Erin Bowman, featuring Sara Crowe
Today I’m so very thrilled to be hosting an interview with Sara Crowe, literary agent extraordinaire! Okay, so I’m a bit biased because Sara is my agent, but her bio really does speak for itself… Sara represents children’s fiction (and adult fiction and non fiction) at Harvey Klinger, Inc. Her clients include NYT Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, USA Today Bestselling author Jeff Hirsch, as well as Nina LaCour, Michael Northrop, Lisa Schroeder, Kristen Tracy, and Dan Wells, and she is consistently ranked among the top three YA and MG agents in Publishers Marketplace.
How did you get into agenting? Did you always want to be involved in the publishing industry or was it something you fell into via happy accident?
Before graduating, I was sure I wanted to go to grad school for English, and then I was suddenly not so sure, and when I heard about the Radcliffe Publishing course–now Columbia–I decided to apply. I had a very romantic idea of publishing and what editors do, and I did not know anything about literary agents. At the course, the lecture on agents focused so much on contracts and I was not very interested. Then, a NYT reporter came to speak with us, and told me to apply for the job at The Wylie Agency, that it was the most interesting job posted and that it would be very difficult but never boring, so I did, and there I learned agenting is my dream job.
So amazing! It seems the publishing industry has evolved a lot since you joined the game, mainly with the rise of e-readers and self-publishing in recent years. Authors at houses also seem to be writing more e-novellas and the like. Have any of these things changed the way you agent? How you approach sales/contracts?
My clients still come to me to find traditional publishers, and that is still mainly what I do. But I do love that there are now great e-book options and publishers for books that might not be a fit for traditional houses and I am making those deals, too. I am excited about the creative ways that many publishers are using stories and e-novellas. Changes in e-books have changed the way we do contracts–we are always adapting and revisiting our boilerplates to keep up.
I’ve also found the e-novella route to be an exciting evolution! Now if only you didn’t have to spend so much time revisiting boilerplates. Speaking of time, you have a fairly large client list. Do you find this makes you pickier than ever when it comes to the slush pile? Similarly, how do you know you want to sign a new writer?
Yes. I am still looking for clients and do take in books that I love, but, oh, my poor slush pile. I have much less time to read my requested manuscripts than I used to! For a new writer I want to love it first, but I also want something new–something that one of my talented super clients is not already doing. I have to work for my clients first, and they give me a lot to read.
That we do. I don’t know how you get through all our mss plus the slush, and still manage to be so cheery and pleasant. Speaking of slush, you pulled TAKEN’s query from the pile and requested a full. Since I’ll be giving away an ARC with this interview, maybe you can speak to what made you offer rep. (You know, so everyone knows why they should enter to win a copy!)
GRAY. It was all about Gray. His voice pulled me in from the first page. It is so strong. I remember that I had to take a quick look–you had offers. It was a busy time and I planned to dip in and see if it wasn’t for me and… And then I started reading… And Gray was not going to let me stop.
He and Emma got to me right away; I love a great love story. And as you know I often use your query letter as a great example of a hook, and this story has an amazing hook that does not disappoint. The story keeps getting bigger, and the stakes keep growing. As soon as Gray found that letter, I was all in.
And now I’m blushing. *refocuses* So how do you go about deciding which editors (at which houses/imprints) to put a story in front of? Is it something you actively think about during an initial manuscript read?
Yes. When I am reading and falling for a story editors pop into my head. It is one sure way that I know that not only do I love the book, but that I know how to sell the book. Erica Sussman came to mind right away with TAKEN.
And boy am I glad you put TAKEN in front of her! The story has evolved so much under her patient, editorial guidance. And now, because I can’t let you go without at least one pub-themed question… Mix us a literary cocktail! Specifically one featuring the literary elements you’ve been hoping to find in the slush.
Right now I’d love to find a realistic novel with one part thriller, one part mystery, and a slice of romance.
Ooh, I love a slice of romance in nearly all my reads, and as you know, I’m a huge fan of thrillers and mysteries. If you find that novel, I want to read it! Thanks again for stopping by, Sara!
Since today also marks the day TAKEN is a mere three months from release, I’ll be giving away an ARC to one lucky winner! (U.S. only) Not sure what TAKEN is about or if you want to read it? Here’s the jacket copy:
They call it the Heist.
Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.
Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
To enter to win, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form below and let us know in the comments if your current profession is one you sought out or fell into by happy accident. (Or you can choose to tell us what your ideal literary cocktail is as a reader.) We’ll announce the winner a week from today!
Erin Bowman is a YA writer, letterpress lover, and Harry Potter enthusiast living in New Hampshire. Her debut novel, TAKEN, comes out from HarperTeen on April 16, 2013. You can visit her blog (updated occasionally) or find her on twitter (updated obsessively).