Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 23, 2020

Agent Allison Remcheck at Stimola Literary

Allison Remcheck Associate Agent at Stimoli Literary Studio

Allison is a member of the Stimola team. She loves the fulfilment of providing children with books that inspire them as much as she has been inspired herself. Even more so, she enjoys being able to watch the progression of a book from it’s idea to the final product.

Allison has known what she wanted to be when she grew up—ever since the age of eight when she read in the back of a Baby-Sitters’ Club book that the author, Ann M. Martin, was an editor before she became a writer. She had no idea what the word “editor” meant—but she knew it had to be a person who read a lot, and she knew she wanted to work in publishing. She’s so lucky to say that she has only ever worked with books—a journey that has taken her from a library, to a bookstore, to a publishing house, and finally to the Studio—and books, particularly those for children, have been her lifelong passion. She believes there is simply nothing better in the world than putting the perfect book in a child’s hand. But there is something extraordinary in nurturing a book from the start, and seeing it find its place in the world. To Allison, being an agent is a bit like a treasure hunt to find the books that speak to her most easily. She finds herself drawn to voices that speak for themselves, stories that only the author can tell, and books that reflect the lives of every child—especially the ones told least often.

I contacted Allison after seeing that she was going to be working with Mira Resiberg and asked her if I could interview her. She agreed, so here is my interview with Allison.

Did you work for a publisher before becoming an agent?

Allison: I did work for a publisher before I became an agent. Now, I find it very helpful to know what happens on the “other side of the desk.”

What made you decide you wanted to be an agent?

Allison: I love books, I love reading, and I have never wanted to do anything other than work in publishing. The best part of being an agent, is the ability to see all of the unfiltered submissions coming in, and thinking, how can I help champion these, to shape these, to finding the right person to connect with this book–so the book will ultimately get to the hands of the readers who need them.

Any story or themes you wish someone would submit?

Allison: I’m glad you asked this question. I’ve found that as the days and weeks begin to unfold, as we all join together in doing our part and social distancing in this pandemic, my ideas about stories and themes that I hope to see are changing as I evaluate this situation day-by-day. I’m thinking a lot about, what books will a child who has endured this pandemic need to read in the next year or two? What would be helpful right now? I feel that we are all–including children and teenagers–in a state of stunned disbelief. There is a sense of grief, as if the world as we know it has changed–and it has. I feel that every one of us is going through trauma right now, and that books about handling trauma, and going through tough times are going to be extremely important. I feel that books about characters who have struggled during isolation are going to be very important. I have always been a fan of historical fiction–but found it to be a tricky thing most of the time to fit into the market–however, stories about how people functioned alone, such as pioneers or people in hiding; stories from historical events that parallel our situation today will be good resources. Further–I feel that stories that foster empathy and kindness will be needed now more than ever. Stories that reflect people from all countries and backgrounds, #ownvoices, are extremely important. Any book that allows us to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.  I also feel that, while the genre became tired, we are going to see a renwed desire for the dystopian–but…not the same-old-same-old–someone is going to turn this on its head and bring something we haven’t seen before. I see an increased interest in science, and in particular, figures who play an important role in vaccines and research. And most of all–now is the time for humor. We need to connect with one another in a way that makes us laugh.

How important is the query letter? 

Allison: For an unagented writer, your query letter is the most important thing you will ever write. Agents receive an overwhelming number of submissions, and it’s extremely important that you not only stand out from the rest, but that you are able to quickly and concicely tell us what your story is about, and who you are, in a way that is intriguing enough that we want to read more. It’s extremely important that people who are querying are able to demonstrate that they are good writers in the query.

Does an author need to provide a pitch in their query letter?

Allison: Absolutely. I find that a one-to-two-line “elevator pitch” that sums up the concept of your story quickly is the best way to get my attention. Remember, the thing I’m most concerned about when scanning through my queries is: What is this book about? The body of your query should sum up your story in a way that is intriguing and leaves the reader wanting to know more–like book jacket copy. Then, I want to know that you know what the reader is going to take away from this story? What is the theme of the book? What is your character arc (how does the main character grow and change throughout?). Finally, tell me about you–and why this is a book that only you can write.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more? 

Allison: It really goes back to the query. If the writer is able to capture my attention with stand-out writing, with a concept that I haven’t seen before or seen enough of, if the author is able to tell me something particularly impactful about themselves that relates to their book–I will want to see more.

Any pet peeves?

Allison: Oh boy…I hate to say that these are pet peeves, because I know that most of the time writers are coming from a place of inexperience, and a lot of the time, not being great at writing queries doesn’t actually reflect whether an author can write or not. It’s just that query-writing (and the dreaded synopsis) are the hardest part of the job. So, I’ll rephrase this and say, I know that an author is coming from a place of inexperience, or hasn’t done enough research when: I am not addressed by name; when the author rambles instead of delivering a concise pitch and summary; when an authors tell me how many years they have been writing the book (please don’t do this!); when an author begs me to represent them (happens, weirdly more than you would think); when an author gives me weird demands about conditions they would need to have met with their publisher (a certain advance, a certain kind of paper…I’ve seen it all); when authors do or say anything that they wouldn’t during a typical job interview, or behave in a way that is unprofessional (this is a professional career!).

Do you find that you need to provide editorial feedback and have the author revise before you send something out for submission?

Allison: Almost always, yes, though there are exceptions. It’s very rare to see a piece of work that is completely polished, though it does happen. Sometimes I will see something in the bones of a submission, but I know that it needs revision to get it to the place where it either does the story justice, or is able to stand out in the market. I will have prospective-clients revise and resubmit to me often. I definitely spend time helping my clients form and shape their work. I am not trying to create perfect manuscripts before submission, necessarily, but I am trying to get books to the point that an editor can look at it, and see the books true potential.

Shannon Stocker’s picture book LISTEN: HOW ONE DEAF GIRL CHANGED PERCUSSION that you sold to Dial isn’t scheduled to come out until 2022. Does that mean your job is done or are there other things that you will need to do along the way? 

Allison: Generally, most of what an agent does with a book is done prior to and during the sale of the book–from shaping the manuscript before to submission, to negotatiating the deal and contract, but there are various check-in points throughout the publication process, that vary from project to project.

How did you connect with Mira Reisberg to work with her on her online course on writing picture books? 

Allison: I met Mira after I was introduced to her by an industry colleague, when I volunteered to be a Golden Ticket, and to do some online critiques with her during a previous course.

I understand that one of the things that makes this course different is the amount of feedback students get through critiques. How does that work?

Allison: Well there are 3 types of critiques in the course to help students move along and excel in their work:

1. The weekly critiquing webinars where Mira, a special guest editor or agent, and I join each week to critique students work. Everyone who submits is guaranteed at least one of these and depending on who submits that week sometimes 2 or more. These critiques focus on the different parts of writing a picture books so everyone learns from each other and at the end of the course most students have a polished manuscript ready to submit to the 12 agents and editors participating in the course and beyond.

2. There are also the optional individual face-to-face one-hour critiques. These cost a little more but are great value in terms of the extra in-depth education and hands on help a student receives. Unfortunately, Mira and my individual critiques are now sold out but Mira brought in Random House/Doubleday Books for Young Readers Editor in Chief Frances Gilbert and recent Full Circle Literary agent Nicole Geiger who is also an acquiring editor and publisher at a small press and was the multi-award winning publisher of Random House/Tricycle Books to do individual critiques instead.

3. And then finally there are the optional small peer critique groups, which are set up at no additional cost for students.

In addition, either Mira or myself, and one of the four now published assistants will be live in the Facebook group answering students questions and giving input into student’s work. Mira has told me that the students all help each other a lot to form a beautiful community.

Allison, thank you for taking the time to give us a chance to get to know you better. Good luck with the picture book course.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this information!

    Like


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