Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 12, 2012

Marie Lamba On Submission Likes and Dislikes

Interview by Katia Raina:  More Than An Agent, More Than An Author: Marie Lamba On Submission Likes and Dislikes, Writing A Practice Novel, Self Publishing And More.

Marie Lamba, agent and authorFaithful followers of this blog may already have come across the name of Marie Lamba, Associate Literary Agent with the Jennifer DeChiara Agency. But did you know Marie is a fellow writer as well? As an author, she brings unique understanding when nurturing her clients. As a writer, she is well-positioned to understand the demands of the publishing business. I asked her about being both, and found her journey to be fascinating and inspiring. I hope you will too.

KR: You’re a YA author and a literary agent. What came first, and how did it come about? What led you from one side of the industry to another?

ML: When I was 10 years old, I read Edward Eager’s HALF MAGIC, and that was that. I fell in love with story telling. From that moment on, it was all about writing for me. So, writing definitely came first. I studied writing and fine art in college, and then worked in publishing (doing editing and book promo) and as a P.R. writer and freelance writer and editor for many years, doing a ton of magazine work. But all that time I was also toiling over my fiction. I worked on my first novel, a middle grade fantasy, for 10 years, revising, submitting, revising, submitting (one of my crit buddies likes to call this process “polishing the turd”). And during that time, SCBWI was a critical part of my life, giving me endless guidance and support.

That book never did get published, but I think of that one as my personal MFA, since I learned a ton doing it. Then I wrote the manuscript for WHAT I MEANT… in just a few months, and within a year landed my agent (the wonderful Jennifer De Chiara) along with a publishing contract for it at Random House. For me, moving on from my “learning novel” to a newer manuscript was key, since I was able to bring all I’d learned into WHAT I MEANT… It was hard to move on, though, since I’m a very tenacious person and it felt a bit like I was giving up on that first novel. Looking back though? Smart move.

I’d never ever thought about being an agent until my own agent approached me about working for her. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea, and I worked for several months as what I call a “secret agent,” reading manuscripts for Jennifer and trying the whole agent thing out for size. It didn’t take me long to see what Jennifer must have seen: that agenting was a great fit for me. I love to mentor people, I brought my own author experience to the table, and as someone with P.R. and book promo experience, pitching books and positioning authors felt natural.

KR: Can you share the story of how you first found publishing success?

ML: Conferences were key for me. And the best conference by far was the Rutgers One on One, where you get paired with a mentor. I subbed my initial pages for WHAT I MEANT… and got paired with Alvina Ling from Little Brown. She is awesome! Alvina recommended several agents for me to approach and encouraged me to use her name. I just about passed out with joy/appreciation. Seriously. Jennifer De Chiara was my top choice so I queried her and that same day got a request for a full manuscript. Yes! But Jennifer was a busy person, and months passed. So in the meantime, I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference, and did their one minute pitch slam (I’ll be at this year’s WD pitch slam, but this time as an agent…). There I snagged the interest of my Random House editor, who requested chapters, and later the full manuscript. That following September was the most surreal time of my life. First I got “the call” from Jennifer, then within the week, I heard from the Random House editor. I introduced my agent and editor and we took it from there!

KR: How does your agenting work feed into your work as an author, and vice versa?

ML: As an agent who is also an author, I can be as editorial as an author needs. Some clients need light editing, and for others with amazing work that isn’t quite ready, I’m not afraid to help them reach the finish line. Also, since I’ve got mucho hands on experience with the whole “author promoting herself” thing, I can offer my clients a perspective of what they can really do publicity-wise. And my author background has really helped me in understanding any concerns my clients feel about their careers.

On the writing side of things, I’ve gained huge insight into what really grabs a reader and an editor, and I get to ask editors what they are hoping for in the future. I can stick that info into my own personal plot incubator and let it stew…

KR: I notice that at least one your books, “Drawn –” a time travel love story that intrigued me enough to order it as soon as I saw you quoting from the book in this post (http://marielamba.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/writer-wednesday-on-writing-magic/) — is self published through Lamba Associates, Inc. Can you talk a little bit here about this choice, and what your experience as been as an author who is using a variety of channels for her work? In what ways do these compliment each other?

ML: We writers now have so many ways to reach readers, and this couldn’t have come at a better time! It’s no secret that the recession hit publishing, along with people’s pocket books. My first novel, WHAT I MEANT… came out through Random House in 2007, but publication of its stand-alone sequel was derailed. OVER MY HEAD sat on my shelf for years until at last self-publishing became viable. But I still wasn’t sure about doing the whole indie thing, until my friend and superb best-selling author L.A. (Leslie) Banks had a talk with me. She, too, had a YA sequel without a home and had just self-published that novel (SHADOW WALKER). She was thrilled with the results and told me to go for it. So I did. Leslie even gave me an awesome cover quote for the novel. Sadly, Leslie passed away shortly before my novel launched, but, corny as it sounds, I felt her there with me at that first signing, and I knew it was definitely the right thing to do.

My paranormal YA novel DRAWN was on submission with publishers for 2 years, and had gotten some strong interest and a ton of positive comments, but no offers, so I decided to take it off submission and publish it myself. While I would always prefer to go the traditional publishing route and to have the wisdom and promo muscle of a big publisher behind me, sometimes publishers just aren’t on your same page. I’m pleased with how DRAWN is performing. It’s gotten high ratings from readers and reviewers alike, has been rated a Top Pick and a Best Book by book bloggers, it’s just snagged an award, and the ebook version, especially, has been downloaded a ton, reaching well over 16,000 readers.

For the next book I write, I’ll definitely have my agent go for the top markets, but, as I’ve said, it’s wonderful to know that we writers can reach our readers in many different ways and continue to build on our careers.

KR: Finally, I’d love to get a word of your updated query policy. What are you looking for nowadays, and what have you seen too much of? What is the best way to query you?

ML: What am I seeing too much of? Novels with fantasy elements that feel tacked on to an otherwise interesting plot. Heroines with so many problems when one overwhelming problem would have sufficed. Books that feel like re-do’s of what’s already out there. Angry teens being dumped off at grandma’s in their mom’s old town and finding out secrets about their mom, whether supernatural or scandalous or both. Books that are really just thinly-veiled autobiographical stories about less than unique experiences.

I’m open to queries for middle grade and YA novels, for women’s and adult fiction, and for memoir. I don’t rep non fiction, picture books, short stories, poetry, category romance (though romantic elements are welcome), high fantasy (though fantasy elements are welcome), or strictly sci fi novels (though futuristic elements are welcome). And if you write gory horror or extreme violence, I’m definitely not the agent for you. I’m drawn to books that are moving and/or hilarious. If you have an engrossing story, please do send it my way!

Currently my client list includes both new and previously published authors writing books that range from contemporary to humorous to historical mid-grade novels, YA that is smart and romantic and touched with fantasy, and also sweeping adult historical.

Please do check out my guidelines, since they allow for you to paste in the first 20 pages of your manuscript right into the query. You can find them here: http://jdlit.com/submitpages/mariesubmit.html   

And if you subscribe to my website (www.marielamba.com ), you’ll catch my weekly Agent Monday posts and Writer Wednesday posts.

Thanks so much for having me here, Katia, and good luck to you all! I wish everyone a rock star writing year in 2013.

katiarainasmallKatia Raina is the author of “Castle of Concrete,” a young adult novel about a timid half-Russian, half-Jewish teen in search of a braver “self” reuniting with her dissident mother in the last year of the collapsing Soviet Union, to be published by Namelos. On her blog, The Magic Mirror, http://katiaraina.wordpress.com Katia talks about writing and history, features interviews, book lists and all sorts of literary randomness.

Throughout the month of December, Katia is gathering participants for a new challenge for those who’d like to do better next year in sticking to their goals and making their dreams happen. To participate in the “31 minutes” challenge – and the giveaway – visit here and leave a comment telling Katia about your project and committing to working on it 31 minutes a day, every day in January. http://katiaraina.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/the-31-minute-challenge-faq-getting-ready-for-january/  

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IT IS TIME TO NOMINATE WRITING AND ILLUSTRATING www.kathytemean.wordpress.com for the WRITER’S DIGEST’S 101 BEST WEBSITES FOR WRITERS!

If you have enjoyed the articles and information you received everyday this year, please help by dominating my blog. Submit an email to writersdigest@fwmedia.com to nominate my blog www.kathytemean.wordpress.com

I would greatly appreciate your help.

Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. What an excellent interview! Thanks, ladies 🙂 …one and all!

    Like


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