Do you still want to know more about the agents attending NESCBWI 2011 Celebrating Milestones Conference? Here's a peek at Chris Richman, an agent with Upstart Crow Literary. Want to know something cool about the Upstart Crow Literary Agency? They are entirely green when it comes to their submission policy.
From their website: "My love of books started at an early age. In the second grade I fell in love with the gross and wonderful works of Roald Dahl. On career day in third grade I carried a book and called myself an author. In the fourth grade I was sent to the principal’s office when the teacher discovered me reading Stephen King’s Pet Sematary in the back of the room."
This is his first year participating in the NESCBWI’s Agent Quick Query Event.
1. What makes for a healthy working relationship between you and your authors?
A good, open line of communication is really important to me. I like to know a client’s expectations, frustrations, goals, and more, to ensure we’re on the same page and I’m doing everything possible to help them succeed. I also really value transparency in my dealings with my clients; they always know where we are with a project, including how far we think it is from being ready to submit, which editors have it, and what sorts of responses we’re getting. I expect the transparency to be reciprocated, too, so that there’s always an honest line of dialogue going back and forth between us. Finally, I truly writers who approach the business of books as just that: a business. Sure, there are personal expectations, successes, and disappointments mixed in, but I value an author capable of rolling with the highs and lows without tipping too far one way or the other.
2. What are you always looking for but never receive in a submission?
I can’t say there’s anything I’ve never received, since every project I’ve signed has had a special element that made me want to work with it. I will say, however, that I yearn for those projects that make me bolt up in my chair and shout, “Yes! This is the one!” right out of the gate, usually due to a complex mix of stellar writing, strong plotting, and original ideas. Sadly, that experience doesn’t happen as much as I would like. I do, however, enjoy the prospect that the next submission could be “the one.”
3. What is your agent style?
I consider myself an editorial agent, especially for debut writers. More and more manuscripts from debut writers need to be in pristine shape if they’re going to stand out to an editor. As I said above, I’m also completely transparent in my dealings. And, as much as I value professionalism, I tend to get to know my clients, and let them see aspects of my own silly personality from time to time.
4. What do you see as upcoming trends in the industry? What themes do see as having endurance?
I tend not to chase trends too much, especially in young adult. I would, however, like to hope the paranormal trend in YA is dying, but all signs suggest it will keep going strong until someone puts a stake directly into its heart. Dystopian, especially with romantic elements, is still doing pretty well, although I could see that slowing down somewhat in the near future, especially as most houses who want that sort of project now have it. I’d love to see more funny books for boys, like those by Rick Riordan and Jeff Kinney, stay popular.
As for what has endurance: good writing, of course, will always find a home, whether it’s middle grade or young adult, as will strong, believable characters. And with young adult, no matter what you’re writing--be it sci-fi, dystopian, stories with half human half animal hybrids, whatever—a compelling romance will always do a story good (even though romance is not something I typically seek out).
5. What would you like to see more of and why?
I honestly really like stories with a timeless feel, that could have been published thirty years ago, or thirty years from now, and still feel relevant. I don’t typically fall for stories tied so much to the present in terms of trends, fashion, music, etc. I’d love to see more fantastic middle grade with standout voices, though those are very difficult to do well. I’m still seeking stories with sports elements, though they have to be about more than simply sports for me to consider taking them on.
6. What conferences will you attend this year?
So far I’ve stopped in at the New York National SCBWI, I ventured out to San Diego’s SCBWI conference in February, and I’ll be of course attending the NESCBWI event in May. Unfortunately, I’ve had to turn down a fair number of conferences this year because it feels like everyone I know has chosen 2011 as the year to get married, though I may be able to squeeze in some more conferences toward the end of the year. We’ll see!
7. Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m always hunting for the next great project, and I’m hoping I’ll find some in New England this May!