(Or, Speak to Me)
A charity water fact: 1 in 4 children in Africa die by the age of five from water-related disease.
Sara Megibow wants to save the lives of these children during the 2012 Crits for Water campaign (run by her client) with the help of the online writing community (read: you). Sara told me that she’s excited to help, so much so that she’s donated a 30-page critique to the cause (up for bid starting now: Monday, April 16th).
Sara Megibow is an Associate Literary Agent at the Nelson Literary Agency.
The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing young adult fiction,
romance (all genres except category and inspirational), science fiction and fantasy,
commercial and women’s fiction (including chick lit) and high concept literary fiction.
The Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Submission
NAE: What is your favorite thing about writing a critique?
Sara: As an agent, I choose manuscripts from the slush pile when they really speak to me. Yes, I do offer editorial services to my clients, but my mantra in general is that I'm looking for books to sell, not books to edit. So, if I review a manuscript that's great, but not sell-able as is, I don't offer a critique and I pass on representation. That's one difference between an agent and a critique group. However, when I do fall in love with a book and start working with an author, then we talk about the manuscript and I love the process of digging in to see how we can make the work stronger. For me, my favorite part about writing the critique is when the book is speaking to me, I feel connected to it, and there is something obvious that I see and can point out to the writer to make it stronger.
NAE: Why is critiquing important?
Sara: For me, critiquing is important because I am hoping that an author presents to me a polished manuscript. When that happens, then I can offer representation and we can go on to sell books, make money and woo readers. I love it when clients tell me they are part of a strong and helpful critique group - it's a wonderful asset to a writing career!
NAE: Your critique style is like which of the following: Red Pen Editor, Overall Commenter, Supportive Critic, You’ll Know It If I Catch It?
Sara: Good question! Hmmmm….I guess I'd call myself a supportive critic. I tell my clients that their books are always their art. I may have suggestions, but ultimately it's their work and they can veto my suggestions. If I'm working with an author already, then I do a ton of cheerleading. Lots of "great work" and "you can do it."
NAE: What do your clients tell you they most appreciate about your agenting style?
Sara: I tend to be pretty chatty with my clients. They receive an email from me at least once a week - with sales numbers, submissions updates, subsidiary rights updates, marketing ideas, contract updates, etc. Many authors say it takes forever to hear back and that's true. It's not because agents and editors are drinking martinis all day (I wish), but because we're insanely busy. So, I try to keep my client list small and be as communicative as possible. That's the one thing I can add to this journey called publishing that I feel my clients appreciate.
NAE: Name one of your favorite 2012 books that is coming out or already released.
Sara: I read an advanced reader copy of KEEPING THE CASTLE by Patrice Kindl. It was absolutely hilarious, very smart and one of the best books I've read in years! It's basically a satire of a regency historical romance in which a young woman must marry well in order to support her family, but the mysterious stranger acting as her business liaison keeps getting in the way. I can't say enough good things about this book - if you've ever read an historical romance novel or want a truly unique and literary novel, this is it.
NAE: What specific type/style of manuscript is on your Must Have list this season?
Sara: Excellent question! The answer isn't an easy one though, so here we go...
Anything unique and well-written. I know that feels like a cop-out, but it's the truth. I would sign 10 more urban fantasy authors if the best manuscripts I saw this year were urban fantasy. I don't shop by genre or sub-genre, but rather by quality of writing. If I open a submission and fall head over heels in love, then that's the book for me. I rep science fiction and fantasy of all sub-genres and for all reading ages (except picture book or chapter book). I rep romance (all sub genres except category and inspirational). And I rep young adult and middle grade fiction. So, if it's in one of those categories, I will read the query with relish. After the query stage, my decision is based on quality of writing. This is why critiques help so much - the manuscript must be 99% polished in order for me to offer representation. It's my job then to take it to 100% polished before sending it to editors. Then, the editor will spend just as much (if not more) time making it 101% polished so it can compete in the marketplace.
Because Sara is so committed to the Crits for Water campaign, this is her second year of participating. Check out her interview from the 2011 Crits for Water campaign here. Thank you, Sara, for this interview and for your dedication to this wonderful cause.
Do you think you have a unique, well-written project to send Sara? Bid on her 30-page critique on Monday the 16th to see how much your work speaks to her. Good luck!