Victoria, everybody. Everybody, Victoria.

Post first appeared March 11, 2014 on Uncommon YA.

Today, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing a woman who was truly instrumental in bringing THE NAMESAKE to print. As an agent’s assistant, she first recognized the potential in my darkly realistic YA, requesting my full manuscript back in 2008. After I signed – and eventually broke – with that first agent, I tracked Victoria down in 2011, in her new agent role at Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. Happily, she remembered my work, took me on as a client, and offered excellent advice to help shape the novel. After a year of hard work, patience, and assuring her sometimes-hopeless client it would happen, she sold my debut YA to Jacquelyn Mitchard at Merit Press. With her persistence, good humor and insightful editorial eye (I believe it’s the left one) she is an incredible partner. Here she is, folks, my uber-agent, Victoria Marini!

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Introduce yourself with a focus on the agent role. How did you get into the business?

I’m Victoria! I’ve been an agent here at GSLA / ICM for about three and a half years. I represent adult, young adult and middle grade fiction. I started as an intern at a film and television rights agency. I read manuscripts and evaluated whether or not they would be good books and movies. I was much better and more interested in the book part, so moved over to literary agencies.

What are three adjectives you’d use to describe your style as an agent?

Collaborative, editorial, firm.

Compare your agent self to a type of food or a piece of furniture or clothing.

I think I’m a sturdy pair of boots. They may not be so fancy on the outside, but when you have things to do and places to go, sometimes the boots get you further than the Louboutins.

Can you read solely for pleasure, or has your job made reading something that automatically feels like work?

Yes, I still can and often do read for pleasure. It’s a necessity.

What are your literary guilty pleasures and/or (flip side), are there books you know you should like, but just don’t?

I don’t rep. romance, but I will devour a Nora Roberts novel. And I didn’t like DIVERGENT very much at all.

Regarding queries, what’s a surefire way to get you interested?

Pitch me something I have not seen before in a clear, engaging way.

Is there something writers do in a query or sample that’s a deal breaker for you? What makes you go “Next!”?

How much time do you have here? When a query begins “Dear Agent.” I expect to get multiple submissions, but if someone doesn’t query me with my name, I’m concerned they didn’t actually research what sort of agent I am and/or the genres I represent. Queries that open with rhetoric i.e. “Imagine a world where…” or “What if you…” You should be able to pique interest without gimmicks, and I worry that you might be a writer who uses rhetorical questions to advance the plot of your novel. I’m not going to like that.

Do you have advice for writers looking to land an agent?

None that isn’t out there already, so I guess just “do your research.”

What’s the best way for a writer to maintain a healthy relationship with his or her agent?

I can only speak for myself, but I think communication – as in any relationship – is essential. I can’t fulfill your expectations if I don’t know what you want. And reciprocally, you will be unhappy with me – or with any agent, I think – if you are not willing to listen.

What’s your toughest agent duty? Or how do you remain positive in the face of rejection, particularly when you really believe in a manuscript?

It’s hard to deliver bad news. It’s hard to get very close, but not make it. It’s extremely difficult to lose potential clients to other agents and then watch work I loved sell. I allow myself a set wallowing time depending on the situation, and then I just keep on trucking. I remember that my successes and failures are not in relation to another person’s. I am grateful for the sales I’ve made and the wonderful clients I have. I try to use competition to my advantage and channel it into working hard. I try to be grateful and gracious. I share drinks with friends.

What brings you the most joy or satisfaction?

Selling books, man. Delivering that good news to an author…there’s nothing better. Personally, I find joy and satisfaction in laughter, stories and storytelling of all arts and manners, animals, nap time, music, learning, good food, and pleasant company.

What are a couple recent or upcoming works that have you really excited?

Corey Ann Haydu’s LIFE BY COMMITTEE is coming out soon, and everyone will lose their minds it’s so wonderful. I’m very excited about Karen Akins’ LOOP coming out in the fall, and Andrea Hannah’s OF SCARS AND STARDUST. I’ve some adult material that I’m thrilled about, but I can’t share it yet, so check back with me! I represent a packaging company called CAKE Literary and they’re turning out incredible stories. I sold their debut, now called TINY PRETTY THINGS to HarperCollins back in October, and I can’t wait for people to see that. And a large number of clients have sent me the first half of works in progress that I am desperately excited for! They’re going to be aaaamazing. (Ahem, Mr. Parlato…still waiting on that second half!)

Thanks, Victoria, for taking the time to “chat,” and thanks to Uncommon YA for giving me the chance to sing Victoria’s praises. Now I’d better get back to work on that second half!

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