A Blog of Writing Tips, Interviews, Thoughts on the Writing Process, Book Reviews, Blog Hops, and Things NESCBWI Conference Related.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

NESCBWI AQQ Sneak Peek Interview with Agent Linda Pratt

We have many so many wonderful agents attending this year's NESCBWI 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference. Next up on the Sneak Peek tour, Linda Pratt.

Recently, Linda Pratt and Marcia Wernick announced the establishment of the Wernick & Pratt Agency, a full-service agency dedicated to representing authors and illustrators of children's books.  

From their website, http://www.wernickpratt.com "Our philosophy is that we represent people rather than merely the books they create, so our approach to representation is to create strategies for our clients' long term careers."

Linda Pratt

1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
For me a healthy working relationship seems to come down to three things.  First and foremost is mutual trust.  If that isn’t there, I don’t see how a relationship can be successful. The second is that it always helps to like one another. Not necessarily “best friends” like, but it’s easier to weather the inevitable bumps along the way if you start out liking one another. Lastly, there’s flexibility. An agent should be flexible in meeting their clients needs since over the course of a career those are bound to change, and authors and illustrators are likely to be the most successful when they, too, are flexible in adjusting to the changing markets so that their agent has the tools to create additional opportunities for them when needed. 

2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really talented first time authors so I don’t think I can say that I’ve looked for something in submissions that I’ve never received. However, the things I do always hope to see in a submission are voice and a clear sense of what’s at stake for the main character:  

Voice – What is the author revealing to me about this character that is going to make me want to know them for the next 150 or so pages?  It’s like a first date; I don’t want to know everything there is to know by the goodnight kiss, but I do want to some well-chosen details that’ll have me agreeing to a second date so I can find out more.

Clear Stakes – I want to feel the characters sense of triumph or loss if things go one way or the other.  For that to happen there has to be a clear sense of what’s at play.  Kind of like a seesaw. The conflict is the weight in the middle that can shift to one side or the other depending on what influences ultimately win out. 
3. What is your agent style?
Although I tailor my style to each individual client, overall I take a long view in working with clients since I want to work with them for their careers.  So there are a series of things I need to know. What are their goals - both immediate and long term? What are their financial needs? What time do they have to devote to their creative lives with their other professional, family and or personal commitments? What’s realistic once we start putting all these pieces together?  Then it comes down to the nuts and bolts work. How do we try to get them where they want to go?  This tends to involve a lot editorial work, as well as, advising on what projects to pursue, possible networking opportunities, scheduling issues, and many other day to day decisions that fit into the long term career picture. It’s a work in progress that isn’t written stone since life and business are ever-changing. 
4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?
I think you’ll start to see picture books acquisitions being evaluated differently. With the increase in the e-book and apps markets, a picture book’s adaptability to the “enhanced/enriched” e-book and/or app format will likely play an ever more prominent role in discussions. I’m not sure that’s a particularly good or bad thing, but being able to sell well in these formats is likely going to be a key deciding factor in acquisition. As far as the next theme trend in children’s books, I don’t think I’m prescient enough to predict that. I remember when mysteries in middle grade were going to be all the rage 10 or so years ago. They never went away as far as I could tell, nor did they become quite the rage either.

On themes with endurance, however, books that master the classic themes: true love always wins out, star-crossed lovers, triumph over oppression, blood is thicker than water, etc. will always endure. The trick is to find a fresh way to present them. If you think about it, every book that’s begun a thematic trend in recent years incorporates predominant classic themes be it Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight and on. It’s the books that lose sight of that fact in their attempt to just mimic the thematic trend that’ll fade.   
5. What would you like to see more of and why?

I would like to see the inventiveness of subject matter and approach to storytelling that’s been going on in YA emerge more in the middle grade market. One of the great things we’ve seen happen in YA is how arbitrary that upper age limit on the genre is. Many adult women have discovered these books and have become devoted readers.  Harry Potter showed us that middle grade can have the same elasticity in readership, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to see more of that happening?  

But that’s my broad response and you probably really want to know what I’d specifically like to see. In terms of my personal tastes, the kinds of things that draw me are: stories about kids that are straddling a major transition in life ( a tween who doesn’t really want to release girlhood when her core friends suddenly cross the line to teens or a teen who isn’t going to college when everyone else around them is), magical realism, unique cultural perspectives, humorous voices, historical fiction on an event or era that hasn’t been overly covered already, memorable supporting characters, sibling stories that go deeper than the stereotypical love/hate relationship, and stories from a viewpoint not often seen in literature.  

6. What conferences will you attend this year?
In addition to NESCBWI, which I’m thrilled to be invited to, I will be attending the Kansas SCBWI Fall Conference and SCBWI Southern Breeze Fall Conference.   

7. Is there anything you would like to add?

I’ve tried to answer the questions about trends, tastes, and what attracts me in a submission in detail because I know it helps, and I hope that my answers have given a better sense of me. However, if you’re a writer who feels you want to share your work with me, but don’t see it as fitting in with my answers to the questions here, please don’t take these as an absolute definition of what might make me go weak at the knees. I would love to be surprised by a perfect manuscript that I have no idea I’ve been waiting to get! 


  1. Joyce, I'm so glad you tweeted about these interviews, as I didn't know about your blog. These are great, useful interviews!

    See you at the Novel Writing Retreat!

  2. Kathy,

    Thanks for reading and following my tweets!

    These agents are a fantastic group. All of them are so easy to speak with and just know so much about the industry. Everyone will learn so much from.

    I sound like I'm gushing!

    I am really looking forward to the retreat. Can't wait to see you!

  3. I love hearing all about agents and what they think of the process!!! Loved this!! Agents provide such insight that us writer's only dream of getting!!

    I'm stopping in to welcome you to the A-Z Blogging Challenge!!! I'm a co-host so should you need anything I'm here to help!! Feel free to stop by my blog to say hello or join us on Twitter (I'm @jenunedited)!!

  4. Hi Jen, Thanks for the welcome. I'm hoping to really get into the swing of blogging.