“Agent Advice” is a series of quick interviews
with literary and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about
their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else.
This installment features Vickie Motter of Andrea
Hurst & Associates Literary Management. Vickie has a BA in English Literature
from Western Washington University. Her blog, Navigating
the Slush Pile, covers all issues of publishing and gives valuable advice to new
and seasoned authors. She also Tweets.
She is seeking: YA contemporary & adult fiction in the following areas:
dystopian, steampunk, fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal, and cozy mysteries. In nonfiction:
narrative, humorous memoir, healthy living, cookbooks with a strong platform, and
current events. She loves all things weird, fantastical, morbid, and romantic, and
she has a special love of unique plots, dark themes, strong characters, an engaging
voice, and witty humor. She does not represent: middle grade, thrillers, women’s
fiction, romance, poetry, or short stories.
GLA: How did you become an agent?
VM: I began as an
intern with Andrea Hurst and worked my way up to assistant agent, then agent in training,
then to full agent.
I became an agent because I get to work with authors
and their craft. Probably in the same way that movie producers don’t actually want
to do the acting themselves, I just want to have a hand in the book magic—watch it
form and bloom and become something people all over the world will read.
us about a recent project you’ve acquired. How did you know this was a had-to-have
project or author?
VM: All my projects/authors
jumped out at me from the computer/Kindle screen. Because I can’t decide who to talk
about, I’ll go with the most recent.
Carolina Valdez Miller’s project screamed at me from the
first page. Yes, I met her at a conference. Yes, it’s YA paranormal romance. Yes,
she has a great fiction platform (she is part of a group called Bookanistas who
write and blog positive book reviews). Yes, she is an amazing woman with tons of passion.
Yes, she has more projects up her sleeve I’m dying to read. But I didn’t pay any of
those any attention until after I had devoured her ms.
Story, voice, pacing—all amazing and gripping, from the first page to the last. I
knew I had to have it when I had trouble sleeping at night because of the fear that
I wouldn’t get it. That’s when I know I’m in love with a project.
“good writing” and “voice,” what are you looking for right now and not getting?
VM: Adult paranormal
romance/urban fantasy. I’ve gotten several good submissions, but nothing I’ve fallen
in love with yet. The key, of course, is “good writing” and “voice.”
GLA: On the
flip side of that, what are you tired of seeing?
VM: YA paranormal
romances with unoriginal paranormal elements and love triangles. YA paranormal is
still selling, but it has to be extremely unique, and the characters must also be
unique and believable.
GLA: Two of
the areas you seek in both young adult and adult fiction are fantasy and dark fantasy.
How would you define these categories? And what are the biggest things that set them
apart from one another?
VM: Everyone will
define these differently, and I’m definitely one of them. To be brief, by “dark” I
mean elements that probably wouldn’t be seen on the Disney channel: gruesome scenes,
psychological twists and turns, emotionally dangerous, etc. Oh, and I’m not against
the main character dying—as long as it’s done well and there is no other way it could
GLA: I have
heard rumors that contemporary YA is making a comeback. Thoughts on this?
VM: I sure hope so,
half my list is contemporary YA! But yes, I definitely believe YA contemporary is
big. There is so much that can be done when you take out supernatural elements (though
I don’t believe the paranormal will suffer either). Don’t underestimate teen readers—they
like intelligent stories that they can relate to.
draws you to steampunk?
VM: I love steampunk
because, though it has a pretty firm definition of what it is, you can do so much
with it. When I pick up a steampunk novel, I never know what elements or twists and
turns I’m going to find. And the authors are so invested in what they do–they dress
up and attend events! It’s a culture unto itself. Passion at its best.
the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents.
it here online at a discount.
GLA: How healthy
is the steampunk market right now, and why do you think this is so? Do you think it
will stay that way?
VM: Any market has
more room for a well written, engaging, and unique novel. Steampunk is no exception.
We’ll probably see fewer steampunk novels on the shelves (as other genres have their
turn in the spotlight), but the ones that are there will be worth reading.
switch gears and talk about nonfiction for a moment. One of your interests there is
cookbooks. What are you looking for here, other than strong platform? What would be
a fresh take on this format that might catch your eye?
VM: With recipes
free online, and celebrity competition, it’s hard to find a cookbook to stand out
in the market. So yes, platform is huge. You need a unique idea, a take on something
someone hasn’t already done. What will readers/cooks gain from spending money on your cookbook?
I never know what I’m looking for until I find it. That’s the author/cook’s job.
GLA: You post
a lot of information on your blog in terms of your query stats, your personal preferences
by way of book reviews (would you rep it or not—great feature, BTW!), lists of what
you’re looking for, etc. Have you found this helpful in terms of the kinds of queries
you receive? In other words, what percentage of the queries that come in show
evidence of having used this fab resource?
VM: As my name is
making my way onto generic lists (the ones from which writers query blind), I’m getting
more and more unpersonalized queries. These writers have no idea what I’m actually
looking for. I’ve provided all that information on my blog to help writers, and in
turn to help myself. It’s easy to sort out who is paying attention and who isn’t—it
also shows who is Internet savvy, who is participating in the online community of
writing. Those are the people I love working with, because it shows their dedication
A percentage of who does the research to who doesn’t? Hm
. . . looks like I might have a new feature idea. To ballpark it, I’d say maybe 50-50.
bookstores—they’re dwindling, yes, but do you think they’ll ever disappear altogether?
VM: No they won’t
ever disappear altogether. For the same reason e-books will never fully replace books.
It’s a tradition people will always hold onto.
do you see as the number one thing aspiring authors can do to thrive in this changing
VM: Know what is
changing. Keep on top of all current industry related events. As I mentioned above,
I like seeing writers participate in online communities—this might be an avenue to
consider (though if you’re reading this interview, you probably have a pretty good
start). But of course, your writing is always going to speak for itself, so continue
to learn and grow and get advice in any place you can.
you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
VM: I’ll be volunteering
at a few local conferences this year, which can be found listed on my blog, at which
writers can find and meet me—and pitch me if you’d like. I’ll formally be taking pitches
at the annual PNWA conference in Bellevue, August
is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?
VM: I have two equally
paralyzing fears: Thomas Pynchon and squirrels. Both were developed in college.
piece(s) of advice we haven’t talked about yet?
VM: If you invest in nothing else in your writing career, get a really comfy/expensive
chair. Your back will thank you.
freelance writer and coordinator of
The Write-Brained Network.
Visit her blog or
follow her on Twitter.
Want more on this subject?
Agent interview: Danielle
Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary.
Agent interview: Scott
Mendel of the Mendel Media Group.
Agent interview: Jason
Yarn of Paradigm Agency.
One writer’s story about
getting “The Call” from an agent.
Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting
& Submitting Your Manuscript.
Read about What
Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
Want the most complete database of agents and what genres they’re looking
the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!