Interview with agent Mandy Hubbard
Revision update: I’m done! Yay! Now I have to perfect my query letter.
Today, I’ve got an interview with author and literary agent Mandy Hubbard. Mandy recently joined D4EO Literary, representing authors of middle-grade and teen fiction. She’s also the author Prada & Prejudice, You Wish and other novels that aren’t on shelves yet. Mandy’s submission guidelines are here.
Thanks for joining us, Mandy. First, congratulations on your young adult books. They’re such great, fun ideas. What do you like best about writing and why did you choose young adult books?
I didn’t really choose YA, not on purpose. I signed my first agent based on a project about four girls in their early 20s — I was 23 at the time, so it made sense. She told me my voice would work better for YA, so I switched it around. I’ve never looked back since!
My favorite part of writing constantly changes. I just did the very last proof read for YOU WISH, my August 5th release. So right now that’s my favorite part — the part where it’s done and sparkly and I love it. At other times, the idea/fast-drafting stage is the best. I guess I just love it all!
Before becoming a literary agent, you interned at The Bent Agency. What attracted you to agenting and what do you love about it?
Even as an author, I’ve always been fascinated by the industry/business side of things. I’ve been active in the submissions process of my own books for years, and my agent was the first to tell me that I’d make a good agent myself. The wheels started turning, and when an opportunity to intern for The Bent Agency fell into my lap, I jumped on it. Interning really confirmed for me that I wanted to become an agent.
I love that I get to work with truly talented authors. It’s really amazing to fall in love with a project and then be able to work with the person who created it. I’m very editorial and have done rather extensive revisions with a few people, but getting to the end product — something amazing and fast paced and exciting — is so worth it.
Having to write a query letter is one of those groan, oh no, moments for a writer. How did you deal with it as a writer and what do you look for in a query letter as an agent?
Don’t throw sticks at me, but I always liked writing query letters. In fact, I even wrote them for my projects after I had an agent. I love boiling down my projects into 3 paragraph pitches that hit on the most exciting parts of the book.
From an agent’s stand point, the most important part of your query is the story pitch. I need to love the concept above all else. If you have writing credentials or a compelling reason for querying me specifically, great, but if I don’t love the pitch than the rest doesn’t matter.
How do you think your writing background helps you as an agent?
It’s helped in more ways than I could have imagined. I’m familiar with a lot of editors — either becuase I’ve met them, worked with them, or my friends are edited by them — and it has helped immeasurably at making the connections I’ll need to sell my client’s works. Further, I’ve gone through revisions with my publishers many times now, and it has helped me hone my writing skills — skills I turn around and use when working with my clients. I’ve become more analytical in my approach to books and I feel like the projects I put into the world are going to be that much stronger.
What do you look for in potential clients and how do you expect to work with clients? Will you be an editorial agent? Do you email or call?
The story and the writing is absolutely #1. I think a lot of people get frustrated and think you need to “know someone” or have some secret handshake to get an agent. All of my clients came to me through the slush pile, and I’ve never met any of them in person (yet).
And yes, I’m certainly an editorial agent. I work with my clients both via email and on the phone. I always chat with them on the phone before offerering representation — it’s important we have the same vision for the project and will be happy working together.
On this blog, I discuss how to be an unpublished writer trying to balance writing between a day job, family and everyday life. How do you make time to write?
It’s hard, that’s for sure. I’m lucky to be prolific and a really fast typer, so the time I get is very productive. I’ve always said if you want something bad enough, you’ll make it happen. If that means staying up late or working while you’re eating your lunch, then that’s the sacrifice you make. No one said it was going to be easy — but boy is it worth it!
Other than your own books, what are your favorite book or books you have read recently that you couldn’t put down?
I have to say, there were so many debut authors in 2009 whose books really impressed me — A Match Made in High School, Hate List, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, The Season… I could go on and on. It’s a great time to be a debut YA author!
Any advice for writers wanting to query you or for people who want to become a literary agent?
It’s important to understand what goes into a good query and how to write one. Spend time on Google, if neccessary, to understand how it is written. I see a lot of queries that are so far off of the norm, I can tell they haven’t spent their time doing research.
In terms of becoming an agent, it’s all about experience, so find an internship.
Finally, I noticed you’re using a pen-name for your new books with Flux. Why is that?
I write highly commercial books for Razorbill/Penguin — lighter books with big concepts. But I also write darker, more literary work that is driven more by the voice and characters than the plot. My agent and I had a long talk about the best way to handle this. My career goal is to write/release two books per year. By doing a pen name and dividing the two brands, it allows me to build two careers at the same time and have a faster release schedule. Pen-names are something to be discussed with your agent, and I’ll work with my clients on deciding what works best for them.
Thanks, Mandy! Great advice.
One of my fabulous readers pointed me to a guest post Mandy did for the Bent Agency’s blog in December. In it, Mandy discusses the rejections she went through before she finally got her first book published. It’s a wonderful story, and very inspirational. Message: Don’t give up! I second that. Check it out.