing the query, not the character, and, more often than not, it comes across as odd, not interesting. I find it's especially strange when this sort of letter is written from an animal's perspective-and we've received more than one of those during my tenure here!

RR: Do you see any specific trends in the market right now?
RD: It's hard to say. One thing I can say with relative certainty is that it seems that paranormal is past its prime, especially vampires/werewolves/shifters. I've seen several books about the Amish recently, which surprised me, both in YA and adult fiction, but I'd categorize that as more of a mini-trend. Certainly, in YA, dark is name of the game, both in the fantastic and realistic universes.

RR: What's on your wish list?

RD: I would love a really amazing memoir-that is a genre I really enjoy but do not currently represent. I would also love a really smart, well-written commercial adult fiction novel or a really phenomenal women's fiction that relates to cooking. It's kind of been done, at this point, and I've read a couple that were ok, but if I found one that really blew me away, I'd love to give it a go.

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

RD: Reading for pleasure? What's that?
Oh, yes, I remember those days!
I don't really have much time to read "for fun" lately, but, when I do, I tend to return to some of my all-time favorites, like The Bell Jar, Little Women, anything by David Sedaris, food memoirs like Julia Child's My Life in France and anything by Ruth Reichl or Jeffrey Steingarten, A.S. Byatt, John Connolly, etc. I also read a lot of cookbooks. The book that I am dying to get my hands on right now is the finale to Gregory Maguire's "Wicked years", Out of Oz.

RR: What is the typical day like in the life of an agent?
RD: It really varies. Most days, I start by checking my email for correspondences with clients,
agents, and authors I am considering working with. Next, I usually catch up on any partials that are sitting in my inbox. From there, I might do some research for my clients, do some general market research, work on a query letter, or read some of the manuscripts in my ever-increasing queue.

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

RR: What is your favorite word?

RD: Catalyst, scintillating, salacious, quintessential, brouhaha

RR: What is your least favorite word?

RD: Moist
(Rookie side note: AGREED! Moist is nearly as bad as "drip")

RR: What sound or noise do you love?

RD: The sound of autumn leaves crunching beneath my feet, especially when I'm out walking my dog and she's crunching them under her little paws too!

RR: What sound or noise do you hate?

RD: Nails on a blackboard or any kind of scraping noise, fire alarms, loud sirens, exploding guns/cannons… anything jarring really.

RR: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

RD: Food Network star or Broadway actress

RR: What profession would you not like to do?
RD: Anything with numbers or anything uber dirty or physical. I'm not exactly an outdoorsy sort of girl!

Wow--great interview, Rachael! Thanks for your candid answers and the behind-the-scenes look at life as an agent, though you neglected to mention pacifying neurotic clients in your daily activities. Hee.

Rachael is currently open to submissions. You can find the query guidelines on the agency's website.

*One last thing: Because we are nearing the day of thanks, I'd like to say how incredibly thankful I am to have Rachael in my life. She's patient, helpful, supportive, understanding and vigilant not only in her efforts to get my book on the shelves, but to help me become the best writer I can be. Thank you, Rachael!