Friday, May 28, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Stephen Fraser

Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Stephen Fraser of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. See you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

SF: After twenty years of work as an editor, I was asked to join a friend’s literary agency. I hadn’t really thought about this before. But now, five years later, it does seem to suit my talents, experience, and personality.

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

SF: Agenting is a partnering and so there needs to be a trust. It takes time to pitch books and then hear back from editors about their possible interest, so patience is necessary. The onus is on the client to stay in touch with an agent, maybe every six weeks or so. The agent will be in touch when a submission is made or, of course, if there is an offer or rejection.

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

SF: GLIMPSE by Carol Lynch Williams (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), a powerful YA novel-in-verse, is coming out in June, as is the wonderful picture book DRUM CITY by Thea Guidone (Tricycle Press). In October, the amazing debut novel, a fantasy, called THE CLOCKWORK 3 [by Matthew Kirby] (Scholastic) is coming out; we have already sold the movie rights to this book.

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

SF: Everything: picture books, board books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult, nonfiction. Even a few adult novels and nonfiction.

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

SF: Yes, most of my picture book writers are NOT illustrators as well. That is a kind of rare gift, to be able to do both.

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

SF: I don’t like special delivery of manuscripts from people I don’t even know. Query letters which say, “I’ve never been published before and this may not be very good” don’t make me want to read the submission. Being previously published isn’t really an issue. It’s all about the writing. Have the confidence to let your good writing speak for itself. Don’t be apologetic. A simple query stating if you have been published before (what titles, when, etc.) and if you have any “platform” which would help your book get published. And perhaps a sample page. It’s hard to respond to a query, if you don’t see something of which the writer has written.

KV: You only want to see the query letter in a writer’s initial contact, but several respected industry sites have advised writers to include a few sample pages at the bottom of every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and adds those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

SF: I think it’s a good idea. I actually hate formal query letters, so seeing a sample makes more sense to me.

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

SF: Always good writing. A good concept or story is valuable, but the writing needs to be good to carry it off. In terms of specific genres, I’m looking for a solid mystery and for humorous books right now. Both gaps in the current market, I think.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

SF: E-mail query is fine.

Thanks, Mr. Fraser, for these responses. And for those of you getting ready to query, good luck! Sounds like Mr. Fraser already has a great list, so you’ll be in good company if you end up on that list, too:)


Holly Dodson said...

Excellent interview. :)

And thanks for stopping by my blog and saying hi.

Have a great weekend.

Matthew Rush said...

Great interview Krista, thanks for sharing this. It's always nice to get to know a few more specifics about these agents.

Today's guest blogger is THE Elana Johnson!

Krista V. said...

Holly, welcome! Thanks for commenting (and following). And you have a great (long) weekend yourself:)

Matthew, sounds like a fantastic guest post. Elana just sold her book, right? Exciting!

Kelly Bryson said...

Thanks Krista! Another name goes on the list. Maybe you could just email me your whole agent list;) Just kidding. I've got enough to keep me busy for a while!

Krista V. said...

Kelly, if you ever feel like you're running out of agents, I'd be happy to give you a few ideas:) And definitely check out Query Tracker - they have a great database that you can search by genre or agent/agency.

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks, Krista! I liked Mr. Fraser's answers. :o)

Krista V. said...

Myrna: Oh, good:)

Julie Musil said...

This was a very helpful interview, thanks!

Krista V. said...

You're very welcome, Julie!