Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Professional Series Preview: Mandy Hubbard

We're excited to have Mandy Hubbard speak at next week's (that's September 13th, just in case you aren't quite fully into September mentally) Professional Series Meeting, where she will be giving tips on how to survive rejection. Mandy Hubbard is a literary agent for D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle grade and teen fiction. She is also the author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, But I Love Him, and several other YA novels. She currently lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Here are a few things she has to say about agenting.

As an agent and a writer, what unique perspective and experience do you bring to a client's revision process?
I’ve worked with five different editors, so  I’ve had the chance to experience five different editorial styles and all of the challenges that go with that. I know first hand what it’s like to tear down a manuscript and rebuild it. I bring all of that experience to the table as an agent, and I try very hard to push my clients to the next level. For instance, I wrote six pages of notes for Imogen Howson on her novel, LINKED. She replotted a great deal of the book. It ended up selling in a six figure pre-empt, and it releases Summer 2013. I’d like to think my editorial guidance had something to do with it.

What is one of the biggest mistakes a writer makes when querying you?
With MG and YA (and picture books, for that matter) writers spend a whole lot of time talking about everything BUT the plot/ story—they want to discuss why they wrote the book, or talk about themselves, or talk about the lessons they really want kids to learn, and they often talk for paragraphs about how it’s a “real thrill ride” or “this will break your heart” or “it would make a great movie!”
The funny thing is, NONE of that stuff matters. I want to know what your story is about—who your character is and what challenges s/he will face. Let ME decide if it’s heartbreaking our laugh out loud.

If there are murmurings that [insert X genre/trend] is dead, what do you have to say to writers having difficulty selling their manuscript?
You know, I’ve signed projects knowing I may have missed the market, and I know how frustrating it is to realize it would have sold in a heartbeat two years prior. For the most part, genre doesn’t matter, and even when all the rage was paranormal romance, I sold a contemporary YA romance in an auction. BUT, something being “not hot” is different than something being a HUGE trend that is over. If the market is just too saturated you may be between a rock and a hard place—anything dystopian or strictly paranormal romance with an angel/werewolf/vampire is almost impossible to sell, and that’s just the truth. If you have one you’re sitting on, you won’t hurt yourself to query it and see how it goes, but then try to work on something that doesn’t feel quite so ‘done.’And know that all things are cyclical. Your type of fantasy may swing back around in a few years or so. 
Is being a West Coast agent difficult when most of the deals happen in NYC?
This is a common question, and perhaps a decade ago the answer was quite different, but now  a days, it’s completely normal to have power house agents living in Atlanta or Denver, and yes, even Seattle, where I am at. (There are actually about 10 agents in this area now, from at least five different agencies...). The truth is most agents in NYC are doing all their work at their desk via email. So my day to day is really not that different, and I’ve sold books to Disney-Hyperion, St. Martins, Simon & Schuster, etc. So although yes, I may not be in NYC, but my deals are still happening there. And because I DO make the effort to connect and network on a constant basis with NYC based editors and agents (as well as editors in Chicago (Albert Whitman) Minneapolis (Flux), etc, I’m still an efficient, linked-in agent.

What is the most encouraging thing you hear from editors during this challenging economy?
You know, all you  have to do is ask them about their favorite books and you see the glow they get and listen to the enthusiasm. Yes, it’s a tough market out there, but this IS publishing—has it EVER been easy? The thing to remember is that all editors and agents are in this business because they love it, and they DO want to fall in love with your book.  Whenever I do my week-long visits to NYC, in which I meet with 30+ different editors at all the major publishers, I always leave both exhausted and completely re-energized. It’s a rare industry to see so much passion.


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