Friday, January 14, 2011

Interview with an Agent: Joan Slattery

So excited to share Joan Slattery of Pippin Properties, Inc. with you. As I mentioned a few days ago, Ms. Slattery is the newest agent at Pippin Properties, but she is definitely no newcomer to the world of children’s literature. All you kidlit writers, get ready to add another agent to your lists!

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

JS: I’m new. I joined Pippin Properties, Inc., at the end of 2010, and the team there has been so welcoming: Holly McGhee (president and founder) and Elena Mechlin. Prior to this, I spent twenty years as a children’s book editor, mostly at Knopf Books for Young Readers, part of Random House. I’d always admired Pippin during that time, and its enviable client list: Kate DiCamillo, David Small, Harry Bliss. When I had kids of my own, our family reading led us straight to Alison McGhee, Peter H. Reynolds, Jeremy Tankard. And we’re exploring still (RESCUE BUNNIES being a current favorite, and JUST DESSERTS just came home).

I feel really lucky to be working with authors from this new vantage point, and at such a gem of an agency.

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

JS: Well, if you’ll forgive a new agent for having a philosophy (somehow this seems brazen), it would be this: to be our clients’ best advocate and navigator in the world of publishing, in all its complex venues. I hope authors will come to count on me for strategy, brainstorming, and an always-honest response to their work. More coach than cheerleader, I guess you can say.

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

JS: It’s a bit too soon for me to have firm news to report, but I will say I’m drawn to character-driven fiction (with a helping of emotional upheaval). I learned so much (about writing, about revising, about simple professionalism) from the authors I worked with as an editor--Jerry Spinelli, Philip Pullman, Jane Smiley, Adele Griffin, many more--and I can’t wait to continue my education in this new role.

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

JS: Pippin represents all children’s genres, and I’ll focus on middle grade and young adult fiction. While I hate to rule out anything…I’m not really a science fiction person. I’ll immediately contradict myself by saying I’m drawn to novels that have a glimmer of sci-fi against a “normal” backdrop, like Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME (hard not to love).

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

JS: If you choose to position your work against the marketplace, I’d avoid comparisons to HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, or any other generation-defining titles. Or NANCY DREW or CURIOUS GEORGE for that matter, which might make me think you haven’t read a children’s book in thirty years. Stick with current and realistic comparisons, or simply let your work stand on its own. Also, too much or too little information in a query can be a deterrent. (“I have a novel, may I send it to you?” This is easy to skip.)

But, to end on a positive note, I have to say I’m really impressed on the whole with the excellent queries we receive. So many people do their homework--and really represent their projects well.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

JS: Well, I mentioned emotion above. I also like an unreliable narrator, a triumphant underdog, maybe a current of psychological suspense. A good conspiracy plot is always enticing. Oh, and I’m a historical fiction fan, too--especially when it reads as adventure.

And what am I tired of? I’d caution that if you’re going to tackle a rhyming manuscript, it had better be, well, perfect. It’s a pretty unforgiving format. Also, I’d be careful when pitching a series--don’t be too breezy about this. They’re an enormous commitment for a publisher, with a high risk of petering out, and must be thoughtfully presented.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

JS: Holly McGhee, Elena Mechlin, and I can all be reached via e-mail at You’ll find our submissions guidelines on our website:

KV: How do you feel about a writer's including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

JS: I don’t mind it at all. If the query has piqued my interest, I’ll keep reading.

Thanks again, Ms. Slattery, for these awesome responses. Your thoughts on querying a series were especially insightful--and showed how much you still think like an editor, which is a definite plus.

Thanks for reading, all! And good luck to everyone who decides to query!


Pam Harris said...

Great interview! She seems like a pleasure to work with. :)

Marquita Hockaday said...

This is an awesome interview and I would LOVE it if I could work with Joan one day :) A fan of historical fiction??? A woman after my own heart!

LS Murphy said...

Fantastic interview. Joan would be great to work with.

Jenn Chushcoff said...

Thanks for the interview, Krista. Joan sounds like a great addition to Pippin!

Myrna Foster said...

I loved everything about this interview, especially the list of clients she worked with at Knopf. Thank you!

Krista V. said...

Pam, she is. I highly recommend her.

Marquita, are you Pam's cousin? If so, I think that's fabulous. What a great way to spend quality time together:)

LS, thank you for your first sentence, and ditto your second.

You're very welcome, Jenn. Thanks for stopping in!

So glad you liked this one, Myrna. When do you think you'll be querying that delicious YA fantasy of yours? (Which I still associate with pomegranates, by the way:) Something about their deep red color and burst-in-your-mouth flavor makes them feel like the perfect metaphor for your novel.)

Shari Green said...

Great interview -- thanks! It's a pleasure to get to know Joan a little. :)

LTM said...

Joan seems very cool... Thanks, Krista! :o) <3

Kimberly said...

Awesome interview!

Krista V. said...

You're very welcome, Shari, LTM, and Kimberly!

Anita Saxena said...

Great interview. Thank you for sharing.

Myrna Foster said...

Krista, I promise you'll be one of the first people I tell, and Ms. Slattery looks like she'd be a great agent to query with it. You're right; it's definitely my pomegranate novel.

Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Anita. Thanks for reading.

Myrna, I think Ms. Slattery would be a great agent for you to query, too.

erica and christy said...

I sent my query to Pippen this past week. This interview made me even more (nervous) excited about it. Regardless, they seem great for anyone who is able to be represented by them. Wonderful interview.

Krista V. said...

Good luck, erica. As I mentioned above (or maybe I haven't, but I definitely should have!), all my interaction with Ms. Slattery has been one-hundred-percent positive. Well-respected agent, well-respected agency.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Another great interview, Krista! Thanks to you both.


Krista V. said...

You're welcome, Amy!

Marquita Hockaday said...

Sorry so late, Krista...but yes! I am Pam's cousin :) I am still "stalking" Joan Slattery, btw :)

Krista V. said...

Welcome to the agent-stalking club, Marquita. Pretty sure I'm one of the charter members:)

Anonymous said...

I love this! Thanks!

Krista V. said...

You are so welcome, Angela!