Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with an Agent: Jessie Cammack

Today’s interview features the eager and amazing Jessie Cammack of JABberwocky Literary Agency. Enjoy!

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

JC: I've been working at JABberwocky since fall 2009, and I started looking for my own clients a few months ago. I worked as a bookseller at Borders when I was in college, and then got an internship at The Overlook Press, a small and awesome publishing house. When I was leaving Overlook, one of the editors suggested that I might like working at an agency. I blindly followed her advice, and here I am!

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

JC: You know, I hadn't really thought about this before--and I'm not sure I've fleshed out a philosophy just yet. So far the most important thing to me is finding authors whose books I really love. Ideally, that relationship lasts a whole career--so it's important that there be a real connection there.

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

JC: It's too early in my agenting to have anything coming out soon, but in general, what I'm really looking for is a well-told story. I know everyone says that, but it's true: if the writing is great, it can be about anything.

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

JC: I'm looking for fantasy, science fiction (particularly YA science fiction), and literary fiction. I'm also fond of historical fiction. (Or--best of all--historical fantasy or historical science fiction!) YA variations of the above are welcome.

I'm not really interested in urban fantasy, horror, or romance (paranormal or otherwise). As far as nonfiction goes, I like histories and biographies, but not memoirs. We don't handle children's books.

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

JC: I don't like queries that open with a rhetorical question. I know it's an easy hook, but I don't think it's effective. I also get bored with adjectival queries: I shouldn't need to be told that the prose is lyrical or that the action is exciting or that no one has ever written something like this before. I want to hear about the story!

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 with every query, whether the agent asked for them or not. So if a writer goes ahead and includes those pages, do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?

JC: I don't find it obnoxious, but it makes me think someone didn't read our submission guidelines ... or did read our submission guidelines, and decided to ignore them. Neither one is a good thing. I'd prefer to be blown away by a great, one-page query, and then be left on tenterhooks until the partial arrives.

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

JC: I'd love to find a great, fresh take on traditional fantasy--I am very partial to fantasy that's sweeping and heavy on the world-building, but it's often either derivative, or trying too hard not to be derivative. I really like YA sf and fantasy, but a lot of the queries I get are really heavy on the romance. A move away from that would be nice.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

JC: Snail mail! E-mail queries go straight to the junk mail box.

KV: Your agency is closed to queries at the moment. I know JABberwocky opens and closes to queries several times throughout the year, so if someone is eager to contact you, when can they expect you to be taking queries again?

JC: We'll probably reopen sometime in the spring, but I can't say exactly when. It's completely dependent on workload, and that can be unpredictable. Sorry for not being able to be more specific.

Thank you, Ms. Cammack, for these great responses. We’re all looking forward to whenever you reopen to queries, hopefully sometime this spring! (And for those of you who can’t wait to query Ms. Cammack, definitely check JABberwocky’s website from time to time. They’re really good about keeping it up-to-date.)

Happy Friday, everyone, and have a great weekend!


Kristine Asselin said...

Great interview Krista! And thanks to Jessie for the great information.

Stephanie@thecrackedslipper said...

Hi Krista! Another great interview! I caught the link on QT today...Let me give you props again for being all over the place! (Or maybe we're just hovering over the same agents LOL-- I'm SAR over there.) I snuck in under the wire before they closed down...will now chew fingernails while Jessie catches up...

Myrna Foster said...

Hurray for agents who love traditional fantasy! Thank you!

Pam Harris said...

Yet another great interview. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks, as always, for reading, Kris.

Stephanie, good for you for sneaking your query in there:) Good luck with it.

Myrna, when you decide you're ready to query one of those awesome books you've been writing, I think Ms. Cammack would be a great one for you to try.

Pam, thank you. I really appreciate that all you agented writers still take the time to stop by:)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Thanks for the interview, Krista. Another great one. I definitely thought of Myrna when I read what Ms. Cammack is looking for!


Krista Van Dolzer said...

Amy, I totally thought of Myrna, too! Must be a sign... :)