Thursday, June 11, 2015

Part 2 of an Interview with Literary Agent Erzsi Deàk of Hen & Ink

This is the second part of an interview with of Hen&ink Literary founder, Erzsi Deàk (pronounced AIR-zhee DAY-ack—it’s Hungarian, although she’s American).

Part 1 is here. All right. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. What are you looking for?
I want to see exciting stories that touch the heart through humor and poignancy. Stories with fantastic Voice. Stories that resonate with readers and that are insanely well-written. I want to see illustration samples that share the same sentiments and are not in any repetitive style to the other illustrators in the Coop. I love great line and Voice in illustration. I love good lines in writing, but don't want one-off fantastic lines to standout and I want the payoff to always be the inevitable unexpected ending. 

What is your submission policy?
 We have a pretty strict policy, but the main one is that people listen and abide by the guidelines:
 ➢ We are open to submissions on recommendation from a publishing colleague and during Open Coop dates and from conference attendees for a specific period of time. What with the 12x12 and an SCBWI event, we don't expect an Open Coop Day before November -- but this could change, so please stay tuned to the website and social media for announcements!
 ➢ Almost more important than the above is to KNOW MY NAME and what I like and what Hen&ink represents. Addressing a blind letter to DEAR EDITOR will get you absolutely nowhere and DEAR AGENT is only one step behind.
 ➢ On the Hen&ink site submission's page, there's a list of favorite books and a list of what we don't want to see. Definitely examine these before you submit.

Do you consider multiple submissions?
 I assume submissions are multiple. If it's an exclusive, then I want to hear about it! And see it at the top of your very short cover letter – see below.

Do you read cover letters?
Yes, and I like cover letters that are short and sweet (ie, My name is Joe. I attended the XXX conference and this is my picture book text). At the end, if you are writing a nonfiction book, give me more about you and why you might be the only person who can write this book. But otherwise, keep it short and sweet and let your work speak for itself (and you).

What's your turnaround time?
My ideal turnaround time is within 5 weeks. The reality is that it can go for longer. After 5 months, I encourage everyone to consider it a pass, though I've been known to rise from the dead long after. I have an assistant now, so I'm hoping we'll hit the 5 weeks mark more often!

What's your ideal client look like?
The client/agent experience is definitely a bit like a marriage; it's certainly a partnership. That said, each partner needs to do his/her job. My ideal client is producing quality work that I can take to market and I'm, ideally, getting them the best deal for their efforts. My ideal client doesn’t nag me and ask what's happening. Ideally, I'm communicating regularly with updates, and while encouraging them to create, not nagging after them, "Where's the book!?!" If something IS happening, they will be the first to know.

Do you discuss with your clients who to submit to before you submit? 
Yes, we come up with a targeted list together. I don't do anything without communicating to and with a client.

As you are based in France, to whom and where do you submit? 
Primarily US and UK publishers and maybe other English-language markets (ie, I prefer to work in English for original projects).

How do you submit?
It depends on the project, but always targeted so that, ideally, I don't waste anyone's time.

What are your last sales? 
We've just sold a number of picture books in the US, a big project in the UK that we can’t announce yet, and foreign rights into Korea and we are hopeful for foreign rights for a big YA/crossover project.

What percentage do you take? 
15% for domestic (ie, "home publisher").

Do you represent illustrators?
Definitely. I love illustrators. I, of course, adore illustrators who are also writers (not an obvious fit just as not all writers are illustrators, by any means).

What's your worst criticism? 
That it's boring.
 Next up, is that it’s preachy (message-driven).

Anything submitting authors and illustrators should avoid? 
Gosh. It always seems obvious, but probably just avoid being pushy, even if it comes from a heartfelt place like desperation. Know your market (me) and research a bit. Be professional. I'm pretty easy-going, but if I sense high-maintenance, I'll probably run and hide in the bathroom (and then, please, do not push the project under the stall door) and pass, even if it's a Newbery book in-the-making. The role of agent is that of a "business nurturer"-- I try to avoid therapist! I'm a writer, too, and know how hard it is to put ourselves out there on-the-line. But if a person is professional, has done her/his research and has a project worth considering (and this can be objective, mind you), that's all good! Know that agents and editors are people first and it's all subjective and pretty much a Yes or No scenario: “Yes, I like your work and want to see more.” “No, sorry, this isn't for me.” If it's “No,” it's a no from ME, not the whole world and you just have to work on your craft and trust that you'll get to “yes” with the right agent.

Thank you, Erzsi!

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