Thursday, November 20, 2014

1 Agent Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Lit on Writing Communities and Marketability

Patricia Nelson started at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency as assistant to Kevan Lyon, and became an agent in September 2014. Previously, she interned at The Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency and in the children’s division at Running Press.

Patricia represents adult and young adult fiction, and is actively looking to build her list. On the adult side, she is interested in literary fiction and commercial fiction in the New Adult, women’s fiction, and romance genres. For YA, she is looking for contemporary/realistic fiction as well YA mystery/thriller, horror, magical realism, science fiction and fantasy. She is also interested in finding exciting multicultural and LGBTQ fiction, both YA and adult. In general, Patricia loves stories with complex characters that jump off the page and thoughtfully drawn, believable relationships – along with writing that makes her feel completely pulled into these characters’ lives and worlds.

Patricia received her bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 2008, and also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Southern California and a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Before joining the world of publishing, she spent four years as a university-level instructor of literature and writing.

Follow Patricia on Twitter at @patricianels.

What are some things you love to see in a query?

Of course, the most important things that I look for are an engaging voice, fluid writing, and a protagonist that goes on a compelling journey with clear stakes. 

But beyond that, I really love to see a query that lists 2-3 interesting and unique comparable titles - if done right, this gives me a sense of the book's tone, subject matter, style, and whether it's the kind of story that I might love to read. It also lets me know that the author is an avidreader as well as writer, which all of the best authors are. (A warning about this: many queries make comparisons to runaway bestsellers - THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, THE HUNGER GAMES, HARRY POTTER, etc - which tends to just read as meaning that you think your book could be very successful. We would all love that, but success on a John Green or JK Rowling scale is not a phenomenon that anyone can really set out to replicate. To really grab my attention, be more original and thoughtful with your comparisons.)

One more thing that's not necessary, but I do like to see: if you're a member of SCBWI or another writer's organization, be sure to include that! Getting involved in writing communities conveys a seriousness about eventually making writing your career that is definitely a plus for me in considering whether to request a manuscript.

What is it about a manuscript that excites you? 

A surprising main character who feels like he or she could step right off the page; well-developed supporting characters; compelling and complicated relationships (this could come in the form of friendships, a family dynamic, and/or a romance); a tightly-plotted and well-paced story that pays off with a satisfying ending; distinctive voice; gorgeous, striking sentences - and then that unexpected something special that makes this book feel unique. When that magic happens and I find a manuscript that I fall in love with and just have to clear my schedule to finish, there is no better feeling!
Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability? 
​Both are very important. There are certain genres that are so tough to sell right now that even if I really loved a book in that genre I would have to think very hard about taking it on. But I would also definitely never choose to represent something just because it was marketable, if I didn't feel a strong connection to the book. As an author, you want an agent who both has a clear vision of how they'll pitch your book to appeal to the current market and who loves and emotionally connects to your story and voice.

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