Changing the world's opinion… as soon as we finish this math homework
Meet Mandy Hubbard, Author and Literary Agent
Mandy Hubbard is a literary agent at D4EO literary, specializing in YA and MG fiction. She’s also the author of 10 teen novels, written under her own name and the pen name Amanda Grace. Her titles include Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, Fool Me Twice, and But I Love Him, among others. She’s currently living happily ever after in her hometown of Enumclaw, Washington, where she watches too much MTV and stays up too late.
I actually don’t talk about my queries, for the most part, except in very vague terms on twitter if I’m trying to give a #Pubtip. At the end of the day, there is a person on the other end of that query. They may be clueless, but there’s a good chance they’ll figure it out along the way. Everyone is a newbie at some point.
Although I should say, my own client once sent me a query about a “citrus fruit who falls peel over heels in love with Russ, a potato from the wrong side of the produce aisle,” and I blogged the whole thing (with her permission) here: http://mandyhubbard.livejournal.com/225747.html?thread=2062035
2. You were a published author before you were an agent. Why did you decide to become an agent? Why did you choose D4EO?
As an author, I often reached out to other writers who were struggling and offered assistance. This industry is so damn hard to break into, I wanted to help others who were weathering rejection like I had. I would often help them rewrite queries, revise their novel, or just give general guidance. Some friends went on to land agents with my queries and eventually sell their novels. At the same time, my writing career was taking off, and my agent was allowing me to have input on submissions. BUT I LOVE HIM was submitted to just three editors of my choosing, and it sold in a matter of days. My own agent was joking that Ishould be an agent, so when I found an internship, I jumped right in and fell in love.
I connected with Bob at D4EO Literary via another agent, and I’m so grateful I did. Bob is amazing to work with. Really supportive, and knowledgable, and just a generally good guy.
3. What’s the most important thing that authors forget to ask during “The Call”? [“The Call” is when an agent calls to offer representation, for those who don’t know.]
These days I feel like authors are really well informed! They’re always asking such intelligent questions. Many times they forget to ask about how foreign/film/subsidiary rights are handled, and I think that is important. I would also ask about general submission strategies—if they do one big round, two smaller rounds, etc, and whether they keep you updated as news comes in, or whether they send out news in batches, etc, etc.
4. How do you go about reading a query? What do you look for, both for positive aspects and not? Characters? Plot? Spelling mistakes?
I like to see something really intriguing and enticing about the character, coupled with either a big hook or if it’s a literary novel, something that showcases a strong voice. If it’s literary, and the query is dry and sounds like a thousand other books, I have to pass on it. Small spelling errors don’t bother me, but if I see a repeated mistake (like a lack of understanding on the correct use of a comma), I assume the book is a mess and I pass on it.
5. Can you give us an insight on a day in the life of a literary agent like yourself? How do you personally prioritize your time between family, writing and agenting?
It’s tough, for sure, to balance my writing an agenting. I have deadlines with my own writing that I don’t want to miss, but I also hate the idea of clients feeling like my writing is a priority over their’s. This means I often get up early (5AM) and work on my book for an hour or three before my real work day starts. Sundays are a good day for writing, too. My husband often goes “on adventures” with our daughter and I work all afternoon.
The slush pile is usually relegated to 30-60 minutes of reading while I eat lunch. If a project is so good I’m willing to give it more than a lunch break, that’s a good sign. Unfortunately I often power through a couple chapters on a handful of projects, rather than hitting on something really good.
My general duties fill in the remainder of the day. It’s just a lot of emailing and editing, actually. I try to empty my inbox every night, because I don’t like clients waiting more than 24 hours for a response.
6. Nearly every agent has passed on a book that eventually made it big. What was your book, if you feel comfortable sharing the title? Why did you pass on it? How far did it get with you (partial, full, etc.)?
I have two projects that I think of from time to time, one that I offered on and lost, and one that I passed on that sold big. I was one of the fortunate agents to read Genn Albin’s CREWEL, and it’s simply spectacular. Really ground breaking, amazing writing, exciting twists and turns. I had just started reading it when she emailed to say she had an offer. I think she ended up with about six offers, and she signed with an agent who flew to Kansas City to meet with her. (Yeah, it’s THAT good.). It sold in a major deal to FSG. I would have loved to be a part of that, but I’m also just happy to have been one of the first to read it, and I’m excited to see her career begin. I got to have dinner with her recently and she’s as sweet as can be, and she deserves the success.
The second project, which shall remain nameless, I really enjoyed, but didn’t fall head over heels for. It was actually a writer friend. She signed an agent about a month later, and the book sold in a major deal as well, to Harper. I think every agent has that “D’oh!” gut reaction, but then we realize that we just weren’t the right agent for that writer. They found someone passionate about their book who clearly had a vision we didn’t share.
7. Imagine 5 make-believe query letters. Think of one that you would accept and four that you would reject. Don’t tell us what the query letters say, but briefly explain why you would accept or reject them.
I’m dying for a really innovative, high concept Sci-Fi. I already have something with spaceships, so maybe something a little more grounded. As for the other four, I’m passing on all things vampire, werewolf, and angel, so there are three for you. The fourth? A query in which the author calls the characters “youngsters.” That just smacks of being out of touch with your demographic, to me.
8. We know a lot about the author/agent side of publishing. How does the agent/editor part work?
It’s actually really fun to be on the other side. Writers work REALLY hard at every level, including revisions. I rather like seeing an editor’s revision letter and then NOT having to do the work! J It’s nice to be part of the business side. Sometimes I just get to fangirl with an editor about my client’s work, and that’s pretty amazing too.
It’s a lot of cultivating relationships and keeping spreadsheets. Not as glamorous as one might think.
9. What do you think about representing a novel that was previously self-published? How important are “first publishing rights” if the author has completely removed the novel from the market and/or internet prior to querying an agent?
First publishing rights are really not an issue. That’s kind of a dinosaur term. The issue is whether the book sold well. If it didn’t, it can hurt you. And if it sold SPECTACULARLY well, a publisher may be afraid you’ve tapped the market already. I do represent previously self-published titles, and one recently went on submission. It’s not necessary to remove it from the internet prior to querying, no. Assuming the book is doing well.
10. Any new books (of yours) in the works?
My next release is IN TOO DEEP, under the pen-name Amanda Grace. It comes out in February, followed by DANGEROUS BOY in August.
Thank you so much for your time, Mandy!