Thursday, May 6, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Amy Boggs

So excited about today’s interview, which features Amy Boggs of Donald Maass Literary Agency. She's the new kid on the block over at DMLA--and the newest addition to my own to-query list. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

AB: I suppose the story really starts in high school, where I was editor of my school's literary magazine. The staff had thousands of submissions to read through, discuss, edit, and put together; it was not uncommon for us to come in on Saturdays. And I absolutely loved it. My sophomore year of college, I found an ad in the Career Development Office's newsletter about interning at the Beth Vesel Literary Agency. I had a vague idea of what agents did by that point (I knew fairly early that I wanted to go into publishing), so I thought it would be a great opportunity. I fell in love with the work, and a year after graduation, I found an ad on craigslist for an internship at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. I already knew their reputation for representing exactly the kind of work I loved to read, so I jumped at the chance. Lucky for me, I was hired as an intern, and then as an assistant. Now I'm an associate agent working on building my client list and loving (mostly) every minute of it.

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

AB: To borrow from Don's philosophy, good books sell themselves. I like to work with authors on an editorial level, sometimes before representation, to make the book shine. This doesn't mean good books always sell right away, but with persistence and an open editorial mind, great things can happen.

I like comparing the query process to dating, and the best advice for long-term relationships applies to what I want in an agent-author relationship: Communication.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

AB: I'm such a new agent that I've only just sold my first work, so it's not coming out "soon" so much as "in a year" (with the next two in the series following pretty close on its heels). But I'm extremely excited about it. Here's the Pub Market blurb: "Teddy Harrison's DRAGON LORD OF NEW YORK, about a half-wyr bartender who is blackmailed into stealing from a multi-billion dollar business dragon, who she then must trust in order to survive both the dragon's nemesis and the complex social politics of his corporate empire. (Berkley)"

I have to admit, I'm not what you would call a die-hard romance fan. Nothing against the genre, but I never felt a need to read it. Teddy's book changed that. She built a complex and intriguing setting, her story was tightly plotted, her humor was unforced, the relationships were both believable and (at least for the romantic relationships) sexy, and her characters were rich and deep, particularly the hero, Dragos. Not for a second do you think he's a human who happens to be able to shift into a dragon; he's an ancient, powerful creature through and through. He could rule his world with an iron fist, but he doesn't; instead he tries to find a way that is best for all involved. The contrasting balance of his personality made him vastly intriguing. Similar with the heroine, Pia, who is strong without being overly kickass and feminine without being overly girly-girl.

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

AB: I am looking for fantasy and science fiction, especially urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, YA/children's, and alternate history. Historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome.

I do not represent picture books, scripts, poetry, or non-fiction.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

AB: We'll assume anyone bright enough to read blogs for advice will already know that they should follow my submission guidelines on our agency website.

Aside from that, a peeve of mine are queries that go on and on about what a genius the writer is; similarly, I don't like queries where the writer is humble to the point of trying to convince me the work isn't worth my time. The first kind is like a used car dealer trying to hassle me into a car, the latter is like a needy person trying to guilt me into giving a compliment. Neither type is appealing. Along those same lines, a good rule of thumb is to not use any adjectives to describe your writing or plot, such as "thrilling," "heart-warming," or "beautifully written." You don't need to say these things; they should come across in the writing.

All you need in a query is a summary that touches upon the main protagonist(s), the main conflict, and the main antagonist(s). Rather than trying to summarize the whole work, stick to the first fifty pages; makes the task less daunting.

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

AB: I'm looking for a manuscript that takes the idea of steampunk but draws from 1st century Maya instead of 18th century Europe.

Too specific? ;) I'm looking for plenty beyond that, of course, but if someone already has it, send it along!

In broader terms, I want something that draws me right in and refuses to let go. Some aspects that can help with that are unique and complex settings, characters who challenge or break the mold while retaining that appealing blend of strength and humanity, plots that are tightly woven and keep me guessing, and writing that can effortlessly make me cry one paragraph and laugh the next.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

AB: Always e-mail, I consider paper queries a waste of money (for the writer) and desk space (for me).

Thanks again, Ms. Boggs, for these responses. And for you Tweeters, feel free to check out her Twitter feed, @notjustanyboggs, which she updates several times a day. It'll be like having an all-access pass--or an every-four-or-five-hours-access pass--into the life of an up and coming agent.

Queries away!


A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Thanks, Krista and Amy! This was a great interview. :) I'm heading over to querytracker to add Amy to my tbq list.


Myrna Foster said...

Thanks! Mayan steampunk sounds like fun, but I don't have any. ;)

Seriously, Amy sounds great; I'm adding her to my list.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for the great interview, Krista.

Amy B. said...

Thanks, Krista! It was a pleasure talking with you!

Also, wanted to point you and your readers to Do the Write Thing for Nashville:

It's a fundraiser to help those affected by the Nashville flooding, and there are a LOT of great things to bid on for readers and writers. I'm donating a 50-page critique; it should be posted for bidding on Saturday.

Terresa said...

Ooh, terrific interview, terrific blog. I'm adding you to my reader!!

Krista V. said...

Amy and Myrna, I'm glad you found another one to add to the list:)

Stina, you're welcome.

Amy, thanks so much for stopping by - and for drawing our attention to such an awesome fundraiser. Will definitely check it out.

Terresa, welcome!

Kelly Bryson said...

She had me going on the Maya steampunk. I have some Maya in my book, so I was getting really excited. LOL Thanks for another addition to the list!

Krista V. said...

Fantastic, Kelly! And you're welcome.

kanishk said...

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Tom said...

Does Amy have a blog? I swear I thought that she did but I can't find it now.

Krista V. said...

Not that I know of, Tom. She does do Twitter, though. Her handle is @notjustanyboggs.