Book Broker—an interview with Tara Gelsomino
Agent: Tara Gelsomino, CEO/Founder of One Track Literary Agency, Inc.
Please see my submission guidelines and follow the instructions to submit your query, synopsis, and first three chapters to me via Query Manager.
Preferred genres: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Thrillers, Young Adult, Commercial/Upmarket Fiction, Pop Culture Nonfiction
Bio: Tara Gelsomino is the founder and CEO of One Track Literary Agency, a boutique editorial agency launched in April 2018. She maintains a carefully curated client list including national bestselling authors Lyssa Kay Adams and Cara Bastone, along with a host of talented up-and-coming authors in romance, women’s fiction, YA, and nonfiction. A twenty-plus year veteran of the publishing industry, she was formerly the executive editor of Simon & Schuster’s digital imprint, Crimson Romance, and also worked for BBC Audiobooks America/AudioGO and Romantic Times Magazine. She is a Rhode Island native and lives in Johnston with her husband and rescue dog Yoda.
1) What stands out in a good submission?
For the query, a hooky, short pitch followed by smart market comps that tells me you understand what is being published and where your book could align/fit will always get my attention. And bonus points if you include a reason why you think your story will specifically appeal to me.
For the sample chapters, a killer first line and a fresh, dynamic voice will hook me in every time. I also look for surprises—those don’t have to be twists or turns, just plot or character choices that subvert expectations. And since I generally ask for the first three chapters, I want to see that the writer has a solid story engine in place by the end of those that will engage me for the journey ahead. Goal, motivation, and conflict have been established for the protagonist(s) and a mechanism for attempting to achieve those goals has been introduced.
2) What's a typical warning sign that a manuscript isn't ready for representation?
If the length is far too short or too long for a publisher to buy—most adult novels range between 75-95K—that’s an immediate sign. If the voice is flat with a lot of telling from the character’s internal narration (instead of showing feelings or traits via actions and dialogue, so that we’re living the experience through the character), that’s a sign that the execution needs more honing.
3) What's at the top of your manuscript wish list right now?
I’d love a great female-led action thriller. Also, humor is always a huge plus for me; if you have truly witty and funny banter, I’m sold. But honestly, most of the time, I’m pretty open and don’t get too niche in the kind of books I’m looking for. It’s not necessarily a particular sub-genre or trope, but how well it’s executed.
4) What typically draws you deep into a manuscript? What common snags are likely to break your narrative immersion?
I get drawn in if the story is set up well in those first three chapters and then continues to have momentum. Stakes should rise—the characters shouldn’t just meander from plot point to plot point. There needs to be a strong story arc throughout the book, as well as smaller arcs of change within each chapter or even within each scene. Characters should be growing and evolving with every new plot development. If things stagnate, I stop reading.
5) When you sign a new client, to what extent do you work through additional revisions together before their manuscript is ready for submission to publishers?
For many years, I worked in editorial at print and audio publishers, and even in magazines before that, so I always do edits with new authors, from the initial idea (brainstorming and discussing whether it’s right for the current marketplace) to a thorough development edit, including a complete redline of the manuscript draft for as many passes as we need to feel it’s shining its brightest before we go on sub. For nonfiction, we treat the proposals just like manuscript drafts, with a full redline, critique, and editorial revisions. Editors’ time is so short, especially these days, that submissions need to be incredibly polished and honed for a better chance at acquisition.
6) If you could change one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be and why?
Only one thing, huh? Well, top of the list has to be more stories by or featuring BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people, disabilities, body positivity, and just prioritizing representation and inclusion in general. But on a more granular level? The waiting. I’m an impatient person, so though it’s understandable why it can take a very long time for pretty much every phase from hearing back from incredibly busy editors to getting the contract draft to review to... well….everything... it can be very hard to wait. But that’s the business. (On my end, I think the key to combatting it and keeping everyone happy is clear and frequent communication.)
7) What's the best (non-client) book you've read recently, and how did it hook you?
I’m always a bit behind in my pleasure reading, but Heather O’Neill’s The Lonely Hearts Hotel was so beautifully written with really exquisite prose—it’s a wonderful novel set in the roaring twenties in Montreal with a bittersweet story of star-crossed lovers. On a totally different note, the audiobook of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary was just so engaging and compelling. I’ve listened to all of his works on audio and the narrators have been phenomenal, and every time, I marvel at the fact that I am absolutely loving a story that’s basically a series of complex physics/science lessons.
8) Can you tell us about an exciting author you're working with at the moment?
Well, they are ALL exciting, of course! But on the immediate horizon, USA Today Bestselling Author Alicia Hunter Pace has the small-town Southern romance SHINE LIKE SILVER coming from Carina Press on August 23. (If you love Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias, you will adore this book and series of three Alabama best friends/business owners.)
And Lyssa Kay Adams, author of the Bromance Book Club romance series, has a new Christmas book this November 1 from Berkley—A VERY MERRY BROMANCE. It’s so fun to see the Bros and friends get embroiled in holiday shenanigans. Stay tuned to my social media pages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more book news and announcements!