Book Broker: an interview with Ann Leslie Tuttle
Agent: Ann Leslie Tuttle
Website: Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
Women’s fiction (relationship, family sagas, historical fiction, and stories about friends), romance (rom coms, historicals, and contemporaries), Southern Gothics, thrillers, mysteries (historical and cozy), and middle grade. Also looking for narrative nonfiction. I’m looking for stories that deliver messages of hope and empowerment.
Ann Leslie Tuttle joined DG&B in 2017 after twenty years at Harlequin Books where she worked on an extensive and varied list of bestselling and award-winning titles in romance and women’s fiction. She received her B.A. degree from the College of William and Mary and an M.A. from the University of Virginia. Helping to grow the careers of established and debut writers has always been Ann Leslie’s passion.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A strong voice, evocative writing, lively pacing, a propulsive plot, and a unique premise. I am also looking for authors who have demonstrated a commitment to their writing careers and who have studied the current market and know what clients and acquisition interests I have.
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
Misspellings and grammatical errors are the most common, but sometimes the salutation and tone of the letter can be offputting. I’m also looking for authors who understand the current marketplace and are able to provide a sense of where their story would fit by citing comparable titles. And I’m looking for a sense that the author is as committed to making their manuscript as strong as it might be as I will be, and who will also be able to address those revision requests in a timely manner.
3) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
In terms of the actual writing, the story might not start in the right place, the pacing can be too slow with too much info dumping in the opening pages, and there are grammatical errors.
4) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Take your time to study the market, research the agent(s) you are targeting, and make sure your manuscript is truly ready to send out. While pitchfests can be great ways to meet potential agents, you also want to make sure your manuscript is complete and that you are not aware of any flaws related to issues like plotting, pacing, and characterization that might still be addressed before it goes out to agents.
5) Are there any recent changes or trends in the publishing industry that you think authors should know about?
#MSWL can be a great place to check what is currently trending and what agents like myself are seeking.
6) You've just decided to represent an author and the contract is signed. What steps do you take to prep the manuscript for submission to publishers?
Once our agreement is signed, I will usually send the author a very detailed editorial letter outlining my suggestions for revision. Since I have a background in editorial, I am especially keen to make sure the manuscript is in the best possible shape to go out on submission and am very hands-on at this stage. In my initial calls with authors, we’ve usually discussed some of my key concerns to make sure we share the same vision for the project, and the author and I will usually schedule a phone call once he/she has had a chance to review and consider my letter. Once the manuscript has gone through revision(s)—and this might entail several rounds to truly make it stand out and shine—then I’ll prepare a strong pitch letter that outlines comparable titles and create a list of editors whom I believe will share my excitement for the author and project. Leading up to the submission, I will often pitch the project in my lunches and coffees with editors to ensure the project could be a good fit and to generate enthusiasm.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I am constantly reading in a variety of genres but, with a young daughter, I especially love seeing how middle-grade fiction is helping her understand the world and develop feelings of empathy and kindness.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I am always looking for projects that teach me something new and transport me to a different place and time. I am fortunate to represent some wonderful writers whose books have transported me from the Deep South to Paris, from Victorian England to Knickerbocker New York, and from the depths of the ocean to the planets.