Justine Dell, this one’s for you! Justine (and everybody else, of course), I give you Anne Bohner of Pen and Ink Literary. Enjoy!
KV: How did you get into agenting?
AB: I started my career at Bantam Dell (a division of Random House) in 1999 as an editorial assistant. I spent several years there before moving to NAL (a division of Penguin) as an editor and I left as a senior editor when I had a baby. I've had a great time at home with my child but was itching to get back into the publishing world but in a more flexible way. Being an agent has always intrigued me and, given my background, I thought I had the potential to be a good one with interesting insights. So I threw my hat into the ring.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
AB: I come from a commercial background, so that's what I'm looking for. I expect the work to be competitive, fresh, and page turning. I'm big on plot and, of course, the writing needs to be of a certain level as well. If I see potential in a project but it needs work, then I'm more than happy to give editorial feedback. I would expect the author to be open to hearing suggestions and then running with it.
I am there fully for the author though I expect a level of professionalism because that is what they will get from me. I am friendly but I'm not a therapist. I suppose I expect a relationship that's somewhere in between. Not distant but not too terribly close either.
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
AB: I have an exciting nonfiction project that I'm going out with soon with a topic that's very much in the news. It's top secret though so I can't say anymore.
I'm also working with a former politician who's a trailblazer in education. His manuscript is inspiring and informative and is accompanied by a wonderful Forward and terrific endorsements from very well regarded and well known educators. He has an excellent platform and I have no doubt that he'll sell the book like crazy.
In terms of fiction, I represent Celia Jerome who's debuting her Magic in the Hamptons romance series this fall with DAW. Though a romance it has a strong fantasy element. Magic, romance, Hamptons. Need I say more?
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
AB: I've got an extensive background in romance and have worked with some fabulous bestselling writers including Julia London and Betina Krahn, among others. At NAL I spearheaded a Young Adult imprint called NAL Jam where we published some great writers including Rachel Caine's NY Times bestselling Morganville Vampire series, Piper Banks, and Valerie Frankel. Women's fiction is close to my heart and I've worked with some great writers including Joanne Rendell. So I represent women's fiction, romance, YA, and popular nonfiction. The nonfiction really needs to be high level with the author having a top notch platform.
I definitely don't represent middle grade or baby books. In terms of adult books, I don't represent science fiction/fantasy or serious nonfiction. As mentioned, I have commercial taste so no literary books please.
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
AB: I'm new and pretty easygoing so it takes a lot to annoy me. Get the correct spelling of my name and give me a straightforward query letter letting me know the genre and who it might compare to as well as the summary and information about the author's background. Keep it short and relevant and please don't email me 20 times--try to keep it professional.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?
AB: I'm looking for a lot! I'm trying to focus on quality, not quantity, but my list is small right now since I'm brand new. I would love some great YA and women's fiction. In terms of YA, something with an excellent paranormal or dystopian twist. Everyone is talking about steam punk when it comes to romance so I'm intrigued there as well. Paranormal/fantasy romance is still interesting to me.
In my experience, the author has always been at the forefront of trends so I'll just wait to see what comes across my desk and dazzles me. I know it's out there. I've already come across some very talented authors who've blown me away with fresh but accessible concepts.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
AB: Please contact me through my website, www.penandinklit.com, or directly through email: email@example.com. If I request the first 50 pages, please send the material as a Word or PDF attachment.
KV: How do you feel about a writer’s including a few sample pages at the bottom of the query? Do you find that more assertive or obnoxious?
AB: I don't mind at all. I don't have to read it if I'm completely turned off by the letter. And it might help me determine one way or the other if I'm on the fence.
Thanks again, Ms. Bohner, for these insightful responses. We hope to send a few more fresh and accessible concepts your way:) And good luck to everyone who decides to query. Don’t let her down!