So excited to share today’s interview with you, which features Beth Fleisher of Clear Sailing Creatives. Details on the interactive part are at the bottom. Check out Ms. Fleisher’s answers to the usual questions, and then I’ll meet you down there!
KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?
BF: Agenting is the culmination of my longtime work in book publishing. Previous to this new venture I've been a managing editor, acquisitions editor, editorial consultant, and I’m also a published author. I've been agenting full time for about two years, and formed my own boutique agency the beginning of this year.
My husband, Chris Claremont, is a writer. I took over handling his comic book and graphic novel negotiations more than a decade ago, when his prose agent didn't want to handle this aspect of his business. I felt very comfortable in this role, as I had previously done a LOT of negotiating from the other side of the desk, as an editor for the Berkley Publishing Group. But having an author in the house, and having had the experience myself of being an author with an agent, has made me, shall we say, very empathetic to the writer's point of view in the publishing process.
KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
BF: First and foremost I expect honesty, and a commitment to the relationship. An agent works hard on a project before it sells--if it ever does! The hard work can take many forms, from working with the author on revisions, to using time and contacts to place a manuscript with an editor to read. I need to know that an author is as committed to the process as I am, with all its emotional ups and downs. Being an author isn't an easy life--it's not for the faint of heart.
KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?
BF: I need to see a level of creativity in a project that is unique to that creator. I am not interested in books written for the market. I need rich, deep, involving stories, with characters who change and grow, in a fully realized setting.
From my previous association with Barry Goldblatt Literary I have two middle grade fantasies in the pipeline: Allan Stratton's THE GRAVE ROBBER’S APPRENTICE forthcoming from Harper, with the sequel placed there as well; and Will Alexander's debut, sold with the title THE MASKS OF ZOMBAY, also with a sequel.
Both of these writers have a unique imagination, a special quality they bring to the voice of their characters. No one else could have written these books. It's that quality which drew me in to their prose.
Steve Walker is the artist and Jared Axelrod the writer on THE BATTLE OF BLOOD AND INK, a steampunk graphic novel that will be out from Tor Books next year. They've moved with me to the new agency (Clear Sailing Creatives). No one else could have developed this amazingly cool story of flying cities, sky pirates, and rogue samizdat printers and their press.
KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?
BF: I love picture books, but don't have enough of a feel for them to represent them. I'm open to middle grade and YA fiction, and would love to find some great ghost stories, psychological suspense, a well-crafted mystery.
Being a Dr. Who and Firefly fan, I would love to find a great SF series, whether straight SF adventure, or something a bit more out there. That said, it's very hard to find good SF. It's not the easiest genre to write, as it has to have ideas, adventure--oh, yeah, and great characters and setting. Rebecca Stead's Newbery-winning WHEN YOU REACH ME is a great current example; A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle is the gold standard for me. Contemporary voice, interesting issues, strong characters, realistic setting. It's all there in both books. I also love kids' non-fiction, though it is a very difficult sell.
KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?
BF: The huge synopsis. I just want to know what genre, and then just two or three lines. Let the writing sample speak for the book. If I want to know more, I'll ask!
KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?
BF: It's not about that magic genre--though of course I'm looking for stories that have that great hook, that one-liner that motivates the plot. But a hook alone doesn't make a book. There has to be depth and quality to all aspects of the writing.
I'm tired of seeing books that are underwritten. No, this doesn't mean that I'm looking for purple prose, with an adjective preceding every noun. But a book is supposed to paint a picture for me of a world known only to the author, whether it's our contemporary world, or SF, or fantasy. I should be able to hear, feel, smell, and taste that environment--and know the characters who inhabit it. I can sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. It's the author's job to drawn me into their vision of their world, using only the craft of their words.
KV: What’s the best way to query you?
BF: The only way to query me is e-mail, through my website.
Thank you, Ms. Fleisher, for these well-thought-out responses. You’ve given us a ton of excellent information here. I’m sure a lot of readers are itching to fire off their queries:)
But before you do, feel free to ask Ms. Fleisher any questions you might have. You can leave your questions in the comments, and Ms. Fleisher will drop in periodically to leave her answers down there as well. Keep in mind, however, that she’s off to the Nebula Awards Weekend later today, so she’s only taking questions until 1:00 p.m. EDT (which is 10:00 a.m. PDT). Until then, ask away!