So excited to share Joan Slattery of Pippin Properties, Inc. with you. As I mentioned a few days ago, Ms. Slattery is the newest agent at Pippin Properties, but she is definitely no newcomer to the world of children’s literature. All you kidlit writers, get ready to add another agent to your lists!
KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?
JS: I’m new. I joined Pippin Properties, Inc., at the end of 2010, and the team there has been so welcoming: Holly McGhee (president and founder) and Elena Mechlin. Prior to this, I spent twenty years as a children’s book editor, mostly at Knopf Books for Young Readers, part of Random House. I’d always admired Pippin during that time, and its enviable client list: Kate DiCamillo, David Small, Harry Bliss. When I had kids of my own, our family reading led us straight to Alison McGhee, Peter H. Reynolds, Jeremy Tankard. And we’re exploring still (RESCUE BUNNIES being a current favorite, and JUST DESSERTS just came home).
I feel really lucky to be working with authors from this new vantage point, and at such a gem of an agency.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
JS: Well, if you’ll forgive a new agent for having a philosophy (somehow this seems brazen), it would be this: to be our clients’ best advocate and navigator in the world of publishing, in all its complex venues. I hope authors will come to count on me for strategy, brainstorming, and an always-honest response to their work. More coach than cheerleader, I guess you can say.
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
JS: It’s a bit too soon for me to have firm news to report, but I will say I’m drawn to character-driven fiction (with a helping of emotional upheaval). I learned so much (about writing, about revising, about simple professionalism) from the authors I worked with as an editor--Jerry Spinelli, Philip Pullman, Jane Smiley, Adele Griffin, many more--and I can’t wait to continue my education in this new role.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
JS: Pippin represents all children’s genres, and I’ll focus on middle grade and young adult fiction. While I hate to rule out anything…I’m not really a science fiction person. I’ll immediately contradict myself by saying I’m drawn to novels that have a glimmer of sci-fi against a “normal” backdrop, like Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME (hard not to love).
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
JS: If you choose to position your work against the marketplace, I’d avoid comparisons to HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, or any other generation-defining titles. Or NANCY DREW or CURIOUS GEORGE for that matter, which might make me think you haven’t read a children’s book in thirty years. Stick with current and realistic comparisons, or simply let your work stand on its own. Also, too much or too little information in a query can be a deterrent. (“I have a novel, may I send it to you?” This is easy to skip.)
But, to end on a positive note, I have to say I’m really impressed on the whole with the excellent queries we receive. So many people do their homework--and really represent their projects well.
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?
JS: Well, I mentioned emotion above. I also like an unreliable narrator, a triumphant underdog, maybe a current of psychological suspense. A good conspiracy plot is always enticing. Oh, and I’m a historical fiction fan, too--especially when it reads as adventure.
And what am I tired of? I’d caution that if you’re going to tackle a rhyming manuscript, it had better be, well, perfect. It’s a pretty unforgiving format. Also, I’d be careful when pitching a series--don’t be too breezy about this. They’re an enormous commitment for a publisher, with a high risk of petering out, and must be thoughtfully presented.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
JS: Holly McGhee, Elena Mechlin, and I can all be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll find our submissions guidelines on our website: pippinproperties.com.
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?
JS: I don’t mind it at all. If the query has piqued my interest, I’ll keep reading.
Thanks again, Ms. Slattery, for these awesome responses. Your thoughts on querying a series were especially insightful--and showed how much you still think like an editor, which is a definite plus.
Thanks for reading, all! And good luck to everyone who decides to query!