Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Welcome Beth Phelan to TBA!!!

You guys, I'm so excited to announce that the fabulous, amazing Beth Phelan has joined our agency!   Beth is formerly of Waxman Leavell Literary and Howard Morhaim Literary and you can read all about her on our website here.  She is going to be a tremendous asset to our team and we are thrilled to have her on board.  And now, for a word from Beth...

Hello readers,

I’m absolutely delighted to be joining the Bent Agency and can’t wait to add some more authors to their already stellar roster.  I’ve gotten a head start looking at some tempting submissions and am eager to see more in my slush. You can read a little about me here and brush up on TBA submission guidelines over here, but for a taste of what I’m looking for:

When it comes to YA and MG:
-       I want quirky, cute but dramatic and all-consuming contemporary YA romance.
-       With contemporary, I also want to see more stories about everyday issues that are super relatable.
-       Although it’s saturating the market a bit, I still love a strong YA urban fantasy with high stakes but not paranormal of the witches/werewolves/vampires kind.
-       I like serious middle-grade tempered with lots of fun and adventure.
-       I’m also interested in finding some lovely New Adult fiction with an unforgettable voice.
-       Above all, I need it to be funny. Even if it’s a generally serious book, I love to see humor woven throughout.

When we’re talking about adult:
-       I’m interested in literary fiction but obviously I don’t want the writing to be too flowery and distracting.  
-       Suspense, mysteries and thrillers that are complicated and surprising, not cheesy or derivative.
-       Humorous women’s fiction beyond the typical “Mr. Right/Back-to-my-country-roots” iterations.
-       Well-written family sagas and other general fiction.

As for nonfiction:
-       As a home cook, I’d love to see some unique cookbook ideas with interesting perspectives on new and old recipes.
-       I’ll consider humor/pop culture book projects with strong platforms.
-       I’m a huge animal lover, so any pet-related submissions are welcome.

I can’t wait to dive into the slush pile! You can query me at phelanqueries@thebentagency.com if you have a project that you think I’ll like. You can also follow me on twitter at @beth_phelan for live wish list updates and more on what I’m looking for in my queries.

I look forward to reading your work and appreciate you sharing it with me!


Friday, September 20, 2013

Jenny Bent is closed to queries until January 2014.

You guys, I can't believe I am doing this, because I've never done it, not in 20 years (even when I was on maternity leave) but I am closing to queries for a few months.  I truly hate to do this, but the demands of running an eight-person agency (watch this space for an announcement of another new agent soon!) plus managing my own robust and exciting client list, mean that I need to take a little break to catch up.  I'll re-open again in a little over three months, let's say January 1, 2014.

In the meantime, if I have requested a ms from you, or you are referred by a client or someone I know, I am happy to hear from you. If I meet you at a conference and request your work, it is considered a solicited query/manuscript and will definitely be considered.

If you queried me prior to this announcement (made at the end of the day on September 20, 2013), I will still consider the query.  

All other queries will not be responded to, although you will receive an auto-response saying I am closed to queries.

I wish everyone the best with all their writing endeavors and look forward to hearing from you after December 31, 2013.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Interview with Jill Davis, Executive Editor, Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins and Susan

Today readers, we’ve got an interview with Jill Davis, an Executive Editor at Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.  I met Jill years ago when she was an editor at Viking Children’s Books and I sat a few doors down in the marketing department.  If I remember correctly, she and I bonded early on over our mutual love of the tuna melt.  (Don’t tell me that you don’t love a good tuna melt. Do not).  But more importantly: Jill didn’t acquire a book that I didn’t fall head over heels for.  And, in that way, she made my job easy – because it’s a pleasure to create marketing plans for a book you love.  Read on for more about what she looks for in a book, what makes a great editor, and her thoughts on quirkiness and why it’s important in kids’ books:

This question is a three-part-er on your book history: Was there one book that started it all for you -- inspired a love of reading in you?  Is there a book that changed your life?  Is there a book that you turn to again and again?
For me it’s The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill.  It was read to me by my 4th grade teacher, Ms Coughlin, at Cottage Street School in Sharon, Massachusetts in 1977.  I re-read it to this day and it still speaks to my love for the quirky character, original takes on (fake) history, and New York City.  I think from the first sentence (which I later used in my critical thesis for my MFA on “quirk”) I fell in love with the world of The Pushcart War: from the names of the characters (Morris the Florist, Frank the Flower, you get the picture) to the great items all the pushcart vendors sold. Not to mention peashooters!

We hear about quirky books a lot, and many editors are looking for them.  What’s the trick to making quirkiness work?
I think quirky characters often need to be presented in contrast to characters who see the world in a more straight-forward way.  Quirky characters see the world “slant” and in order for that to be appreciated or acknowledged, they have to be around people who react to them, or to whom they react.  If everyone’s quirky then something gets lost.  The definition of quirky relates to handwriting; John Hancock’s signature is a great example. It has those lines that go off in a weird direction, and that’s what a quirk is – something that goes off in an unexpected direction. What it creates in children’s books are reactions.  And it’s the opposite of predictability.  At a certain age we want to read for surprise, not predictability.  Especially kids who are about 7 to 10 years old, who are starting to really look around and understand more about relationships.  That’s the time in their lives they’re going to friend’s house, sleeping over, seeing different kinds of families and comparing themselves.  Books with quirky characters work with that.  Hilary McKay, Polly Horvath, Jean Merrill all speak to this.  For kids who don’t have the opportunity to meet other people who do things in that slanty way, meeting quirky kids and adults in novels is another way to experience the world.

In writing, we have round characters and flat characters.  You need both – the round who are open to changing through experience.  But you also need your flat characters who are predictable and who can be counted on.  With the latter type—whether the stubborn friend or the crotchety neighbor—you do have some predictability.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a children’s book editor?  Can you tell us how it evolved? 
No way, no how.  I was a French major in college with no desire to teach French.  I came to NYC as a nanny for a fabulous literary agent and I noticed how she sat around reading her manuscripts, and going to book parties, and thought: that’s what I want to do.  My first job in publishing was at Family Circle Magazine.  After a few years there, a boyfriend who worked as a designer noticed that I was busy writing parody songs of the articles they did (for instance, there’s a SCUD Missile in My Heart: Girl, I was in love with you till you dropped that big B52 / I’ve got a SCUD missile in my heart) and suggested that I might want to try children’s books – he had a friend at Random House and there was an opening.  I interviewed with Simon Boughton, who was the Editor-in-Chief at Crown, and I started as the Assistant Editor there in 1992.

What are the parts of your job that you least expected? 
One skill you need that’s very different from working one-on-one with authors, is speaking convincingly in front of big groups of important folks with titles such as Vice President of this and President of that! You have to able to think on your feet, often about non-editorial concerns, like marketing, sales track of an author, commercial viability, and the realities of the marketplace. This ability only comes with experience.

What do you like best/least about being a children's book editor?  
What I like best is the excitement I feel when I work with authors.  What I like least is when a wonderful book doesn’t find its audience, but you know it’s a great book!

In your opinion, what makes a good editor?
Flexibility, openness, a great sense of story, creativity, imagination, ability to work with others, a good thesaurus! And not being afraid to be honest.  A trust fund doesn’t hurt.

Editors have the great skill to read something that they can see needs work, while seeing what the manuscript can become. How do you do this -- how do you intuit the story lying inside what’s on the page?
Well, I don’t know if I can intuit the story as much as I can evaluate the structure.  Often I can feel the pulse of the story, but it feels like it’s drowning in narrative or disorganization, or in bad pacing.  I try to pull out what’s working; often it helps to skip forward to the next moment that works, which just means the next time I’m interested in what’s on the page, and see what can be done with the extra,
not-as-interesting parts in-between. I ask the author: Can it be used somewhere else or can we toss it?  Authors always leave clues for themselves, and the trick in revision is to follow those clues and develop little glimmers of ideas into scenes that grow and work for your story.

We hear a lot about “voice.”  How can writers create a unique voice?
The most important part of having an original voice is to be super specific and have an opinion.  Knowing your character, from their favorite song, to why their mother always yells at them, to what they like to do more than anything, is the key to being able to write an engaging character.  Sometimes the voice doesn’t come out the first time – sometimes you have to try different approaches for the same character – try writing your story in third person limited, Does that feel close enough? If not, try first person, and maybe a different voice will emerge for your character.  Lexicon is a word that isn’t used enough in writing, but take the time to know the words your character would use by collecting them, doing research and always always use your thesaurus.  Reading a lot helps too.

What’s the best advice you have for novelists who are just starting out? 
Don’t be afraid to revise.  Which can often means starting from scratch.  Often, a first draft is simply you getting to know your characters.  By the second draft, you’ll know so much more about your characters and your world.  And also, by way of Stephen Roxburgh, avoid what I suffer from in my writing: the pathological need to complicate.  For example, you may know exactly where you’re going with your plot, but you’ll find yourself adding every possible action you can before that important event--just to avoid getting to that moment. That’s complicating things!  For me, it’s my fear of not including everything – when you write a novel you have this idea, it’s going to be everything to everyone!  Instead, just try to tell one story. Narrow it down. Pick an emotion for each chapter, and try and stick with it.

Would you tell us about some of your favorite upcoming titles? 
Mister Puffball, Stunt Cat to the Stars by Constance Lombardo is a graphic chapter book series for the 7 to 10 age range.  It follows the adventures of a cat whose dream is to go to Hollywood!  I signed up three so far.  I fell so madly in love with the writing and the art, which is so in tune with my sensibility (front page of the sample shows a cat with a speech bubble, next to author’s name; the cat is saying, “Never heard of her!”) Originally, this project looked more like a comic strip, and given the success Harper has had with projects like Big Nate, we asked the author her to take the text out of the strips and to write longer form.  She did such a smashing job with it. She’s that funny! It’s coming in 2015.

I’m also working on a YA contemporary with an incredible twist written by a writer from Memphis named Moriah McStay.  It’s a what-if book: what if the main character hadn’t been burned and disfigured as a child?  The story follows both possibilities, and alternates between the two versions of the same person, a scarred self and an unscarred self. What I love about it, besides the original take, is that it’s somewhat epic – it starts in 11th grade and ends in freshman year of college, but moves quickly.  The author has a way of making time move forward at a clip, and it’s so much fun to see what happens next in both girls’ lives—even though they’re the same person. But they’re not.  When you work on a novel you have to love it because you’re going to read it over and over again.  A novel that has two separate voices, keeps things very fresh – and you’re happily surprised when you move back to other worlds.  This one is also coming out 2015.

What occupies you when you’re not editing? 
My family and friends, my teaching, my own writing, and trying to learn guitar!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Deal Announcement: Book Three in AG Howard's SPLINTERED series!

I can still remember the excitement I felt the first time I read AG Howard's SPLINTERED on submission.   It's been such a joy to see that book published and see the fans react in the same way that I did to this truly special, original, beautiful book.   SPLINTERED was a two-book deal with Abrams and now I can announce that we've also sold a third book in the series, ENSNARED, for publication in January 2015.

We've also sold the Spanish language rights to the book to Oz Editorial, where they have also been huge AG Howard fans and we are so grateful for their support.

So a big thanks to Abrams Amulet and the wonderful team there for doing such a fabulous job with SPLINTERED and for having the faith in AG Howard to keep going with two more.

Please join me in congratulating the lovely, talented AG Howard on twitter at @aghowardwrites.   She is such a gracious, hard-working author, she deserves all the success she has achieved and all that is still to come!

August 28, 2013 - ENSNARED by AG Howard
Children's: Young Adult
AG Howard's ENSNARED, the last installment of the Splintered Trilogy, in which Alyssa journeys into AnyElsewhere - a parallel dimension of Wonderland where netherling outcasts are exiled - to challenge Queen Red to a final battle of magic and wiles for the greater good of her friends, family, Wonderland, and the human realm, to Maggie Lehrman at Amulet, for publication in January 2015, by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency(World English).
Spanish rights to Oz, by Philip Sane at Lennart Sane Agency, on behalf of Jenny Bent.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Deal Announcement: Subsidiary Rights Sales

Congrats to the following TBA clients on their overseas deals!

Lynsay Sands' ENGLISH BRIDE IN SCOTLAND sold in Germany to Lyx.

Victoria Van Tiem's LOVE LIKE THE MOVIES sold in Russia to AST.

Lynn Weingarten's SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS sold in the Spanish language to Editorial Océano de México.

Yangsze Choo's THE GHOST BRIDE sold in China to Grand China and in Turkey to Dogan Egmont.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Deal announcement: Three Book Deal for LuAnn McLane

I'm so happy to announce that LuAnn McLane will be returning to the wonderful world of Cricket Creek, Kentucky, to publish three more books in this terrific series.  I've worked with LuAnn for a very long time and she is awesomely talented and an unfailing delight--I'm thrilled to see her career really taking off with this wonderful Southern-set small town romance series.  

Here's the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

August 30, 2013 - LuAnn McLane
Fiction: Women's/Romance
LuAnn McLane's untitled Cricket Creek series, to Jesse Feldman at NAL, in a three-book deal, by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency (World English).

Please join me in congratulating LuAnn on twitter at @writerlu and also please "like" her new Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/authorluannmclane.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Deal Announcement: Two-Book Deal for Katy Cannon

I am thrilled to announce a two-book deal for Katy Cannon’s fantastic 12+ romance, LOVE, LIES & LEMON PIES, which has sold to Ruth Bennett at Stripes Publishing.

I have a special affection for this book, as Katy came up with the concept while we were brainstorming over coffee and cakes. The book also has the most crushworthy love interest and a birthday cake scene in a theatre that will make you swoon – I promise!

Katy is already working with Stripes on her 6+ series POOCH PALACE and we're thrilled she gets to continue working with Ruth and all the fantastic Stripes team on these new books.

Congratulations, Katy!

 International rights:
UK Children's 

Katy Cannon’s LOVE, LIES & LEMON PIES, pitched as ‘The Breakfast Club’ meets ‘The Great British Bake Off’, in which sixteen-year-old Lottie has to join the school Bake Club and use all her baking talents to distract attention from her secrets, but doesn’t count on making friends or falling in love, to Ruth Bennett at Stripes Publishing, in a two-book deal for publication May 2014, by Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency (World).

Please go and wish Katy well done on Twitter: @katyjocannon

You can learn more about Katy on her website -- www.katycannon.com  -- or on the TBA website.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Deal announcement: Three-Book Deal for Seressia Glass!

I'm so happy to announce a new three-book deal for author Seressia Glass, for an erotic fiction series called THE SURVIVOR'S CLUB, featuring three damaged but ultimately triumphant women.  We sold it to one of the smartest editors in the business, Cindy Hwang, at Berkley, an imprint of Penguin.

When Seressia sent me the proposal, I knew it was a winner right away, so I couldn't be happier that she's with such a great house and a great editor.

August 28, 2013


Seressia Glass's SPICE, in which a former celebrity chef and rehab graduate engages a professor of human sexuality to help her reenact scenes from the classic erotic text The Perfumed Garden only to discover the addicting power of love in the process, to Cindy Hwang at Berkley, in a three-book deal,
by Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency (world English).

Please join me in congratulating Seressia on twitter at @seressia.

DEAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Three-book young fiction deal by debut Sibéal Pounder

I am excited to announce a three-book deal for Sibéal Pounder’s hilarious 7+ book WITCH WARS, which has sold to Ellen Holgate at Bloomsbury Children’s UK.

I’m so in love with this book that just thinking about certain scenes leaves me in hysterics! Tiga is such a wonderful main character, and is supported by the most amazing witchy cast – best friend Peggy Pigwiggle, fashionable Fluffanora Broom, and evil Felicity Bat with her smug sidekick Aggie Hoof. This book has everything -  twists, riddles, enormous dresses and a creepy old doll shop called Desperate Dolls. And I can’t wait for you all to read it! 

Congratulations Sibéal!

 International rights:
UK Children's 

Sibéal Pounder’s debut, WITCH WARS, the first in a series, in which a nine-year-old girl discovers the witchy world of Ritzy below the sink pipes – a place of glamorous gowns, hidden towns and witches willing to do almost anything to rule it, to Ellen Holgate at Bloomsbury Children’s UK, in a three-book deal, by Gemma Cooper at The Bent Agency (World).

Please go and wish Sibéal well done on her twitter @SibealPounder