Thursday, September 18, 2014

3 A Conversation with Whitley Abell of Inklings Literary and an Announcement

Lisa here to introduce another amazing agent. But before I do I have some great news to share!

I'm thrilled to announce that I not only have an amazing new agent, Melissa Nasson of RPC, but also a multi-book publishing deal with Samantha Streger at Full Fathom Five Digital. And since we have even MORE good news coming up, and we LOVE to share with you, we will be having a contest to celebrate, so stay tuned for details!

Now I'm happy to introduce you to our agent of the week, Whitley Abell of Inklings Literary.

Whitley Abell joined Inklings Literary Agency in 2013. Before joining Inklings, she completed successful internships with Carol Mann Agency and P.S. Literary Agency. She is based in St. Louis, MO, where she daylights as a production manager for several medical and S & T journals. She graduated in 2011 BA in English and Creative Writing, and again in 2012 with a MAT in Secondary English Education, which basically means she can tell you anything there is to know about feminist literary theory and the Common Core Standards. 

What is on your wish list? 
  • A strong contemporary with literary leanings. Something along the lines of Nova Ren Suma's IMAGINARY GIRLS, Lauren Oliver's BEFORE I FALL, E. Lockhart's WE ARE LIARS, or Cammie McGovern's SAY WHAT YOU WILL
  • YA and Women's Romantic Comedies that make me laugh and swoon while still tackling a bigger topic, a la Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Castle, Lindsey Leavitt, Jenny Han.
  • Historical. These were my favorite growing up, and I'm always craving a new perspective or a fresh voice in history. I'd especially love to a more literary historical (ex: CODE NAME VERITY, THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, BURIAL RITES) with a powerful story and really strong prose 
    • Note: I'm not particularly interested in medieval times, which is what I see in my inbox mostly, and I don't really lump RECENT history (re: 1990s / 2000s) in my historical cravings. I get my love of history from my grandpa, so you can always grab my attention with the WWI and the 1920s/1930s, and I'm an absolute sucker for the 1940s. 
  • A great psychological thriller. Bring on the unreliable narrator and the chills! I'd especially love to see a modern take on Henry James' A TURN OF A SCREW, but that's getting really specific.
Can you define voice for us?
This is so hard because voice is intrinsic and can't be taught. Voice is the author's style of writing, the quality that makes their writing unique, met with the tone with which the author has approached the story. It's the way the story is told. It's the rhythm of the words and the personality of both the author and the narrator showing through. It's the individual way of thinking, what you believe and how you form that thought, unprompted and uncensored. It is so intrinsic and so unteachable that it's difficult to describe and everything I think to say feels overreaching and yet not nearly enough. But to me, just as your "real" speaking voice is natural, and is often toned down or changed in various social situations, the voice in writing is the natural way in which the writer sets about telling the story, and I greatly admire authors who have the courage and the strength to let their natural voice shine through. You can't learn it, and you can't copy it (trust me, I've seen writers try), but you can hone it. Practice peeling all the untrue parts of yourself away and putting yourself, raw and bared, on the page. Listen to the way they sound, feel, taste, and find the rhythm that speaks for you and your characters.
Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?
  • Tea (I drink green tea daily, but I'm absolutely addicted to Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset black tea. Mmm, so good!)
  • Also, Bubble Tea... minus the "bubble" boba. Weird, I know. If you haven't tried it, DO IT. NOW. I highly recommend ginger milk tea, but my bff says I'm strange, and Chocolate Coconut tea with boba is the way to go. To each their own, I guess.
  • David Tennant. Need I say more?
  • Analyzing everything. The curse of a former english major and the bane of family dinners, but a definite plus as an editorial agent.
I'm totally with you on David Tennant! But back to business LOL! What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?
  • Don't be afraid! I really am a real person, the same as you, and I really want to like you and your work. Definitely don't be afraid to talk to me via social media. Talk to me about books, or Dr. Who, or what you should do while you're in St Louis.  Challenge me with Harry Potter riddles or throw in your two cents about that article I shared. This isn't an invitation to spam me with info about what you're writing, but I love connecting with writers and putting a face and personality to a potential future client. 
  • Keep in mind that the query letter is kind of like a business letter, yes, but it's okay to let your voice shine through. A well-written query can get me really excited for the pages. 
  • Make sure you read over my submission guidelines, which are up both on my blog ( and on Inklings website ( For example, I don't open unrequested attachments, and I typically don't hunt down materials that should have been included in the initial query unless I'm completely blown away by your letter. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by forgetting to check. That said, if you forgot to include, say, your sample pages as pasted text, it's totally ok to send them as soon as you realize. Just make it clear that I should disregard the previous e-mail for the new query. I totally understand that we're all human and we all make mistakes. 
Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability? 
Emotion. Yes, marketability is important, but not as much so. If I recognize a story is marketable but I'm not emotionally invested, then I'm guaranteed to pass. But if I'm in love with a manuscript, I will fight tooth and nail to get it the deal it deserves.
Why did you become an agent?
I became interested in agenting because I love reading, and what could be better than a career spent reading books (because, you know, that's all agents do, right?). But I pursued it after interning because I love connecting with authors, working with them to strengthen their craft and helping them reach their goals. I love editing one-on-one with the authors, and being able to pick and chose and really dig into whatever sparks my interest. I love having the opportunity to champion the writers that I fall in love with in a way that literature classes and book clubs never really allow you to do, and to analyze the market (because, again, I love analyzing) and find clients' works the perfect home.

Thank you, Whitley!!


  1. A question for Whitley: On both websites it says you're closed for submissions. Can I submit to you another way, or is it just not an option right now? When will you open up again?

  2. Yay for Lisa! Yay for book deals!! I'm sooo excited for my amazing friend <3 <3 <3

  3. Congratulations, Lisa. Great news.


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