GET TO KNOW AGENT LARA PERKINS BEFORE YOU QUERY HER:
Today I would like to welcome the fabulous Lara Perkins from Andrea Brown Literary Agency to my blog. Over the past several years, I have gotten to know Lara Perkins somewhat through submissions to her. She is fun and energetic and has a great sense of humor. I always look forward to her emails. Her genuine love for kid lit shines through in everything she does. I truly appreciate her taking the time out of her busy work schedule to answer some very important questions for all of us authors. If you are thinking of querying her, this is an extra special treat because she has provided us with an insight into what she is looking for right now!
How long have you been an agent?
I joined Andrea Brown Literary Agency in 2010 as an assistant and was promoted to Assistant Agent in early 2012, when I began jointly representing clients with my colleague Laura Rennert. In January 2013, I was promoted to Associate Agent and began building my own list.
What made you decide to be an agent?
Working editorially with authors and illustrators is a passion for me and I enjoy negotiating, but when it comes down to it, I love helping authors strategize their goals and the overall shape of their careers. “Discovering” and then advocating for an author or illustrator whose work I love is absolutely my dream job.
What is the best part of your job?
I love all parts of this job, from the overarching role an agent plays in an author’s career to the nitty-gritty, day-to-day work. But if I have to pick one “best part,” I’ll have to choose the moment when I fall in love with a new manuscript. Even though it’s just me alone at my desk with the pages, I can picture an editor, a bookseller, a reader hopefully seeing what I see and falling in love, too.
Are you open to submissions? If so, what is the best way to query you?
Oh yes, I am! All of our agency’s submission guidelines are on our website: http://www.andreabrownlit.com. We only accept email submissions, and each agent’s email address is listed in her bio.
What do you look for in a Picture Book submission? Middle Grade? Young Adult?
I love working with author/illustrators. Texture is very important to me when it comes to illustration. I like illustration styles that fall into the category I call “artisan commercial”: eye-catching and modern, but with great texture and line that feels hand-crafted–basically work that riffs off classic illustration styles but with a modern feel.
For picture books, my taste is broad. I love very funny, absurd, humor-driven commercial work like DRAGONS LOVE TACOS, and I’m also drawn to sweeter and younger picture books with strong kid appeal, engaging characters, and a true narrative arc. I love picture books that take a small but universal experience of childhood and draw out something beautiful or hilarious, and an endearingly flawed main character is central for me. I also love science, nature, and art and architecture nonfiction picture books, as well as picture book biographies, especially those with an international focus. With nonfiction picture books, I look for language that is both simple and poetic, and a story that teaches me something I didn’t know before–a very unusual angle on a well-known idea or figure, or a lesser-known but fascinating idea or figure.
For middle grade and young adult, my focus is on fiction though I’m also open to narrative nonfiction with a big hook.
For middle grade, I’m looking for voice-driven stories, and flawed, mistake-prone characters who are funny and goodhearted but struggling with complicated situations and emotions. I’m especially looking for compelling, unexpected mysteries, stories set in fascinating, unexpected worlds (real or imagined), and stories that hit home in their depiction of ending/changing friendships or family shifts. A voice that manages to be both funny and insightful/lyrical is my holy grail. I’m also open to chapter book series, with lovable characters and a great, fun, believable, tension-filled friendship driving the series arc.
For young adult, I love heart-breaking and funny contemporary realistic novels, and more lyrical and atmospheric contemporary novels with a fantasy or magical realism twist. I’m a sucker for romantic tension, but especially when it is complicated and dark with a strong element of tragedy–think WUTHERING HEIGHTS or REBECCA. I also love work that strives to engage honestly (raising questions rather than answering them) with the most challenging, uncertain, thorny issues teens are facing, regardless of genre. I also love a good mystery when it’s solidly grounded in reality with believable, memorable characters. I always get a kick out of unreliable narrators done well, and psychological mysteries and thrillers with a literary edge.
When it comes to signing a client, will you sign them based on one great submission or does the potential client need multiple great manuscripts polished and ready?
It depends on the category and the project to some extent. For middle grade, young adult, and picture books by author/illustrators, I’ll usually want to see a full manuscript and have a conversation about future ideas before offering representation. For picture book texts, I like to see that a client has at least three picture book manuscripts that are already very strong or have the potential to be very strong in my opinion.
Is there a best time of year to query you?
Nope! Any time is fine. If I’m out of the office (for a conference or winter holidays, etc), I may not read quite as quickly as usual but it’s also possible that I may actually read even more quickly then usual if I have downtime while traveling. So please feel free to query any time of the year, and I will always do my best to read as quickly as I can.
If you could choose one thing to be in your inbox right now, what would it be?
I’m greedy; I want ALL THE THINGS! Honestly, if I chose one thing, it would probably be misleading because while I’m looking for the traits I outlined above and those are an accurate measure of my taste, I’m hesitant to be more specific because I’m often surprised by the projects that end up grabbing my attention. Here’s one, though: as a kid, I loved Gilbert and Sullivan’s THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, so if I ever found something like that for MG, I would be over the moon.
Are you an editorial agent?
I am. I enjoy working editorially with authors and illustrators, and I believe it is to everyone’s benefit to make a manuscript as strong as possible before we submit. This doesn’t mean I’m looking for “fixer-uppers,” though. My hope is to take on a strong project, work with the author to make it even stronger, and then sell it to an editor who can help take it to even the next level so that the end result is the best book possible.
What advice would you give to an author thinking of querying you?
Our agency’s website is a great resource for information about our agents’ current wish lists, the previous year’s deals, illustrators we represent, and submission tips. I would recommend taking a close look before querying.
How often do you communicate with your clients?
It depends on what we have going on at a given moment, but I tend to be on the very communicative and transparent side. It’s more likely for me to ping a client than the other way around!
Do you tell your clients when and where you are pitching projects?
I do. Again, I prefer transparency.
Do you give your clients publisher feedback on rejections?
I usually give my clients a choice, though my preference is always to share any and all substantive feedback. If they’d like to see the feedback, I’ll share directly. If they’d prefer to just know the gist of it, I’ll tell them the gist of it.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve just started WE WERE LIARS, and I’m eager to figure out the twist that I know is coming. No spoilers please! I usually have both a book and an audiobook going at the same time, so on the audiobook front, I’m listening to THE FIFTH WAVE and admiring the fresh take on an alien invasion story.
What is your favorite book(s)?
This changes on a weekly basis, but some of my favorites include George Eliot’s MIDDLEMARCH, Kazuo Ishiguro’s NEVER LET ME GO, Jon Klassen’s THIS IS NOT MY HAT, Zachariah Ohora’s NO FITS, NILSON!, Ellen Raskin’s THE WESTING GAME, E.L Konigsburg’s FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER, Nancy Farmer’s HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, Maggie Stiefvater’s THE SCORPIO RACES, and Walter Dean Myers’s MONSTER. But as soon as I send this, I know I’ll think of ten more I’ll wish I’d included!
Is there anything else you would like writers to know about querying you?
For any writers who are thinking of querying me, thank you! I’m always so excited to see new projects in my inbox. I hope to have a chance to consider your work.
I hope that this blog may help answer some of the questions you may have regarding Lara Perkins. And I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Lara. Thank you very much for being a part of my blog. And for providing such wonderful, thoughtful answers to my questions.
Now writers, query away!
Don’t forget to follow Lara on twitter @lara_perkins