Chatting with the Middle Grade Ninja

In case you missed it this weekend, check out my interview with Middle Grade Ninja. It gets real, yo.

Question Three: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

 My ideal cninja stufflient works hard and writes a ton. He or she handles rejection like a champ, and is always striving to improve. I feel some kind of bond with all my authors; connecting on a personal level is vital for a positive professional relationship. I like to joke around too, so a sense of humor is a bonus (I feel like I’m filling out a personals ad!).

Read the whole thing here!

I’m Joining Greenhouse Literary!

ImageThat’s right. Beginning January 14th I am joining Greenhouse Literary as a full-time agent for middle-grade and young adult! I am thrilled to embark on this new adventure with Sarah Davies and the Greenhouse team. I will continue to represent my take-no-prisoners cadre of clients, as well as actively building my list.

I’ve enjoyed five superlative years at Scott Treimel NY, and it has been a privilege to collaborate with Scott and all the phenomenal STNY authors. I will miss them all, and look forward to seeing their work on bookshelves, e-readers, and billboards.

I highly recommend you check out Greenhouse’s website for more info about Sarah and Julia, Sarah’s blog, and submission guidelines.

What I’m Looking For: I’m especially eager for boy middle-grade (and yes, even boy y.a.!). Fast-paced/thrilling/heart-breaking stories, historicals, speculative fiction, sci-fi and fresh fantasy, villains with vulnerability, bad decisions with best intentions, boldly imagined worlds, striking imagery, finely composed and choreographed scenes, characters with history, stories about siblings, stories about middle America, and did I mention middle-grade for boys?

In the meantime, stay tuned folks: there will be more conferences, classes, talks, books, posts, and shenanigans to come!

– John

March Madness Agent Pitch Match is Nigh

These Handsome Faces Are A Metaphor for the Brilliance and Poignancy of Your Writing

On March 12th-14th, a handful of amazing, brilliant, and physically appealing agents (including me) will be reading your young adult and middle grade pitches at the March Madness Agent Pitch Match, hosted by Brenda Drake, Shelley Watters, and Cassandra Marshall.

You may remember that these things can get nuts.

Now: Initial slots go to the lucky few who participated in Brenda and company’s February Pitch Workshop.

But: For those who weren’t in the pitch workshop, we will have two submission times on March 2.

1ST SUBMISSION TIME: 12:00 pm EST for the first 50.
2ND SUBMISSION TIME: 6:00 pm EST for the next 50. 
Only the best of the best will make it to the final round.
Make sure to check their sites on March 1 for instructions on how to format your entries.There’s a big embarrassing hole on my client list where *your* name should be, so mark your calendars, and get in there!


Ten Surefire Ways to Turn Off a Prospective Agent

An author myself, I know how confounding and stressful the agent hunt can be. The etiquette is not always clear. Can you ask for an update after a few weeks? Can you address the agent by first name?  Is it okay to submit new work after a your first manuscript gets a no? For me, the answer to all these questions is yes!I’m a pretty informal guy, but a few common author gaffs really drive me banana sandwich. Some of these are just a little annoying, others have me breathing into a paper bag. If you’re already guilty of one or (god help you) all of these, don’t panic; there’s always time to change your ways. But from now on, no more excuses. You’ve been warned!

  1. Calling with questions, like whether we have a website.
    No, I can’t hold on while you look for a pen. Same goes for feedback. Email, if you must, and I’ll try my best to respond.
  2. Sending a snide response to a rejection.
    Getting rejected is part of the job, as is receiving a form rejection. We’d like to respond personally to every query, we just don’t have the time. If you can’t be a professional about rejection, quit. Sending an agent an angry email more or less guarantees they will never work with you. And remember, we talk to each other. I know it’s frustrating, but take it out on your stress-ball. You can put my picture on there, if it helps.
  3. Failing to follow submission guidelines.
    Thanks for your sample pages about serial killers on mars, but we do kids’ books.
  4. Citing “market testing,” especially when your test group is your kids, spouse, or students. They’re obligated to love you. Don’t trust them.
  5. Opening your query with rhetorical questions.
    “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a flying hippo?” Nope.
  6. Talking about your “real-life” inspirations.
    I’m glad your protagonist is based on your adorable daughter who has the same name— we all draw inspiration from those around us. But what if an editor thinks Little Mindy should die of Typhus at the end? Would you be willing to discuss the personality flaws and physical shortcomings of Jillian, who’s based on your wife? A healthy separation of reality and fiction is a prerequisite for discharge from psychiatric wards, and for writing fiction.
  7. “Selling” the Book.
    Don’t tell me you know your book will sell a million copies, or that you’re the next Stephen King. I love the confidence, but let the work speak for itself.
  8. Playing the Field.
    Telling me you’ve queried seventy other agents doesn’t exactly make me feel like the prettiest girl at the ball. I’m far less likely to request a full manuscript if the odds are high a competitor is going to scoop you before I finish chapter one.
  9. Billing yourself as “The next____.”
    Again, confidence is baller, but I’m not sure I believe it, and I hope you don’t either. Few successful authors are “the next” anyone. They’re just themselves.
  10. Citing grammatical errors on our website—and being wrong.