Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Natalie Fischer

Empty Refrigerator asks, I deliver. Picture book writers (and everybody else, too), I give you my interview with Natalie Fischer of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Get ready to add another agent to your list:)

KV: In your interview with Teens Writing for Teens, you mentioned you started writing when you were eleven. What did/do you write?

NF: I wrote YA fantasy (although now, it would probably filter into the MG Fantasy realm) mostly, although I had a huge pile of ideas that never got finished in every genre. I also tried my hand at a few adult romance novels, which resulted in my first and second (and current) agent. Yes, I do actually still have a wonderful agent, though I haven’t finished anything in years! Someday perhaps…although as I’ve said before, I’m so involved in my clients’ work, I haven’t had that writing itch in a while!

KV: How did you get into agenting?

NF: By interning. I started interning at the Dijkstra Agency when I was a Sophomore in college, and then left to intern at a newspaper my senior year. I’d just managed to rise into a freelance position at the newspaper (THE SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE), when I learned of an opening back at the Dijkstra Agency. My position involves sorting through all the slush and doing first reads, and so it wasn’t long before I found a manuscript that I loved, and started building my own list!

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

NF: Hard work, perseverance, an open mind (particularly in regards to revisions), and trust--on both ends. I expect any client I take on to be in it for the long haul, regardless of what happens with their first book. Our motto here is “Make It Happen,” and if I’m putting my time and effort into a project, I would hope my client has the faith that I WILL make it happen! Enthusiasm and passion are key. I suppose my personal philosophy is to do as much as I can, both for my clients, and for those that seek my help.
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

NF: My published authors include Roseanne Thong, who writes fun, fanciful and entertaining picture books, and Harry Bernstein, who writes historical memoirs (he’s going to be 100 this year!). I’ve been assisting sales here at the agency for the past three years, though only recently (September 2009) started building my own list. As a newer agent, I have more time and energy to devote to my wonderful clients, which is great!

What draws me to a writer is a hard-working, open and positive attitude; what draws me to projects is hard to say. A lot of the recent projects I’ve been taking on have had fantastical, engaging and sexy plots…I love “beautiful dark” novels.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

NF: I specialize in commercial fiction. Currently I’m looking for fresh, unique projects in children’s literature (from picture book-YA/Teen), romance (contemporary and historical), historical fiction, multicultural fiction, paranormal/fantasy, select memoir (has to be REALLY unique), fairy-tale/legend spin-offs...and that amazing project I never even knew I was looking for!

What I will NOT represent are novels geared for the Christian market, ABC books, “boy” books (something specifically geared toward boys, such as sports books, gross bug books), non-fiction history books, TWILIGHT/HARRY POTTER spin-offs, epistolary novels (or any really niche books).

KV: Are you interested in picture book writers who AREN'T illustrators?

NF: Yes, actually, I am; my only picture book clients are NOT illustrators, in fact! I usually find that it’s extremely rare to find someone who can do both so beautifully, and royalty splits are something we deal with quite frequently, so no worries!
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

NF: Don’t use those padded envelopes with the recycled paper stuffing; it’s like opening a stuffy attic, and makes me want to vacuum myself AND my floor AND my desk (which I’ve totally done)!

Use my name; let me know that you really PICKED me to query, and didn’t just have me on a list of 200 other agents. Send the FIRST pages of your book; don’t start at ch. 33 because you think it’s the best one. A lot of common query pitfalls are so easily avoided by just following guidelines…check out the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency Facebook page for more on this!

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

NF: Good grammar, engaging writing. Something that, if it catches my interest, I can spend time on developing the plot/content rather than fixing the typos. Something sexy. And fun.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?

NF: By regular mail, first 50 pages and a synopsis. Our guidelines are at Mention this interview; mention anything you can that tells me you’ve read up on me and know what I’m looking for. Mention if you’ve been recommended to me. Our policy is not to respond to queries we aren’t interested in, but I’ll ALWAYS respond to a recommendation (there are several authors from TWFT whose work I’ve seen that I would count as a recommendation…).

Thank you, Ms. Fischer, for these insightful responses. And good luck to everyone who decides to query her--I have a feeling that's going to be quite a few of you:)

P.S. Still looking for any feedback and/or suggestions you might have about these interviews. And see that question up there about picture book writers who aren't illustrators? Yep, that wasn't my idea; it was Myrna's.


Brandy said...

Great interview. I have already queried her, and this reinforces my positive opinion of her. Thanks again.

KLM said...

I'm a mother and I write. No, wait, I'm a mutha and I write. I guess that's slightly different. :)

Thanks for doing the interview, Krista. I'm off to query Natalie now. I'll be sending you chocolates if she requests a ms. Cheers, Kristen

Liesl said...

She was already on the list. Now she has a little star next to her name.

Kelly Bryson said...

Yeah! Another agent on the short list. Thanks for making getting to know agents a tiny bit easier. -Kelly

bclement412 said...

Fantastic interview! If only she took equeries though...

Myrna Foster said...

Thank you for asking my question, Krista! What a lovely response! I agree with Ms. Fischer, but there are exceptions, like Mo Willems and Kevin Henkes.

Libbie said...

I feel extremely lucky to be represented by Natalie. I can attest that she is a hard worker who puts a lot of time and thought into her clients' books. Her feedback has made my book immeasurably better. Thanks, Natalie! Best agent ever!

Candy said...

Thanks, Krista, for the great interview. She sounds wonderful--I'm going to query her right away. I'll have to let you know how it goes!

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

All right, I'm back!

KLM and Candy, good luck with those queries. Consider yourselves sprinkled with happy pixie dust:)

Libbie, thanks for stopping by and adding your endorsement. No compliment to an agent should be taken more seriously than that given by a client.

And everyone else, I'm glad you're enjoying these interviews. And never fear - there are still more in the pipeline:)