Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interactive Interview with an Agent: Sara Sciuto

I have another great agent to introduce to the class! The subject of today's interactive interview is Sara Sciuto of Full Circle Literary. As always, details on the interactive part are at the bottom. Enjoy!

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

SS: I came on to Full Circle Literary in September of 2010 and made the transition to full-time agent earlier this year. Prior to that I did a foreign rights internship with Taryn Fagerness Agency, which was fun because I got to communicate with people from all over the world; but I love the opportunity to work with authors (and later, editors) on all stages of the creative process, that comes with being a domestic agent. It's kind of the perfect job for me because my personal interests are all over the board--agenting gives me the opportunity to explore my ever-changing and expanding list of hobbies/interests with the many different kinds of projects I choose to acquire.

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

SS: At Full Circle we like to say we represent authors, not books. We're very active during the revision process before sending a project to editors; we're your advocate during and after publication, and offer professional guidance for the lifetime of your author career. I'm a very hands-on agent and--perhaps, because I'm a newer agent with a bit more time to gamble with--I'll often take on projects that need some editorial work if I have a strong connection to the idea or the author. It doesn't always pay off, but it's worthwhile when it does.

On that note, my dream author is more than willing to get their hands dirty revising, and comes back with something that exceeds my expectations (i.e. they do more than just plug in my suggestions--they re-conceptualize and come up with an overall stronger manuscript). To me, dedicated hard work upfront and the ability to utilize feedback is a great sign that the author will be able to handle the critiques and challenges they'll be encountering throughout the publishing process.

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

SS: I've only recently begun representing my own clients--so no upcoming releases just yet. Some of the forthcoming projects that I've assisted on at Full Circle Literary include: THE CODE BUSTERS CLUB by Penny Warner, a new middle grade mystery series; Jennifer Ward's latest picture book, THERE WAS AN ODD PRINCESS WHO SWALLOWED A PEA; and a gorgeous craft book by Kelly McCants, SEWING WITH OILCLOTH.

The projects I'm most excited about right now all have really standout writing with a strong, compelling voice. They also all have unique concepts that hit some of my hot buttons (see below). Originality is key--I bore pretty quickly of seeing the same ideas showing up in the submissions box. If I'm sick of a certain concept, certainly editors will be too.

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

SS: I'm very actively building my list and am primarily looking for middle grade and young adult fiction--dystopian, science fiction, fantasy, unique paranormal, and contemporary stories with a strong, unique voice. While I'm not specifically seeking out picture books right now, if a superbly well-written PB with a quirky or humorous narrative found its way to me I wouldn't pass it up! Ditto for a terrific author/illustrator. I'm also considering select nonfiction in the areas of craft, design, how-to, lifestyle, and pop culture.

Currently, I'm NOT considering any adult fiction (all genres).

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

SS: My biggest pet peeve is queries that are too long--especially when I have to read for five minutes only to figure out that it's adult fiction (which I don't represent!). This isn't the place for a full plot synopsis; I'm only looking to see if this is a project I would generally be interested in or not, and then I want to start straight in on the sample pages. Shoot for brevity and clarity--one sentence introducing the project, a three- to five-sentence description, brief author bio/relevant publishing history, and closing paragraph, is ideal.

I also don't like to see a query that hasn't been personalized in any way. Queries should be addressed (in subject line or greeting) to a specific agent, or at least the agency, so we know you’ve actually considered our guidelines and interests.

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

SS: When I’m going through submissions I’m not hunting for specific types of projects, just someone who has a unique idea and executes it well. I of course have my personal hot buttons--I'm a sucker for anything in the Deep South (sweet contemporary to dark paranormal), gritty contemporary, utilitarian dystopias or dystopian thrillers, anything with international locales or period settings (think flappers or "Mad Men"), and anything with artistic themes. Still, when I'm going through submissions, I don't have any of this in mind--I'm just looking for unique concepts and strong writing.

With regards to trends, I generally only consider them when it comes to passing on a project. This is especially true for paranormal--I'll likely be passing if I see the words vampire or werewolf; and if you're writing about angels/immortals/demons there needs to be another element (e.g. dystopia, à la ANGEL BURN) or a really unique twist. I'm also not big on contemporary stories where the main conflict is everyday teen or relationship drama (i.e. teen chick-lit)--I prefer my contemporary stories with some grit or quirkiness to them.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

SS: Send your query letter and first ten pages (full ms text for picture books) in the body of an e-mail to submissions(at)fullcircleliterary(dot)com. Please see our website ( for full submission guidelines.

Thanks again, Ms. Sciuto, for these responses. I always love finding an agent who's eagerly searching for her next client. Makes me feel a little more hopeful:)

And now on to the main event! If you have a question for Ms. Sciuto, please leave it in the comments below. You'll be able to find Ms. Scuito's answers down there a little later. We'll wrap everything up at 8:00 p.m. EDT (or 5:00 p.m. PDT--gotta love these West Coast agents!), but until then, ask away!

P.S. I won't be around much today, so I'm just going to ask that you please, please, PLEASE respect the cutoff time. If you get here late, just enjoy Ms. Sciuto's answers to everyone else's questions and resist the urge to ask one of your own:)


Faith E. Hough said...

Thanks for the great interview!
Question: how do you feel about author "branding"? Is it ok for an author to delve into different genres throughout their career, or will the mere thought of that alarm an agent?

Myrna Foster said...

You listed fantasy (MG and YA) as something that you're looking for, but it wasn't among your "hot buttons." Could you share some of your favorite fantasy authors with us?

Thanks to both of you for this interview!

Bess V. said...

Thanks to you both! Sara, you said you will work with a newcomer if you have a strong connection to the work or author. How might a writer achieve that connection in a query letter and sample pages? Similarly, how can a new (unpublished fiction) writer make herself stand out? Thanks again!!

Sara Sciuto said...

Thank you for your questions!

to Myrna: all of my hot buttons I mentioned refer to MG and YA projects. They're just elements that especially excite me when I see them in a YA/MG query.
There are so many great fantasy authors but a couple of my recent favorites include M.T. Anderson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and Suzanne Collins.

to ramblinbess: to me, it really comes down to a compelling writing voice. The actual query letter will usually only standout to me if it's not done well (i.e. it doesn't follow basic guidelines, as mentioned above, and is otherwise unprofessional looking). Connecting with someone's writing is so subjective--it happens or it doesn't--so I can only stress querying authors to get their beginning pages very polished (no grammatical errors, typos, etc) to have their best chance at grabbing an agent's interest. Other than that, it's a matter of taste.

to Faith: we love to see writers that are skilled in different genres (our author, Jennifer Ward, writes both children's picture books and parenting books); however, part of our job is to help new authors strategize their writing careers, and in most cases it's best to build a following with a specific audience before branching out.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Fabulous interview! Thank you Sara for taking the time, and Krista for organizing and putting it all together.

Sara, authors are often counseled to work on a completely different project rather than the sequel to the book they're currently querying. What are your thoughts? Work on the sequel or work on something new?

Sara Sciuto said...

to Kimberly: it's helpful to have a one page summary of book 2, but wait to write it until book 1 sells! In the meantime working on other projects is good since the publishing process takes time. Be patient and keep writing!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Thank you, Sara! I have a manuscript I shelved a few years ago that is coming to life in my mind in new ways, so I'll tackle that. Thank you again for taking the time to answer our questions today!

Janet Johnson said...

Great interview! Krista, thank you for doing these, and Sara, nice to read more about you! :)

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Great interview! I've added Sara to my tbq list.

Thank you to you both!


Leslie S. Rose said...

Thank you for a terrific interview. It gave me the query itch. Sara sounds cool. I'm a huge M.T. Anderson fan as well.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Great interactive interview, everyone! I'm sorry I wasn't around on Wednesday, but I'm happy to see that you all carried on just fine without me:)

Jo Bryant said...

This was a great post with a lot of great info. thanks.:)

Darvell Hunt said...

I feel bad I missed this life, but GOOD INFO! :-)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Sorry you missed the interactive part, Darvell! I do these interactive interviews fairly often, though, so definitely check back again sometime.

Bonnie McCarthy said...

Wonderful interview! I am definitely looking for a PB agent, and will be researching to see if Sara might be a good fit for my work. Thanks so much, your blog is a fantastic resource!!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're welcome, Bonnie! Thanks for reading.