Book Broker – An interview with Aimee Ashcraft
Agent: Aimee Ashcraft
Literary & upmarket fiction, historical fiction, speculative fiction, horror, and anything with a dark or fantastical element.
Aimee has loved books since the days of sneakily reading under her desk in elementary school. Thankfully, reading is no longer a punishable offense, and she is busy seeking out stories that feature all-encompassing worlds and compelling female characters. She loves books that are told from an original point of view and are more addictive than a good Netflix binge. Aimee received her BA from Transylvania University and her MA from NYU. She is now based in New York City and is thrilled to have joined Brower Literary and Management.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
For me, a good submission tends to do three things: it gives a good idea of what the project is about; it lets me know where the author sees their work fitting into the market; and it shares a bit about the author. I like to get a well-rounded view of any project as well as a feel for the author's personality. Striking that balance is difficult, but I find the submissions that catch my eye are able to accomplish this. And the ones that really catch my eye are those that showcase good comps and show the author's influences, as well as the kind of readership they envision for their book.
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
Besides the small stuff (addressing the email to the incorrect agent, not following submission guidelines, typos, etc.), I often see authors falling into the trap of giving far too much biographical info right at the beginning of their query letter. While I absolutely want to know who the author is (see my answer above!), many tend to go a bit overboard about themselves, and that distracts from the actual content of their query. At the end of the day, I'm here to look at their work, so I always recommend that authors save their "about me" for the end of the query and only give as much info as they need to.
3) What's a typical early-warning sign that a manuscript isn't structurally sound?
An immediate red flag comes when there's too much backstory dumped into the opening pages (I call this an "info dump"). Many times, I think authors really want to give readers as much information as possible about their characters' complex pasts, relationships, and experiences. While I of course love characters with all of these things, it's often important to weave that information organically into scenes, rather than slowing down scene development by spoon-feeding the reader a lot of backstory they don't necessarily need.
4) Are you currently open to submissions, and is there anything in particular you are looking for right now?
5) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
When it comes to writing your query, make sure to have at least a friend or two read it over. I think authors are often so close to their work that pitching it can be really difficult at times. It's important that your pitch not only makes sense to your friend, but also makes them want to read the actual manuscript!
6) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
I love that being an agent gives me the freedom to pursue a wide range of projects with authors I adore. It's a very creatively fulfilling and stimulating job! The most difficult part is probably establishing a good work-life balance, since you can bring the job with you wherever you go.
7) If you disliked a submitted manuscript but thought it could be a bestseller, would you take it on? (A question from one of our Twitter followers.)
I don't know if I really have the foresight or power to predict if anything will be a "bestseller," (does anyone? If you do, please tell me your secrets!) but I can say that I've passed on projects that I thought could sell and do well in the market. In those cases, the issue usually stems from me either not fully connecting with the book or simply not having a real vision for it and realizing I'm not the best agent to take it on.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I'm working with a fantastic horror author, D.W. Gillespie, whose novel ONE BY ONE will be released this September by Flame Tree Press. I love this book in particular because, though it's a tense and atmospheric story of a possibly haunted house, it's really the story of a girl who must find the courage to save her family. There's horror, yes, but also heartache, self-discovery, and of course, excellent writing!
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