Book Broker – an interview with Stefanie Molina
Agent: Stefanie Molina
Preferred genres: PB, MG, and YA (historical fiction and fantasy, fantasy, contemporary), adult fiction (romcom, mystery, cozy mystery, thriller, fantasy, historical fiction and fantasy), adult nonfiction (business, self help, memoir, and cookbooks by BIPOC individuals).
Bio: Stefanie Molina has spent her career advocating for marginalized folks in publishing as a technical editor at a national laboratory, senior editor at the literary journal F(r)iction, and book coach and editor for women of color. She is one-half Mexican, one-quarter Japanese, and one-quarter Irish and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in communications, both from the University of California at Davis. Aside from reading, she enjoys hiking, swimming, baking strange new things, and playing the piano. Her favorite place in the world is Yosemite National Park. You can find her on Twitter: @fiction_tech.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
A straight-to-the-point query and a strong character whose needs and desires are clear from the get-go (if not to them, then to the reader). The two things that get me once I start reading a sample are a strong personality and a hook that comes in quickly.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
When someone doesn’t have command of their syntax, when the prose and/or dialogue is awkward, when there’s massive info dumping. To me, those are signs that a manuscript hasn’t been workshopped or that critiques haven’t been taken into account, two things that are red flags for me.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
Right now I just want more stories from BIPOC folks. I think what I’m looking for most are stories about us existing in places that we definitely were or are but our presence there has not been represented in popular media or history. Examples include BIPOC horse girls, BIPOC in school sports like swimming or lacrosse, BIPOC detectives, BIPOC in the outdoors, BIPOC bakers or CEOs… the list goes on and on. Also, as we’re going into the cozy season, I want to read submissions that are similarly warm and comforting!
4) What do you love most about being an agent, and what do you find the most challenging?
This is a super easy answer—what I love most is being able to give good news to my amazing clients, and what I find most challenging is having to give bad news. The bad news includes having to pass on queries. It’s been the hardest part of my job so far, especially when I pass on a full I’ve requested.
5) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
The voice. If I’m drawn into someone’s head or life so firmly that I look up and realize an hour has passed without me knowing, that’s a great sign. Snags include clear prejudice on the part of the author, blatant stereotyping, picture-perfect characters with no flaws (unless they’re hiding something), or, for me, graphic abuse, self-harm, or suicide. (I actually cannot handle the last three and I request that you either don’t send that material to me or give me a content warning if you feel it doesn’t permeate the entire book.)
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
More submissions by BIPOC people and more successes for BIPOC people, across all intersections. I think publishing is changing somewhat, but we’re still a long way away from reflecting the real population, which I think should be our goal. I just think there are so many stories that haven’t been told, that really should be.
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
Recently I reread Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh. It sounds a little basic, but anytime there’s a protagonist turning societal expectations on their head and a tall, mysterious, tough-but-secretly-soft love interest, I’m pretty much hooked. I especially love when we enter the story with a strong character like Mariko who doesn’t know anything about surviving or fighting, and like the rest of us, has to figure it out on the way.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
I’m a pretty new agent so my stuff is still behind the scenes 😊 But I’d love to shout-out my authors Jeanie Duque Dizon, who has an incredibly sexy and empowering urban fantasy that explores how black magic can defeat white power, and Kiana Zavus, who on the complete other end of the spectrum is writing about an adorable little girl giraffe who discovers she has dyslexia and learns to read her favorite book.