TWFT NOTE: Natalie now goes by her married name, Natalie Fischer Lakosil. She has since moved to Bradford Literary.
Today we are happy to have the fantastic Natalie Fischer of the
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency with us to answer a few questions! Enjoy
the interview, guys.
TWFT: What factors played into your decision to be a literary agent? Had it always been an interest of yours?
NF: I’d originally set out to be a writer! I started
writing middle grade novels when I was eleven, bought Jeff Herman’s
Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, and
started sending off (horrible) queries. By the time I was fourteen, I
had my first contract with a Literary Agency(which didn’t pan out, but
was great experience!), and had decided that there was no other world
for me than the publishing one. So, if I couldn’t write…I would sell!
Starting so young, and receiving so many rejections of my own, has
given me such wonderful insight to the entire process writers go
through. When I see a submission, I see it not just through my eyes, but
through the writer’s as well. Because of this, I will always hold a
soft spot for new authors, and will always want to be as helpful as
possible no matter what my final decision may be!
TWFT: How important is a perfect query in the publishing industry? How often do you personally read “perfect” queries?
NF: I don’t think this “perfect query” exists. There
are certainly better ways to write one (our Facebook site gives a solid
template), but no matter how well it is written, if the agent reading
isn’t looking for something in that genre, it’ll be a pass. The reverse
is also true; I’ve requested manuscripts from some horribly butchered
queries if I saw promise in them.
I’d say I get a good query every 60 submissions. But I’ve requested
up to fifteen from those 60. In short, the perfect query isn’t the most
important part; doing your homework on agents (finding which are really a
perfect fit), and having good writing and a solid story are. (Our
agency requests the first 50 pages for this very reason. If we see even
one line we like in a query, we’ll see if the writing hooks us.)
TWFT: There is a
debate about mentioning one’s age in a query. Do you prefer to see the
age of prospective clients in a query letter, especially if they are
NF: Absolutely. This is a personal preference,
however; as I mentioned above, I started querying on my own at such a
young age, that whenever I see a teenager writing me, it makes me WANT
to love their work!
Interesting to know your opinion!
TWFT: Do you look for anything specific in projects you may choose to represent?
NF: I look for what I’m interested in (I’m very
specific in my bio on AW!). But past that, it’s really if the story
“clicks” with me, which is impossible to predict. Romantic, historic,
and more fantastical projects do have a tendency to “click” with me the
TWFT: Why would you choose a young adult project? What attraction do you have for teen fiction?
NF: I love to read it. I find it largely
underestimated by many adults, which is a shame, because the young adult
genre is just as dynamic and engaging as the adult. YA books have the
potential to inspire, haunt, and influence more than any book I’ve read
as an adult, and I love this aspect. I want to help bring the current
generation the books they’ll remember so lovingly later in life.
Also, the people in the Children’s Lit side of publishing are just so friendly…
TWFT: What would you tell a teenager who asked you for advice on how to break into the industry?
NF: It would depend if the teenager wanted to write or go into publishing.
For writing, I would tell them to read as much as they can in their
writing genre, read all the tips they can get their hands on on grammar,
style, and how to format submissions, and get as much feedback from
RELIABLE readers as possible — moms just don’t count – and NEVER GIVE
UP. No matter how many rejections pour in, keep writing books, keep
perfecting your style and talent, and you WILL succeed.
For publishing, the best way to break in is to intern. Start with
editing a school (or college) newspaper or magazine, then see if there
are any literary agencies or small presses in your area that would be
willing to have an intern around. Most publishing internships are
unpaid, but this is definitely not a get-rich-quick kind of business. It
takes years to build the kind of connections and knowledge you’ll need,
so start where you can!
Great advice! Listen to her, guys!
TWFT: Are there any authors not represented by your agency that you wish you could work with?
NF: None come to mind. There are many, many authors I
love (far too many to even try to list), but the first thing
that really comes to mind for this question is: new, talented authors
incredibly open to suggestion and willing to keep working with me, no
matter how long it takes…
TWFT: On your
AbsoluteWrite profile, you say that “most people don’t know” you are a
writer yourself. Did you ever have thoughts of writing a novel of your
NF: I think I answered this one above…yes! But I’m
so incredibly dedicated to my clients, I just don’t see how I would find
the time…I suppose I satisfy my writing urges by being so involved with
the projects I take on.
Can’t argue with that, but let us just say the industry is missing a fantastic addition.
And TWFT’s official interview question: What is your favorite jelly bean flavor?
NF: Oh man…can I have two? Tutti Fruti and Bubble Gum. And Rootbeer. And Cinnamon. And yes, Black Licorice.
Thanks a bunch for the interview, Natalie!