With a panel of six industry leaders moderated by Lin Oliver, this post features highlights from literary agent Kirby Kim, editor Alvina Ling, and literary agent Marietta Zacker.
left to right: Kirby Kim, Alvina Ling and Marietta Zacker
Kirby Kim is an agent at the Janklow & Nesbit Literary Agency.
Alvina Ling is VP and editor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (a division of Machete Book Group).
Marietta Zacker is an agent at Gallt Zacker Literary Agency.
Things opened up with the question what do you look for in a submission:
Kirby wants writers to focus on one book at a time and do it well.
"I want to see stakes. I like high stakes in my novels. Create an urgency so your character is backed into a corner."
Alvina gravitates to fresh concepts and voice.
"I’m a sucker for books that make me laugh and cry and important books. I’m always looking for that feeling, that spark. I want to fall in love."
Marietta is looking for people who create stories and illustrations no one else can create.
On themes that are important to them:
Kirby believes forecasting is a difficult thing to do. So when a story idea comes, writers “should focus more on what they want to say and build out a world that encounters that.” Marietta stressed the importance of understanding that writing to trends does not work and to instead start thinking ahead. "What do you want young readers and young adults to be reading four years from now?"
On final thoughts:
"Follow your compass, and not your clock."
"Get way below the surface of what you are doing."
"Make room for folks whose voices have always been there but have not been given a chance."