Book Broker – an interview with Dara Hyde
Agent: Dara Hyde
Preferred genres: While being open to many types of fiction and nonfiction, as prose and graphic works, my primary focus right now is on literary fiction and YA/MG graphic novels. I’m open to narrative non-fiction and graphic novels and prose with a strong creative voice that resonates with me.
Bio: Dara Hyde is a senior agent at the Hill Nadell Literary Agency in Los Angeles and she represents a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, including literary and genre fiction, graphic novels, narrative non-fiction, memoir, and young adult. Before joining Hill Nadell, Dara spent over a decade as an editor and rights and permissions manager at independent publisher Grove Atlantic in New York City.
Dara has taught or spoken at a number of writers’ conferences and events, including Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, 826LA, BinderCon, New Orleans Writers’ Conference, Pima Writers’ Workshop, PubWest, Long Beach Comic Expo, IWOSC, Antioch University LA MFA, Chapman University MFA, UC Riverside MFA and UCR Palm Desert MFA, Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference, Fallbrook Writers’ Conference, and the Literary Editing and Publishing (LEAP) program at USC. You can follow her on Twitter @dzhyde and Instagram @dzhyde.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A unique (and readable) voice will stand out immediately.
I take notice when I can tell the writer is in charge of their craft, and with that assurance I’ll happily give them my time. I can be hooked by a high concept, but it needs to be followed by a command of language and great characters.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
Agents are looking for writers, even if they’re new to the industry, that have done their research before submitting. There are often red flags in the query itself, like not following the agency’s guidelines for querying. If a writer says they just finished a first draft and are sending it out, that’s a warning sign. Agents don’t want to see first drafts or partial novel manuscripts. Also, using empty buzzwords or sending a mass query addressed “Dear Agent.”
3) How do you feel about personalization in query letters? Can you give an example of effective personalization?
I think there’s a fine line between personal and trying too hard. In my query workshops we spend a long time on this. You want to let the agent know why you’re specifically querying them, and if you mention one of their clients, it should be because it relates to your query and/or you genuinely read and really liked the book you’re bringing up. I do want to get a sense of who the writer is, but that is best done by the tone and content of the query and their bio.
4) What are the three most overused opening scenes that you encounter in submissions?
Oh, good question.
5) For writers without prior publications, what can they say in their "about me" query paragraph to catch your attention?
I like to know more about what formal or professional writing training they’ve had, if any—even writing for a school paper counts. Also, I always want to know if they are an expert on something in their manuscript (if it’s set in Omaha, are they familiar with the area and why; if it’s about space, are they an engineer, etc).
I have a client who in their initial (very professional) query mentioned in their bio that they were a classical musician and had recently won a cooking competition. These facts didn’t exactly relate to the novel they were querying on, but they were nice personal details that gave me a better sense of who they were without being too quirky.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
I think 2020 has been a huge year of change for publishing, much of it for good even in these scary times. I’ve long been wanting to see more diversity within the ranks of publishing decision makers—by socio-economic background, education, race, ethnicity, ability, and gender. I think the pandemic has shown that publishing really can exist outside of an office in Manhattan, and I hope that allows for more of these barriers to come down when it comes to who can realistically enter into a career in publishing. The books we publish will be better for it.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
This year has been especially difficult for me and reading. Between the pandemic and the election, so much of my “free” reading time was spent devouring news. Longer works seemed really hard to concentrate on if they weren’t for a client. That said, especially when I’m working on a lot of fiction, like I am now, I’ll drift toward nonfiction to balance things out. I loved Lori Gottlieb’s MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO SOMEONE, which I read earlier this year. It’s a fascinating mix of memoir, case studies, and insights into therapy that is surprisingly moving—and structured in a really unusual way. The hook was in the title and that it was edited by a dear friend.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
So many exciting projects to talk about, always. Our current and upcoming page on our website is always full of great books to add to your TBR.
Here are two very different projects:
From Counterpoint Press, and releasing in January 2021, is Jamie Harrison’s THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING, her follow-up to the award-winning THE WIDOW NASH. It’s an Indie Next Selection for January and already has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. It’s an amazing literary page-turner set in Montana and Long Island about memory, revenge, and the secrets you keep for family. I can’t wait for the world to read this book.
On the graphic novel side, if you like the idea of “Buffy meets Golden Girls” (The Hollywood Reporter), then you should pick up the collected miniseries ASH & THORN by New York Times Bestselling author Mariah McCourt and artist Soo Lee from Ahoy Comics.