Book Broker – An interview with Jennifer March Soloway
Agent: Jennifer March Soloway
Picture books (sweet, funny, fiction, non-fiction); MG (open to all genres); YA (open to all genres, especially contemporary and thrillers); adult (select thrillers, horror, and literary fiction).
1) What stands out in a good submission?
The projects that capture my interest have at least three of the six following traits:
- A dynamite opening line (or lines)
- A strong, engaging voice
- An intriguing premise that somehow feels different from anything else I’ve seen
- An opening scene filled with drama that has enough context to immediately ground me in the world and pull me into the story
- An irresistible character with high stakes and agency
- An additional story thread that is also compelling
- And the really great ones have all of the above!
2) What is the most common error or flaw you see in query letters?
It's not so much the query letter as the opening pages. I see potential in almost every submission, but most projects I receive are at too early a stage for me to offer representation.
3) What's a typical early warning sign that a manuscript isn't structurally sound?
When I have trouble understanding the stakes for the protagonist or if I cannot seem to get grounded in the story in the opening pages.
4) Are you currently open to submissions, and is there anything in particular you are looking for right now?
I am open to submissions and looking to get lost in a great story. I would especially love to find a great, twisty thriller rife with suspense and unexpected twists.
5) What advice can you give to writers who are submitting their work?
Prepare your manuscript, paying close attention to the opening pages. Take the time to revise and polish. Submit your best work.
6) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
I find the publishing industry fascinating. I enjoy reviewing contracts and thinking strategically on behalf of the clients. I love writing pitches and connecting with editors. I even like reviewing royalty statements. Most of all, I love editorial. It gives me great joy to help writers find their story. I love to champion others. Perhaps the best part is when I get to tell a client they're going to be published.
There is a lot of rejection in this business at every level, and agents get rejected all the time too. It's frustrating when a terrific project doesn't sell right away. However, I don’t get discouraged; in fact, just the opposite. Every time I get a rejection, I see it as an opportunity to learn more about the market and what works or doesn’t. If I am lucky enough to get feedback, I then have the opportunity to strategize next steps.
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.)
No. I wouldn't be the right agent for that project. That author deserves someone who loves and believes in their work.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Yes. I am working with Aiden Thomas, and we just announced their deal for CEMETERY BOYS with Swoon Reads. I love, love, love this book and cannot wait for the world to read it! Here the pitch: A Latinx trans teen boy, hoping to release his cousin's spirit and prove himself as a brujo, accidentally summons the wrong ghost and ends up falling in love with him. I laugh and weep every time I read the manuscript. It's so, so good!
And I am super excited for SUMO JOE, illustrated by my fabulous client, Nat Iwata. The text is fun but simple, and Nat's art brings the story to life on the page. Every time I look at the illustrations, I notice another clever detail about the characters or a charming picture in the background. Nat did a ton of research to ensure the depictions of the sumo were authentic. The final result is truly brilliant!
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