Agent Spotlight: Jennifer March Soloway
Welcome back to Picture Book Spotlight!
Name three things you can’t do your job without.
What’s something you absolutely must have in your refrigerator or pantry?
Milk + coffee.
Where do you feel most inspired and why?
Outside. Fresh air helps open my mind to new possibilities.
What do you most love about working in the kid lit industry?
The people and the projects.
It’s a brand new year. What are some goals you have for yourself?
To sell more books and read more.
In terms of submissions to you, what would you like to see more of in 2019? What would you like to see less of?
I am open to any good story that is well written with strong, authentic voices of all kinds, but I'd love to find the following:
I am actively seeking MG, and I'm open to anything. I like boy and girl protagonists, adventure, spooky-but-not-too-scary ghost stories, puzzles, mysteries, funny contemporary stories, fantasy, etc.
Young adult is my sweet spot. I am always looking for a good psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real with the imagined. I love the question: Is it real or is it all in my head? As much as I love dark stories, lately, I’ve been hoping to find stories that make me laugh out loud. I am also drawn to literary stories about ordinary people, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction.
For picture books, laugh-out-loud stories are my favorite. I like sweet picture books too, but I always appreciate a dose of humor.
That’s my wish list, but the truth is an author might have something I have never considered before, and it might be absolutely perfect for me.
Talk to us about what makes Andrea Brown unique as an agency.
The Andrea Brown Literary Agency is a mid-sized literary agency headquartered in Northern California with offices in Southern California, Chicago, and New York. Our goal is to make sure clients are not only published, but published well. Our agency invests a great deal of care and time into each project and client. We seek long-term relationships with our clients and work with clients at every stage of the writing process, from editorial to submission and beyond. We handle everything from domestic deals to foreign rights, plus film and TV, etc.
It’s an average day. Maybe a Tuesday. What might we see if we were a fly on the wall, watching you work?
My work is always changing. Sometimes, I’m negotiating a deal. Sometimes I’m reviewing a contract. Sometimes I’m reading a manuscript. and giving feedback. Sometimes, I’m on the phone with a client… just to mention a handful of my tasks on any given day.
When do you know a manuscript or an author is ready for...the call?
I know when I:
Fall in love with a project (and writing and/or art) so much that I know I can read it multiple times and still feel the same connection and passion for the story.
Feel like I have a vision and can help the author and/or illustrator elevate the work, as well as pitch the project to the right editors.
Find a strong working connection with the author. Do we communicate well? Do we have similar goals? Do we agree on how to achieve those goals? If so, it’s probably a good fit.
As you’ve gained experience over the years, what is on your “No, no list?” Give us your agent pet peeves.
I think the biggest mistake I see is authors submitting work too soon. I see potential in almost every submission, but most projects I receive are at too early a stage for me to offer representation. The drafts tend to be too raw and in need of more work. Often, I can tell the author is still writing to discover, or if they have discovered the end, they have yet to rework the beginning and middle.
I am looking for something with potential, something I think I can sell. A manuscript doesn’t have to be perfect, but at the same time, it has to be well-crafted and polished.
What is a query format that seems to appeal to you more than others?
A simple, professional letter with a dynamite pitch that makes me want to read the story.
What are some must have resources successful writers need to have in their bag?
A study of good writing–read and know your chosen category, but also read a wide range of books, essays, articles to learn what works, what doesn’t, and why
A willingness and ability to revise.
A practice focused on elevating craft for story and at the line level
A critique group with readers who give supportive and constructive feedback.
Perseverance and patience.
What is something upcoming you are excited about or would like to promote? Any travel plans or upcoming conferences?
I am very excited for our agency’s Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop in Cape Cod, May 17-19, 2019.
Finally, complete the following sentence: "Jennifer is an agent who…"
is open to any well-written, captivating story with a strong, authentic voice and is always hoping to fall in love with a new project.
Thank you so much for your time and responses, Jennifer. Looking forward to sending more stories your way in the future!
And thank YOU for reading and championing picture books. You're amazing! Don't want to miss an interview? Subscribe to this site! However, if you like to live dangerously and don't dig automated emails every time a new interview drops, be sure to stop by this Thursday, February 21st for an in-depth Author Spotlight with Justin Colón. See you next time!
ABOUT JENNIFER MARCH SOLOWAY
Jennifer represents authors and illustrators of picture book, middle grade, and YA stories, and is actively building her list. Although she specializes in children’s literature, she also represents adult fiction, both literary and commercial, particularly crime and psychological suspense projects. For picture books, she is drawn to a wide range of stories from silly to sweet, but she always appreciates a strong dose of humor and some kind of surprise at the end. When it comes to middle grade, she likes all kinds of genres, including adventures, mysteries, spooky-but-not-too-scary ghost stories, humor, realistic contemporary, and fantasy.
YA is Jennifer’s sweet spot. She is a suspense junkie. She adores action-packed thrillers full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance and she’s hooked! She's a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined. But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or recovery. In such stories, she is particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative. Regardless of genre, she is actively seeking fresh new voices and perspectives underrepresented in literature. That’s her wish list, but the truth is an author might have something she has never considered before, and it might be absolutely perfect for her. She is open to any good story that is well written with a strong, authentic voice. Surprise her! Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer worked in marketing and public relations in a variety of industries, including financial services, health care, and toys. She has an MFA in English and Creative Writing from Mills College and was a fellow at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto in 2012. She lives in San Francisco with her husband, their two sons, and an English bulldog. Jennifer regularly presents at writing conferences all over the country, including the San Francisco Writers Conference, the Atlanta Writers Conference, and regional SCBWI conferences. For her latest conference schedule, craft tips and more, follow Jennifer on Twitter (@marchsoloway).
OTHER INTERVIEWS FEATURING JENNIFER MARCH SOLOWAY
Brian Gehrlein is an educator and youth services librarian living in Kansas City with his wife, Katherine, and son, Peter. He is currently querying picture books and actively seeking literary representation. He thanks you for reading this post. He thanks you for being a creature bound to the cruel forces of time and space. By the time you finish reading this sentence, you will be older and therefore closer to your impending death. Even now you are older than when you began reading this very sentence. Still older. Relentlessly aging. It literally never stops. Oh, for the days when you were a younger, more attractive version of yourself. Like when you started reading this ridiculous paragraph. Don't live for the past. Or the future for that matter. Live for the now. This now. Not the now I previously wrote about a sentence ago. That now is so two sentences ago.