Friday, September 24, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Wendy Schmalz

Today’s installment of “Interview with an Agent” features Wendy Schmalz of Wendy Schmalz Agency. Prepare to be impressed.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

WS: I read Tennessee Williams’s memoirs in high school. He wrote a lot about his agent. At the time, I didn’t know what an agent was, but it seemed like a pretty terrific way to make a living. In college, I had a part time job with a journalist. His wife was a novelist and she got me an interview with the agency representing her, Curtis Brown, Ltd. I got the job and loved it.

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

WS: I feel strongly about representing authors whose work I’m passionate about and who are passionate about their own work. I think it’s a mistake to write for the market.

Every relationship is different, but, like any relationship, there has to be chemistry and trust and respect. A good agent/author relationship lasts a lifetime. It’s about career building, not the latest project.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon?

WS: Here are some recent and upcoming books:

Bestselling novelists Myla Goldberg and April Henry both have new novels. Myla's THE FALSE FRIEND is a psychological drama (Doubleday). April's thriller about a kidnapped blind girl is called GIRL, STOLEN (Christy Ottaviano Books/Holt).

Two new middle grade series have just been published, Amanda Marrone's creepy, funny books called THE MAGIC REPAIR SHOP CHRONICLES (Atheneum), and Sue Stauffacher's witty, charming and informative series ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM (Knopf).

Amanda has a new paranormal romance called SLAYED about vampire hunters to add to her successful backlist at Pulse.

Australian Kathy Charles's crossover novel JOHN BELUSHI IS DEAD about two teens obsessed with celebrity death is just out from MTV Books.

Graphic novelist Jason Little's MOTEL ART IMPROVEMENT SERVICE, the sequel to his successful SHUTTERBUG FOLLIES, will be published by Dark Horse.

Award-winning South African novelist Michael Williams's NOW IS THE TIME FOR RUNNING is coming from Little, Brown.

Seymour Simon's Smithsonian/Collins photo essay TROPICAL RAINFORESTS is the latest of his successful books in that series.

Julie Anne Peters’s love story SHE LOVES YOU, SHE LOVES YOU NOT will be out next year from Little, Brown, as will Denise Vega’s ROCK ON.

KV: What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

WS: The true and easy answer is that each of them is extremely talented and a joy to work with.

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

WS: I prefer realistic YA and middle grade novels. I prefer things with a bit of an edge--nothing too sappy.

I don’t like techno sci-fi. I’m not taking on any new picture book writers.

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

WS: I hate cute query letters. Tell me about your book as concisely as possible. Don’t start off quoting statistics (a lot of people do). Avoid clich├ęs (I can’t take another “journey of self-discovery” letter). I like to know why authors want me to represent them. Have they done their homework? Do they know my tastes and my authors? Or are they just sending out queries to every agent in the country?

KV: You only want to see the query letter and synopsis 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?

WS: Are you saying my site is not respectable? :) I think you can tell a lot by the letter itself. If you can’t write a letter, you can’t write a book. If a writer has pasted a few pages, that’s fine. I wouldn’t think it too assertive or obnoxious.

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

WS: I don’t have a wish list. Like everyone else, I’m looking for fresh, original, well-told stories.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

WS: I prefer e-mail queries, although I only answer an e-mail if I want to read the manuscript. Go to for more information.

Thank you, Ms. Schmalz, for these responses. And good luck to everyone who decides to query her. If you’re fortunate enough to land Ms. Schmalz as an agent, you’ll be joining an impressive list of authors.

Have a great weekend, all!


Anne R. Allen said...

Great interview! Thanks for this.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Thank you, Krista and Wendy. Yay for realistic, not-too-sappy YA! :)


Myrna Foster said...

I'm impressed. Thanks for another great interview!

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Anne!

Sounds like just your mold of flan, Amy. (Can't tell I just read your story, can you? :) )

I knew you would be, Myrna:) And you're welcome.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Another great interview, Krista! Thanks so much for the information.

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Sharon!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Hey, wonderful wonderful! I love this. Thank you for taking the time to interview such an awesome agent and letting us see into her mind!

Btw, thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Stop by any time! ;)

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth, for the interview and the comment. I love getting these glimpses into the agent mind, too:)