I had the opportunity to attend the Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers (WIFYR) Conference a few weeks ago. It was my first writers conference, and a great experience.
One of my favorite things about the conference, was the chance I had to interview Literary Agent Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency. I've done agent features before, but I loved hearing his responses first hand. He was inspiring, approachable, funny, and a super nice guy.
Agent Stephen Fraser from the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency
#1 - Are you open to Submissions: Yes, I'm open to Submissions. I mean I have about 40 something clients, but I would never say no if I found something that I was just entranced with.
#2 - What Book(s) made you fall in love with reading?: Let's see. One of my favorite books of all time is Peter Pan. Wen I was 10 that's really when I became a voracious reader, and I read everything. I read Charles Dickens, and Shakespeare, probably not understanding it but I just loved the words. I love The Secret Garden or anything by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I grew up with A. Milne and Beatrix Potter and all of the great British writers. But I think Peter Pan was probably my favorite book. And I also loved the Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. Those are my two favorite favorite books.
#3 - What is your Favorite Book Now?: I read constantly so it's hard to say. I love my clients books. I would say the Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby is one of my favorite favorite books. I also like Icefall by Matt Kirby that one the Edgar Award this year, anything Carol Williams has ever written, and Holes by Louis Sachar. I like a lot of writers, but I suppose my favorite book is anything I'm reading at the moment.
#4 - What categories do you represent?: I do everything from board books, picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA. I have a very eclectic list, but because we're a small agency I can do anything I want. So I do a little bit of everything.
#5 - Is there anything you wish would come through your inbox?: Dazzle me. Send me something dazzling. I love a great picture book text, it's all about the language. I have a soft spot for middle grade, so a great middle grade story - it can be historical, it can be fantasy, or contemporary. I think Middle Grade kids are the strongest and most loyal readers, so whatever is going to capture their attention.
#6 - Do you have any Pet Peeves for Authors to Avoid?: I don't like really smart-alecky language. Because of video games, and TV, and movies, there's kind of a sophisticated smart-alecky lingo. I don't really like that. When something is in print, you're kind of giving immortality to it, and I think the language should be more dignified. That probably sounds old-fashioned, but written language is different than a movie script. And I think when you're writing a book for kids I don't like things that are snarky and have bathroom humor. I know that it is wildly popular, but I would not put my name to a book that I was embarrassed about the title. That's something I don't like.
#7 - Is there anything specific you look for in a query letter?: In a query letter there needs to be a good elevator pitch. I need to know the age level and the format, a sense of the story, and sort of a comparison. I like to know who is someone the author connects with, or what's a classic or best selling book that gives a context for this book. I need to know whether someone has been published, or where they are in their career. I don't mind if someone has never been published, but I like to know who they are. I don't need to know someones marital or dating status. I don't need to know personal things about the author. That's not necessary.
#8 - How many Queries do you receive a week?: I get 50 queries literally every morning, and then it continues throughout the day.
#9 - Is it okay for an author to do a follow-up?: I insist on it. I say don't wait any longer than a month, and then keep following up till you get an answer, because I answer everybody. But if you don't get an answer either its lost in cyber-space or just buried. But I insist everyone follow up and keep following up, not just once but multiple times till you get an answer. It's not being intrusive or obnoxious, it's just part of being a professional writer.
#10 - Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?: You become a professional writer the second you start behaving professionally. Like with the query, follow up in a month. Make a record of where you send things and when. Be courteous to the agent or editor. Be respectful. I think publishing is all about image so it's how you present yourself. Be conscious of how you present yourself to the world.
You can find him:
At the jennifer DeChiara Litereary Website - jdlit.com
To Submit a manuscript to Stephen Fraser (taken from the website 6/30/2013): Email stephenafraser (at) verizon (dot) net and put "Query" in the subject line of your email.
For queries regarding children's and adult fiction, please send the
first twenty pages in the body of your email, along with a one-paragraph
bio and a one-paragraph synopsis.
For queries regarding a non-fiction book, please attach the entire
proposal as a Word document (the proposal should include a sample
chapter), along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis of
your book in the body of your email