Tricia Skinner, Associate Agent, Fuse Literary

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Associate Agent Tri­cia Skin­ner was raised in Detroit, Michigan. She obtained her undergraduate degree from the nationally acclaimed Journalism Institute for Media Diversity at Wayne State University and earned her graduate degree from Southern Methodist University.

Professionally, she began her writing career as a newspaper reporter and wrote for The Detroit NewsInvestor’s Business DailyMSN, and The Houston Chronicle. She’s covered small & minority business, personal finance, and technology.

Tricia has 20 years of experience working with the video game industry in various roles, including public relations, industry relations, and writing/editing. She is also a hybrid author of passionate urban fantasy (represented by Fuse co-founder Laurie McLean).

Diversity in genre fiction is dear to Tricia’s heart.  As an agent, Tricia wants to represent authors who reflect diversity and cultures in their work. The real world is not one nationality, ethnic group, or sexual orientation. She’s looking for talented writers who deeply understand that as well.

On the personal side, Tricia has a Tom Hiddleston obsession and she is definitely Team Vader. Her fam­ily includes three Great Danes (so far).

Q: Who reads queries in your agency?

Each agent receives and reads their own queries, especially if they’re still open to submissions. Most of us have assistants or interns who are invaluable for keeping our query boxes from exploding. My intern, Karly, has an uncanny ability to organize my vortex of an inbox into something manageable. That makes a huge difference as I try to find potential clients.

Q: Are you hungry to read any particular kind of story now?

While the market for paranormal romance and urban fantasy romance remains in a coma, I’m still hoping to discover a story with truly creative creatures and worlds. I adore PNR/UFR. I love the antiheroes, tortured heroes, broken but not beaten heroes. I still enjoy the darker stories, ones double-dipped in horror or other speculative elements.

Q: Have you fallen in love with any stories but passed because you know they are difficult sells? Have you ever represented a writer because the concept of the book was good even when the writing wasn’t? 

No to both questions. If I read something that’s phenomenal but it’s not “popular” right now, I don’t care. If the writer blows me away, I want to work with that writer. That may mean delaying a project until we can sell it, but I’d want to work with someone who is phenomenal. Plus, there are non-book markets to explore.

Q: How do diverse books impact your selection? How do you define diversity?

I look at diversity like this: the world is not one race, one color, one gender, one religion. People have choices – who they love, how they love, how they live, what they fight for, etc. If an author wants to catch my attention by pitching a diverse manuscript then that diversity had better be organic. The diverse elements should matter and reflect something of the real world. Done right means a blind lawyer is also a vigilante at night (Daredevil), or black men can help save the world as in Captain America: Civil War.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about discovering a new writer?

There’s a pure energy that strikes when I’ve read a manuscript that’s unforgettable. I want everyone to read the book. I want the author to write the sequel. I turn into a fan girl and want to run in circles because I’ve found something special.

Q: What’s rewarding about a long-term relationship with an author?

I see it as a partnership that can develop two careers and help two people follow their dreams.

Q: If you could change anything about agenting-what would it be?

I’d want this industry to be more inclusive. For example, I look forward to a day when I’m not one of maybe two agents of color at a conference or sitting on a workshop panel.

Q: What is a rookie mistake you see too often in queries and first pages?

How much room do you have? How about:

* Querying me with the name of the previous agent you queried on the letter.

* Pitching genres I’ve clearly stated I don’t want.

* Writing a query about your life-long dream or background, and not about your book.

* Attaching anything.

* Sending a query that goes on and on about how rich your book will make us.

You’ll notice I didn’t say anything about the first pages because the examples above guarantee I’ll never get to the sample.

Q: Does the #MSWL work or are you now flooded with too much of what you asked for and nothing else?

Sadly, it’s difficult to answer this one. I am already flooded with manuscripts in genres I have never represented, have never requested, and would never read. So, if I post my wish list and I get queries that actually fit, I’m overjoyed. It’s all the other queries that make this process challenging.

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Regarding Submissions: (updated June 20, 2016) 

Tricia is interested in Romance (Adult/YA/NA) in the following subgenres and specialties:

  • speculative
  • science fiction (prefer space opera, Independence Day-type earth stories, and off world)
  • futuristic (modern setting with lots of advanced tech/changes to society)
  • modern fantasy
  • strong anti-heroes I can’t get out of my mind
  • villains so deliciously dreamy I want to redeem them at all costs
  • video games (think Ready Player One but with romance)
  • mythology-based (Native American/South American/Eastern Europe/Asian/African/Pacific Region)
  • military/special ops (especially blended forces and foreign agencies)
  • paranormal (extraordinary creatures/world building)
  • urban fantasy (extraordinary creatures/world building)
  • dark/edgy (noir-ish/touch of horror/spine tingling)
  • YA historical (not Regency era)

She is not looking for:

  • non-romance novels
  • romantic suspense/thriller/psychological thriller
  • science fiction/paranormal/fantasy erotica
  • contemporary/historical erotica
  • inspirational/religious/faith-based
  • recent historical (50s, 60s, 70s)
  • non-fiction anything
  • Women’s fiction
  • literary
  • short stories
  • screenplays or poems
  • accidental/hidden pregnancy as primary theme
  • amnesia as primary theme
  • fake engagements as primary theme
  • sports/athletes as primary story focus
  • rock stars/musicians as primary story focus

Diverse authors are strongly encouraged to query their work. Multicultural settings/topics and diverse characters are also strongly encouraged. Until further notice, Tricia is only soliciting new/unpublished/completed romance manuscripts. For all other genres, she is closed to new submissions unless requested after meeting the author at conferences or online events.

Please email your 300-word-or-less romance query letter followed by the first 10 pages of chapter one (no prologues) in the body of your email (no attachments) to querytricia@fuseliterary.com. Her response time is 2-4 months on average, but could be longer if she’s deluged.

If you enjoyed Tricia’s interview, you may also like to read my interviews with Sarah Davies, Alan Gratz, Lisa Mantchev, Nicole Ayers and Monica Hoffman.

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Sarah Davies, Agent, Greenhouse Literary Agency

Sarah Davies was a publisher for 25 years before launching Greenhouse Literary in 2008. She’s open to all genres of fiction from chapter-book series through YA, but also sells picture books, non-fiction and even adult fiction by existing clients.  Among Greenhouse’s authors are NYT bestseller Brenna Yovanoff, Morris Award winner Blythe Woolston, and 2015 Kirkus Prize finalist Martha Brockenbrough. In YA she seeks quality writing complementing a unique premise. In MG she enjoys both adventurous storylines and classic-voiced fiction. More than anything she loves to see something she’s never seen before!  Sarah is a member of AAR. www.greenhouseliterary.com.  @SarahGreenhouse

Q: Who reads queries in your agency?

SD: I read queries from North American authors and my colleague Polly Nolan reads queries from authors writing in the English language who live elsewhere in the world (primarily UK/Commonwealth).

Q: Are you hungry to read any particular kind of story now?

SD: I’m always hungry to read MG and YA manuscripts that have a) a unique and hooky concept b) a voice that pulls me in and c) show a degree of finesse in the crafting. I’m less concerned about genre than that there should be something – whether perspective, structure, tone  – that sets the story and its writing apart from the many other queries and manuscripts (and books) that I’m seeing. I want to be surprised, I want to have that desire to read on and not put it down . . . . I’m a literary agent, but also a “regular reader”, and I want to feel the captivated interest and emotion that we all recognize in a good book. Everything else is less important than this because if I fall in love with a story, others will too.

Q: Have you fallen in love with any stories but passed because you knew they were difficult sells?

SD: I don’t think I have. I believe that an amazing story, really well written, will always find an audience – and even defy notions of what is “hot” at any particular time. But then, it is also not every day that I fall in love!

Q: How do diverse books impact your selection? How do you define diversity?

SD: For me, diversity is simply a story, a cast of characters, that captures and portrays the world as it really is. I like to see a range of characters who display in whatever way the rich mix of humanity, but this must always feel organic to the story and plot. I don’t take on a manuscript because it is “diverse”;  I take it on because it’s a great story, well told.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing about discovering a new writer?

SD: It is a great thrill to identify new talent, to bring that to the world, and in so doing hopefully help to make that new author’s life more fulfilled. As an agent, I’ve also discovered a love of teaching and mentoring. Sometimes that simply means speaking at conferences, but often it also means trying to gently nudge and lead a writer into producing the best work of which they are capable at that time. It delights me to see an author stretch and grow in their craft.

Q:  What’s rewarding about a long-term relationship with an author?

SD: Over the years, really wonderful relationships can grow between author and agent as we face the good times (deals, sales success, awards) and the challenges (manuscripts that sometimes need to be set aside, disappointing reviews, delays) together. Every career author rides a rollercoaster to some extent, and the yin and yang, the up and down, can be demanding. But we stick together, we work it through and find solutions – sometimes we even have a laugh! – and carry on down the road. I value and admire my authors hugely and I always try to put myself in their position. How would it feel to be doing what they do? That way I can try to be what they need.

Q: If you could change anything about agenting-what would it be?

SD: I would love to be able to make all books sell in the volume they deserve. I only take on authors I really believe in, I know how good they and their books are, but I can’t control how they ultimately perform in the marketplace. The market is a fickle and sometimes baffling thing, and writing is not always a career where you receive what you deserve. That being said, we try to collaborate with publishers as much as possible to get the word out.

Q: Are you an editorial agent? If so, have you ever taken on a client when the manuscript wasn’t ready because you loved the concept?

SD: Yes, I’m an editorial agent, and I’ve taken on many authors whose work wasn’t yet ready to go on submission. In fact, I’ve only very rarely taken on a debut manuscript and sent it straight out. In a few cases, after much discussion (usually before I’ve offered representation), the author has literally started again and re-written from scratch. This can often be so much better than a light revision, because then the author can reshape in quite significant ways rather than simply tweaking. I’ve seen some amazing results from an author’s “tough love” on their work during the revision process.

Q: Do all YA books need romance as a main plot point? Or is there room for stories that have romantic elements but focus on: family dynamics, place in the world, defining self and friendships? 

SD: I don’t think romance is mandatory, but I do think a great story will portray relationships (of whatever kind) that  evoke emotion and high stakes.  I wonder if it’s true to say that all good books are ultimately about love – but maybe  not always about romance.

Q: There’s a lot of buzz about magical realism- but the definition is not universal throughout the publishing community. How do you define magical realism and what about it is appealing?

SD: For me, magical realism is when magical or inexplicable events come into a story that is otherwise taking place in the real, everyday world. Hopefully that magic will enlarge, change or question our view of the real world. I represent one wonderful (middle-grade) book that I’d describe as magical realism: THE HOUR OF THE BEES by Lindsay Eagar, published by Candlewick.  It is quite a masterclass in how to write in this vein and pull it off (because it isn’t easy)!

Submission guidelines:If you would like to submit to Sarah, please look at the Greenhouse website to see whom we represent and for up-to-the-moment guidelines, which can be found here:  http://www.greenhouseliterary.com/index.php/site/how_to_submit.

*I met Sarah a few times at different SCBWI conferences. And I have to admit I have an agent crush on her. She’s direct, kind and smart. Any writer who has her as an agent is lucky.

Day 2: Editor Nicole Ayers

Have you wondered what it’s like to work with an editor? Have a few questions about how an editor may help your work? Nicole Ayers of Ayers Edits answers questions about the editorial process and what writers should consider before working with an editor.

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Q: How do you know if you can work with a writer?

NA: I communicate a lot with prospective clients. I share information about my process, offer sample edits, ask questions about their wants and experiences, and invite questions. I make myself available via email, phone, and/or Skype. And while part of all this is to give the person the information they need to know about working with me, the back-and-forth gives me insight about them. If someone’s not responsive or kind, then I know we won’t be a good fit. The sample edit also helps me decide if we can work together. Sometimes a manuscript includes content I prefer not to edit, or I see that the scope of work needed is very different than what the prospective client has requested. And I’ve learned to trust my gut. If the project doesn’t feel like a good fit for me, I politely pass.

Q: What is your process as you read through a clients work and do you read once through before making any edits?

NA: My process depends on the type of edit I’m performing. If it’s a developmental edit or manuscript evaluation, I read the entire manuscript and jot down first-impression notes when I finish. I let some time pass (usually several days at least) while ideas marinate, then I begin a close read of the manuscript, jotting down notes and ideas as I go. When working at the word level, I also make two passes, but I’m editing from the first word read.

Q:  What should a writer ask an editor before working with her or him?

NA: I wrote a blog post once that compared finding the right editor to a blind date. It’s important to ask lots of questions. Obvious ones include pricing, availability, and timelines. But other questions to consider asking include the editor’s prior experience with your genre, whether or not they use an agreement or contract, and how often they’ll communicate with you during the process. Ask what support is offered/available once edits are returned. I’ve also been asked why I’m an editor, what I like most and least about my job, and other questions that all attempt to show the writer if I can be trusted with their work.

Q: If the story isn’t ready to submit- even after edits- do you tell the writer?

NA: Yes, if. And that can be a big if because I don’t see the entire manuscript after the author makes revisions unless they hire me to complete a second-pass edit or we negotiate a review in our original agreement.

Q: What are common mistakes writers make that they can learn to fix themselves.

NA: Oh, there are lots. As a former teacher, I think writers can learn many self-editing tricks with the right instruction. Dialogue is a biggie—from a grammatical standpoint as well as a stylistic issue. Writers can learn appropriate formatting of dialogue, and they can learn how to make it sound authentic to their characters.

Q: Typically, how long does a writer have to wait to receive notes from you?

NA: That depends on several factors, including length of manuscript, type of edit, complexity of the edit, and my schedule. It can be as few as two weeks and as many as eight. Do keep in mind that the clock doesn’t start ticking until I actually start the manuscript. My calendar books out months in advance. Writers don’t usually look for an editor before their manuscript is ready. Then they have to wait for the editor they want to work with to have an opening, or they have to work with someone else whose schedule has more availability.

Q. Any advice for writers struggling with being ready to submit when their manuscript is not?

NA: Yoga. Meditation. Deep breathing. Really what they’re struggling with is patience and humility, which is so hard to practice. But if you can master patience in small ways, like holding a yoga pose, then you can transfer it to the bigger things in life.

An idea more specific to writing is to work on shorter pieces that can be submitted to contests or for publication in journals and the like. It gives the writer good practice with the submission process and feeds that need without putting the manuscript out there when it’s not ready.

Q:. What’s your opinion on writers critique groups and conferences?

NA: Those are two different animals. I’ll start with conferences. If the conference is well organized, it can be a great experience. You can attend workshops and panels with valuable take-aways. You can network with all sorts of people. And you can gain exposure for yourself if you present or find some other way to participate. So I say yes to conferences. Just be sure to do your research before you choose one.

My feelings about writing critique groups are mixed. If you’re with the “right” group, then you can grow tremendously as a writer. The problem comes when you’re not in the right group. And finding the “right” group can be tough. Look for writers in your genre, the more specific the better. Also, try to find writers that are better than you. You’ll learn a lot from them. If you’re the strongest writer, it will be a lot harder for you to grow. And beware the nitpickers (unless, of course, you’ve asked for that sort of feedback).

Also, think about your purpose for joining the group. If it’s to spend time with other writers, learn new skills, practice craft, and/or learn how to handle constructive criticism, go for it. If you’re trying to ready a specific manuscript for publication, think twice. Rarely will you share your entire manuscript at once—usually you share a couple of chapters at a time—and the process can take months. There are other issues with continuity and pacing that come up when revising like this as well. If your goal is to get a particular manuscript ready without hiring an editor, think about finding one partner that you trust to trade manuscripts with or consider beta readers.

Q: What do editorial notes look like?

NA: Again it depends on the type of edit. For line and copyedits, I use Track Changes to mark all edits. I also use the Comments feature to make queries or explain my editing suggestions. I also provide a style sheet that tracks spellings, treatment of proper nouns and numbers, as well as “rules” followed. For developmental edits, I use the Comments feature in the manuscript, and I write a multi-page editorial summary broken into the following sections: characters, point of view, setting, timeline, story arc (including ideas for revisions, elaborations, and deletions), pacing, tone, and my favorite things.

Follow Nicole on Twitter @AyersEdits.

S.R. JOHANNES revealed her cover here & now I got an interview!

Last Friday I was part of the exciting cover reveal for S.R. Johannes UNCONTROLLABLE (Book 2 in the Nature of Grace series). And now I am proud to announce I’ve got an exclusive interview with her. S.R. Johannes is a southern lady and I’m ending my southern writers and illustrators tour with her. Hope you enjoy!
1. What does your desk look like? And do you write there?
My desk is a perfectly organized system. (yeah right! ;). I do most of my writing there followed by couch (#2) and then bed coming in a close third.

2. What sparked you to leave your Corporate America high-heeled power job behind to sit and write? Was it a story idea, character or the feeling that you should be doing something else?
I was tired of the politics and working 90 hours a week. After I had my daughter I realized I loved writing. I didn’t want to “live to work” anymore – I wanted to “work to live”.
3. When you were a little girl, what did you think lived in the woods? Did those ideas influence Untraceable?
I have always loved nature – especially when I was little. I never thought anything bad lived in the woods – except sweet and cuddly animals. Until I was kicked by a deer. Hey-  I thought you could sneak up behind them without them ever knowing. Who knew? But when we camped and I had to go to the bathroom at night – the woods always seemed so much scarier. Grace has no fear inUntraceable. She is who I always wanted to be in the woods.
4. I started writing again after my daughter was born also. How did you mange to be creative-on-demand while your baby slept?

I have no clue how I did anything in the first 6 months after I had a baby!!! I just did it somehow with eyes closed and brain-dead. I may have written “on demand” – but ‘m not sure what I wrote was my best work 🙂
5. Do you let your husband read your work? If so at what stage?

My hubby listens and helps me brainstorm all the time as I’m writing the first draft. Then he usually reads the first draft and final draft. If I can get my hubby to finish a teen book about a girl in the woods who kisses a boy, then I know it’s dang good 🙂
6. Who do you trust with critiquing your work before it goes to your agent?
I don’t have an agent anymore :). I have a few writer friends I trust – they all have different strengths – one is great at plot, one at characterization, and one at voice. My mom reads my final draft. She is an avid mystery and thriller reader.
7. How does being southern influence your work?

I guess the setting of being in North Carolina Mountains is considered Southern. Grace’s obsession with sweet tea and moon pies is a shout out to the south as well. Other than that, I’m not sure it factors in as much as the wilderness and nature aspects.
for more info on S.R. Johannes go to: www.srjohannes.com

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