Monday, January 10, 2011

Meet Publisher Karen Syed

By Kathryn Craft

Karen Syed, Publisher at Echelon Press, is becoming quite a friend of The Write Stuff conference. In her last few visits with us she has signed authors Kieryn Nicolas, Jon Gibbs, Ralph Hieb, and Carla Veno Jones.

About Echelon Press
Echelon Press is a small independent publisher of trade paperbacks and e-books. Its divisions include Quake (young adult), Explorations (SF, Fantasy, Horror) and Shorts. General submissions are for electronic publication only; titles for paperback publication are acquired by invitation only. The most effective way of securing an invitation is by in-house author referral, or by meeting with Karen at The Write Stuff!

What they are looking for: They accept queries in all fiction genres, including romance, mystery (including cozy, hard-boiled, police procedural, noir), thrillers, westerns, inspirational, women's fiction, historical, young adult, science fiction, fantasy, horror, novellas, and short fiction. Submissions must include a detailed marketing strategy.

What they are not looking for: Erotica, non-fiction.

About Karen Syed

Karen Syed is the president and COO of Echelon Press, LLC. Every day is a new success story for her as she continues to grow along with her business. She has seen seven of her own novels published (writing as Alexis Hart), along with numerous articles and short stories. As a former bookstore owner, she garnered a nomination from Publishers Weekly for their Bookseller of the Year award. She is committed to helping and encouraging everyone she comes in contact with to seek a healthier and more positive quality of life by reaching for their dreams. Her newest fascination is Steampunk, which is feeding her minor obsession with the Victorian era. She is currently embarking on her own Steampunk series, Petticoat Junction

For more on Karen
Check out some of her blog posts:

On what to do and what not to do when seeking a publisher.

On what makes a good author.

On e-books, and musings about J.A. Konrath.

On "Why I Do This," featuring GLVWG's Kieryn Nicolas.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Meet editor Juliet Grames

By Kathryn Craft

When Juliet Grames last came to our conference, in 2008, it was as Editor at Overlook Press. This year she will represent Soho Press, where she is the Crime Fiction Editor. Soho Press was last represented at our 2005 conference, by co-founder Juris Jurjevics.

About Soho Press
Soho Press is an independent book publisher based in New York City. They publish a superior roster of hardcover and softcover trade books that are primarily publishes fiction, with the occasional autobiography or cultural historical account. Completed manuscripts should be 60,000 words or more. While many of their published works arrive here through agents, they place a high priority on publishing quality unsolicited materials from new writers. Authors on the Soho Press backlist include Oprah winner and National Book Award finalist Edwidge Danticat, Sue Townsend, Maria Thomas, Jake Arnott, Stephen Fry, John L'Heureux, Delores Phillips, and Jacqueline Winspear. 

What they're not looking for: Though eager to accept a wide range of literary fiction, they do not consider formula fiction, young adult dramas, stock romances, juvenile literature, short story collections, cookbooks, how-to books, self-help, fantasy, and anything that might recommend itself as a "quick read."

Click here for recent releases.

About Juliet Grames
Juliet is Editor at Soho Press, where she acquires and edits for the Soho Crime imprint. Now 20 years old, Soho Crime specializes in mystery and crimes series set in other countries and cultures. At Soho Crime, cultural components and rich atmospheric settings are almost as important as the mystery itself. If you have a great mystery—preferably the first in an envisioned series—set in a locale outside of the United States, and whose detective or amateur sleuth is native to the locale in question, you should definitely let Juliet know!

In August, after I invited her to the conference, Juliet wrote back:

I would just LOVE to attend! I think you already know how much fun I had in 2008 with you guys.
Just to give you a feel of my new landscape, Soho is freakin' awesome. We do half crime fiction, half literary fiction, and we do acquire from unagented authors. So I'm happy to do pitch sessions, etc. I'm personally the crime specialist here—I do all the crime acquisition and curating—so if you'd like a crime workshop, or some other talk, etc, I am very happy to do one.

And with that, her 2011 Write Stuff session, "Elements of a Bloody Good Crime Novel," was born.

We asked Juliet:

In what ways does your past experience as a bookseller inform your work as an editor? 
I think all editors should work in bookstores at some point—it gives you a great idea about what categories are being sold in retail stores, who buys what, which genres move the most copies, which covers customers react well too, what people are buzzing about. I simply can’t imagine not having that experience before starting in editorial! But I’ve seen it happen where really top-notch editors buy books that end up flopping because there’s no good category for them in bookstores. That’s a mistake a former bookseller would never make!

What is your favorite aspect of your job, and why?
I’m kind of a dork about editing. I love to edit. I love taking something that’s 80% perfect and making it 100% perfect. I love working with authors, exchanging ideas, and collaborating as a team to reach a goal. It’s just so satisfying. Creative people are also generally wonderful people to work with, and I feel really blessed to maintain friendships with authors long after books are published.

For more about Juliet

To get more of a sense of Juliet, check out this letter she wrote to her new company back in May. If you click on the link at the end you'll learn more about Soho Press as well:

Dear Soho Press,
It’s me here, Juliet Grames, your new editor. You know, the one who just started. So I know it’s not exactly elegant for me to come out and say, but I’d better just put it out there, lest it nag at our blossoming relationship. So here goes.
I have a big crush on you.
There, I said it.
It’s true–I’ve had a crush on you for a while, ever since I read my first Soho book... (read more)

Get to know Soho better through Juliet's blog entry about Rock Paper Tiger, a recent release by Lisa Brackman:

Soho publishes two new hardcovers a month: one international detective novel for Soho Crime, and one literary novel or memoir for Soho Press. When I started in May, Ailen, the Marketing Director, slipped me a shiny new copy of Lisa Brackmann’s Rock Paper Tiger, the story of Ellie, a 26-year-old Iraq vet living in China... (read more)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meet literary agent Alia Hanna Habib

By Kathryn Craft

About McCormick & Williams
McCormick & Williams is an independent literary agency specializing in literary and commercial fiction and quality non-fiction, including memoir, history, narrative, biography, lifestyle, sports, self-help, and pop culture. Devoted to representing authors at every aspect of successful publishing, their agents are closely involved in each stage of a project, working in tandem with authors to develop ideas, craft proposals, and edit manuscripts to achieve the best marketplace results. Looking beyond the immediate deal, they make certain that their authors are well-served throughout the publication process, with a hands-on approach to editing, design, publicity, marketing, and sales. And as an agency built on the talents and promise of their authors, they take an active role in career management, helping their authors reach their widest possible audience through all available avenues, including magazine writing, lecturing, and the sale of foreign, film/tv, and subsidiary rights throughout the world. Check out some of the recent titles they represented.

About Alia Hanna Habib
After graduating from Barnard College, Alia Hanna Habib began her publishing career at Houghton Mifflin as a publicity assistant to the Director of Cookbook Publicity. There, she says, she "discovered two unexpected loves: cookbooks and breaking out new talent." From reading cookbooks, she learned to cook, and after reading the manuscript of Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, she volunteered to work extra hours to help with the publicity campaign. In 2002, she left Houghton to pursue a graduate degree in nineteenth-century British literature. After graduate school, she lived in Italy, where she volunteered on organic farms throughout the Italian peninsula. On returning to New York, Habib was re-hired by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as a publicity manager. Some of her most notable campaigns include How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough, Mrs. Astor Regrets by Meryl Gordon, Finding Nouf by ZoĆ« Ferraris, and Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. Habib is now a literary agent at McCormick & Williams in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn and says she still loves to cook.

What she represents: Narrative non-fiction, memoir, and cookbooks, as well as the occasional novel that strikes her fancy (among them, literary fiction and mysteries).

For more about Alia:
Interview in ASJA Monthly [expanded bio information above is excerpted from this interview by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett] that includes how Alia uses her publicity background as an agent.

Have a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace? You can see Alia's most recent deals here.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Meet literary agent Katie Grimm

By Kathryn Craft

About Don Congdon Associates
Early in his career as a literary agent, Don Congdon developed an enviable reputation as a skilled editor, tough negotiator and shrewd judge of talent. While still a young editor at Simon & Schuster, he championed the early stories of Ray Bradbury (you may have heard of him!), who became one of his first clients after he became a full-time literary agent in 1947. “I married Don Congdon the same month I married my wife,” Bradbury said in a speech to the National Book Foundation in 2000. “So I had 53 years of being spoiled by my wife and by Don Congdon. We’ve never had a fight or an argument during that time because he’s always been out on the road ahead of me clearing away the dragons and the monsters and the fakes.” Bradbury dedicated his novel Fahrenheit 451 to Congdon. In 1983 Congdon started his own agency, Don Congdon Associates. He died in 2009 at the age of 91, and since then the agency has been run by his son, Michael. The agency represents over one hundred authors, many of whom have appeared on best-seller lists and have won numerous awards, including: Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award for Journalism winners Russell Baker and Edna Buchanan; National Book Award recipient Ellen Gilchrist; New York Times Best Seller Kathryn Stockett (The Help); James Thurber Prize winner David Sedaris; and Edgar and Grand Master of Horror award winner Richard Matheson.

About Katie Grimm
Katie Grimm joined Don Congdon Associates in 2007 and is a member of the AAR and SCBWI. A self-described "insatiable reader," she worked in a library before starting as the agency's literary assistant/office manager. She is now building her own list.

What she is looking for: Vivid literary fiction, transportive historical fiction, up-market women’s fiction, cohesive short story collections, lurid mysteries and thrillers with exotic or historical settings, high-concept young adult, and middle grade with heart and humor. Most importantly, she hooked by fiction with emotional resonance and longevity, and in her opinion, this requires an authentic voice, relatable characters, and a twisting plot that keeps her intrigued. For non-fiction, she is looking for offbeat narrative non-fiction, history, memoir with distinct voice, multi-cultural, and counter-culture.

What she is not looking for: Romance, high fantasy, adult speculative fiction, hard sci-fi, thrillers with terrorist plots, how-to, or inspirational.

For more about Katie:
Interview at Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents blog that includes why she loves "surprising protagonists."

Interview at WordHustler including what she likes in a query and why she loves YA/MG.

Interview at Middle Grade Ninja that includes her favorite books, movies, and shows and a description of her ideal client.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meet Literary Agent Blair Hewes

By Kathryn Craft

In addition to listening to pitches and participating on our agent panel, Blair Hewes of Dunham Literary, Inc. and her good friend, literary agent Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, will co-lead our Friday night session on how to pitch to agents and editors, which they've titled "Tuning Your Pitch: The Essential Notes."

There's business to their relationship as well: Dunham Literary, Don Congdon Associates, and the Denise Marcil Literary Agency have formed an alliance so they can share office space and combine back office activities. Their companies and their decisions about representation, however, remain separate. What you need to know: it's fine to submit query letters to all three agencies.

Here's some more about Blair and her agency.

About Dunham Literary
Jennie Dunham has been a literary agent in New York City since May 1992. She started her career at John Brockman Associates and then Mildred Marmur Associates. She was employed by Russell & Volkening for 6 years before she left to found Dunham Literary, Inc. in August 2000. She has been a member of AAR (Association of Authors Representatives) since 1993. She served on the Program Committee and was Program Committee Director for several years. She attended international meetings as the AAR representative to create the ISTC (International Standard Text Code) which is being created to ISO (International Standardization Organization) specifications. This business and tracking system will be based on titles not book formats (as is the case with ISBN) and will work in tandem with ISBN.

About Blair Hewes
Blair Hewes is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives and serves on their Program Committee. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

What she's looking for: Literary and commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, and books for children of all ages. Whether for children or adults, she believes it is important to provide books for both the reader actively looking to expand his or her mind and the one who simply wants to be swept up in a good story, but a truly exceptional book accomplishes both aims together. She is also interested in representing authors of non-fiction books in the categories of pop-culture, historical biography, lifestyle, and women’s issues.

What she's not looking for: Westerns, hard boiled crime fiction, horror, or political or medical thrillers. Says Blair, "While I love a book with a romantic element, I don’t do genre romance."

Read a blog post by Blair's satisfied author Bettina Restrepo, who calls Blair "the person she didn't even know she was hoping for."