Bree Ogden is an agent at the West Coast branch of D4EO Literary, representing middle grade, young adult and graphic novels. She also teaches and writes at LitReactor.com.
Always generous with what she's learned from the publishing industry, Bree will be presenting at the September 13th Professional Series Meeting on Understanding the Trends While Writing Timeless Literature. She recently took the time to answer a few questions.
Q. As an agent and teacher, what unique perspective and experience do you bring to a client's project?
A. Every agent brings a unique perspective to their clients’ work. That’s why it is so important to find the right agent for you. I am a very editorial agent. It comes with my years of being an editor for newspapers and magazines. I don’t just sign perfect manuscripts, ready to send out. I like to sign projects that I feel have the most potential.
My teaching experience has really magnified this sentiment. It’s so fantastic to get to work with writers to help them develop their ideas and words into something really literarily delicious and saleable. When I look at a piece of writing, I see all sides of it. The literary side, the commercial side, the intellectual side, the guilty pleasure side, and of course, the marketing angle. I think it’s important to realize that no one manuscript will be a perfect fit for everyone, but that it can at least touch on all areas and make a huge splash.
Q. What is one of the biggest mistakes a writer makes when querying you?
A. This is something I see very often, that doesn’t really have a negative effect on myself, but I feel bad for the writer. This is when I can tell they are throwing their query out into the ether to see if anyone will pick it up. I can recognize this type of query because it will often be addressed to “Dear Agent” or “Dear D4EO” and often times it is so far from what I represent. Unfortunately, I pass on those really quickly because I know I don’t represent them. And the writer gains nothing from a bunch of generic rejection letters.
A writer should really work on treating each query letter like a cover letter of a resume. If you tailor each one (a little bit) for each agent, you will find that you get much better responses, as well as more feedback in rejection letters. If you are sending it to the right people, you will be able to pinpoint a more defined reason for the rejections.
Q. What trends do you see for Graphic Novels in the Kid Lit market?
A. It’s such an exciting market! Lots of hungry kids waiting for the new graphic novel craze. I am seeing two trends right now: very dark, Grimm fairytale-esque graphic novels for children and what some like to call “info-tainment.”
This trend of dark literature is slowly filtering down the ages. Adults were reading horror, then young adults, and now children. And because straight horror (blood and guts) is hard to sell in the school and library markets (and to kids in general), there is an added fantastical element, which gives the plotlines a Grimm or Aesop fairytale feel. I’m extremely excited about this trend. It allows for a new area of creativity to blossom.
“Info-tainment” is slowly building, but very surely building. It is exactly as it sounds, a way to present information in an entertaining manner (often via graphic novels). Graphic novelists are taking historical and even health subjects to the drawing board. They are essentially taking heavy subjects and feeding them to the consumer with a spoonful of sugar. It’s so awesome. One of the reasons I have always been an advocate of literature is for the teaching value. And now there is a very concentrated way to teach but still make it saleable.
Q. What is the most encouraging thing you hear from editors during this challenging economy?
A. I’m always hearing encouraging words from editors. The fact that editors are reading first time manuscripts from first time authors is very encouraging. First time authors are being published every season and they are thriving. Editors love to work with new talent and are very open to the new directions being placed before them every day.
Q. Is being a West Coast agent difficult when most of the deals happen in NYC?
A. Not even a little bit. West coast agents are often asked this question and the answer is always the same. Everything is done via email and phones these days.
However, in order to do my clients justice, whenever I get a chance, I make sure to ask NY editors how they feel about non-NY agents. And every time, they say it doesn’t matter to them. Which is awesome because I’m a West coast girl, through and through!