Thursday, July 30, 2015

0 Agent Penelope Burns of Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners on Surprises, Chocolate, and Research

Penelope Burns is the newest member of Gelfman Schneider/ICM Partners. She came to the agency as an intern after graduating from Colgate University in 2012. She also attended the Denver Publishing Institute in summer 2012. Currently, as an agency assistant, Penelope is looking to a build a list of her own. You can connect with Penelope on Twitter.







What is on your wish list?

I’ve been really craving a YA along the lines of GOSSIP GIRL lately, or a mystery with a VERONICA MARS-ish element or main character. Something that keeps me guessing. Reality TV is my not-so guilty pleasure, so I’d LOVE to see a YA version of unREAL. Or really any version of unREAL. I also absolutely adore MG with humor.


What are some of your favorite authors/books and why do you love them?

Ooh this question has the opportunity to turn into a novel. I love anything written by Jaclyn Moriarty; she has such a way of creating characters that just grip you and won’t let go. Markus Zusak is another favorite author, although I think I might like I AM THE MESSENGER better than THE BOOK THIEF (not that TBT didn’t make me sob like a baby, because it did). There’s something about that first line of I AM THE MESSENGER—“The gunman is useless”—that just drew me in so instantly. And the plot is so intricate, I love it. I also love THE DARKEST MINDS series by Alexandra Bracken. Wonderful writing, characterization, and SUCH a great premise. Also Liam. He's my book boyfriend. I also adore contemporary books like SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE by Morgan Matson. It has friendship as well as romance—and I was actually rooting for the two characters to get together, which is big for me because one of my pet peeves in a book is instalove. And finally, a bit old school, but THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin is one of my favorite books. I just love the mystery, and the final twist is one I never saw coming.

Are you an editorial agent?

I am! It’s important to make sure the book is in the best shape it can be before sending it out to editors.

What do you like to do for fun?

The usual: hang out with my friends, watch TV, etc. I also love watching sports; my friends know to leave me alone when during a Flyers playoff game unless they want to watch me scream at the TV. And read, obviously! I always try to use my commute for “fun” reading as opposed to reading for work, unless there’s something really pressing.


Coffee, tea, wine, chocolate, or any other vices?



Ooh, definitely chocolate. I am actually NOT a coffee drinker; caffeine has the tendency to make me way too jumpy and unproductive. I’ve also become a really big hard cider person recently.


What advice do you have for writers getting ready to query you?


Relax and take a deep breath! But also, do your research! There are so many resources out there for how to write a good query letter; you want to put forth your best effort. Including comp titles is great—I love when I see one of my favorites as a comp title because it normally means that the manuscript will be towards my taste. Also, proofread! One or two typos doesn’t doom a query, but if the whole thing is riddled with them, that raises a red flag for me. Also one of my pet peeves is if the query is addressed to an entirely different person, or like “Dear Agent.” There’s something so impersonal about an error like that.


What genres are you drawn to most?



I’m mostly drawn to contemporary YA, be that a thriller, romance, gothic, etc. But I will honestly read anything, so if it’s got a great premise and a compelling voice, I’m sure to give it a chance. And I love MG in all forms. I also love literary adult fiction, or a coming-of-age adult novel like PREP or TELL THE WOLVES I’M HOME.


Which is more crucial: emotional connection or current marketability?


Both are obviously important, but for me, I’d say emotional connection. If I don’t fall 100% in love with a book, then I won’t be able to advocate for it effectively. And it’s also possible that even if the book I’m reading is not right for the current marketplace, the author’s next book might be. So just the writing and how I feel about it is something that I have to consider.


Is there anything you'd like to add that you think our readers should know?



Sometimes the best books are the ones that come to me completely unexpectedly. A small anecdote: I was at the library the other week with my two younger cousins, and they asked if they could pick books for me to read. One picked JOYRIDE by Anna Banks. I’d surprisingly never heard of it before, and honestly wasn’t expecting much when I started reading it—but I ended up reading the whole book in two days and absolutely LOVED it. One of my favorite reads of 2015 for sure. And I probably never would have picked it up otherwise!

Also, some of the best advice I’ve ever received: “Doubt yourself, and do it anyway.”

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