Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 21, 2020

August Agent of the Month: Jennifer Mattson – Interview Part Two

I am happy to announce that Jennifer Mattson at Andrea Brown Literary is our Agent of the Month for August. Scroll to bottom to learn how to submit a first page for a chance to win a critique with Jennifer.

JENNIFER MATTSON
AGENT
jmatt@andreabrownlit.com
Some client books that best represent Jennifer’s tastes

CLICK HERE TO QUERY JENNIFER BY FORM

I’ve been with Andrea Brown Literary Agency for more than a decade, and began working in children’s publishing immediately out of college—including five years as an editor at Dutton Children’s Books and five years as a Books for Youth reviewer with Booklist magazine. I rep all audiences and genres, from picture book through young adult, and I’m looking for authors or author-illustrators who bring a deep professionalism, an open mind, and a fresh point of view to their work.

My client list includes authors of YA and middle grade fiction (such as Katy Loutzenhiser and Kate Hannigan), authors of picture books (such as Kim Norman and Linda Ashman), illustrators (such as Katy Wu), and author-illustrators (such as J. R. Krause, Brandon Reese, and Liz Starin). I primarily gravitate to fiction, but occasionally can’t resist an impeccably researched nonfiction project. I’d currently like to add more novelists to my roster, especially those from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds; I also have soft spots for mindbending fantasy and gripping survival stories of all kinds. But I’ll always give more than a passing glance to a slam-dunk of a picture book!

In the picture book arena, Jennifer is interested in authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators who bring a distinctive, well-developed point of view to their work. In longer fiction, her interests are wide-ranging, but she always has a soft spot for middle grade about resilient kids sorting out the messiness of life. In middle grade and YA both, her heart beats faster for richly imagined, mind-bending fantasies that depart from typical quests (portals entered by protagonists who fulfill prophecies don’t tend to be for her). The most dogeared books in her childhood library tended to be fantasy adventures, survival stories, and sprawling, atmospheric tales with Dickensian twists and satisfying puzzles. She gravitates to all of the above, but contemporary realistic fiction can work for her too, especially if it’s voice-driven and carefully structured. In all categories, she is especially delighted to see queries in her inbox from kid-lit creators underrepresented in mainstream publishing.

Fiction that Jennifer represents includes Katy Loutzenhiser’s contemporary-realistic YA debut, IF YOU’RE OUT THERE (Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins) and Kate Hannigan’s historical middle grade novel, THE DETECTIVE’S ASSISTANT (Little, Brown/Hachette), which won the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction, received two starred reviews, was a Booklist Editor’s Choice, and appeared on the 2016 Amelia Bloomer List. Picture books she represents include noted poet Linda Ashman’s lyrical ode to the rhythms of the natural world, ALL WE KNOW (HarperCollins), and her nearly wordless celebration of optimism, RAIN! (Houghton/HMH); and Kim Norman’s three Arctic Companion books that cleverly spin off favorite preschool songs, TEN ON THE SLED, IF IT’S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW IT, and SHE’LL BE COMIN’ UP THE MOUNTAIN (all Sterling). Artists she represents include Geisel Honor winning author-illustrator Paul Meisel, who has illustrated or written a total of more than 70 books for young readers; J.R. Krause, author-illustrator of DRAGON NIGHT (Putnam), an Indie Next selection; Rob Polivka, illustrator of GOD BLESS AMERICA (Hyperion) and co-author and illustrator of A DREAM OF FLIGHT: ALBERTO SANTOS-DUMONT’S RACE AROUND THE EIFFEL TOWER (FSG/Macmillan); and former Google doodler Katy Wu, illustrator of several picture book biographies, including Laurie Wallmark’s GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE and HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE (both Sterling).

Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer spent time as an editor at Dutton Children’s Books and as a Books for Youth staff reviewer at Booklist magazine. Jennifer is based in Chicago and enjoys speaking at SCBWI and other writers’ conferences in Chicagoland and farther afield. She is also in the midst of a personal mission to read through the oeuvre of Anthony Trollope. Follow her on Twitter @jannmatt.

I’m based in Chicago, where I live with my husband and two daughters. I like to run at a decidedly non-marathon level and enjoy dance as both audience member and participant. I also spent two years a little bit obsessed with the works of Anthony Trollope.

You can occasionally find me at writers’ conferences in Chicagoland and farther afield.

Fun facts about me:

Not that this is pertinent to my query in-box, but I once coauthored The Official Easy-bake Oven cookbook, which was a personal highlight.

Submission Guidelines

Please query me via this QueryManager link exclusively:  http://QueryMe.Online/JenniferMattson.

Guidelines & Details

Vital Info

@jannmatt
Website

HERE IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER:

How long does it usually take to respond to requested material?

Probably about a month, perhaps longer in these times.

Any pet peeves?

These are weirdly specific, but I don’t like picture books with barnyard settings, or novels that open with a character narrating from the backseat as a family approaches their new home.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make? 

Unintentional POV switching happens a lot—in other words, a manuscript that’s really intended to invite a reader into a single POV character’s experience, but occasionally slips to reveal the thoughts and feelings of secondary characters that the POV character couldn’t possibly know.  Of course, alternating points of view are fine, and omniscient narratives are a thing, but the author must establish the narrative approach unequivocally from the start.  If it’s inconsistent, it creates a wobbly and distracting experience for the reader.

What are your feelings about prologues?

I don’t mind them as long as they serve a clear literary purpose, but quite often they’re a crutch, patched on after the fact to deliver some kind of missing backstory or to inject mystery/tension that would be better incorporated organically into the primary narrative.

Do you have a place where you keep writers up-to-date on what you would like to see? Blog?

I’m not a tsunami of social media activity by any means, but I’m on twitter and I maintain a page on Manuscript Wish List and Publishers Marketplace, and of course, we keep our biographies and interests up-to-date on our agency website.

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

Absolutely!  My editorial background has guided my hand as an agent, and I think my best, most rewarding (and successful) experiences are with those clients who are energetic, open-minded revisers.  My editorial feedback normally takes the form of a substantive editorial letter, consisting of global comments and some line-by-line notes. I’ll also normally use Track Changes directly in a manuscript if it’s fairly far along in the process.

Have you ever represented a children’s book illustrator? Are you only interested in representing writer/illustrators?

I rep author-illustrators as well as artists who primarily illustrate others’ manuscripts.

What is your typical response time to email/phone calls with your clients?

Same-day responses are always the ideal, and for anything urgent I’ll be right on top of it.  But for more routine matters, probably between one and three days is an average.  In pandemic times, my work processes (juxtaposed with childcare) are still settling into a routine, so lately it’s probably been on the longer end of that spectrum.  And of course, editorial reviews of new projects take longer overall.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)? And how often do you communicate during the submission process?

Email is the easiest way to communicate about a lot of matters, but sometimes a phonecall is invaluable (for instance, to talk over a new book idea, a revision direction, or a submission plan).  I’d say my communication with most clients is 85% email and 15% phone.  If a client and I are on active submission, normally we’ll be in touch a few times a week.

What happens if you don’t sell a book? Would you drop the writer if he or she wanted to self-publish a book you could not place?

It’s always disappointing when a manuscript isn’t greeted by editors with the same degree of enthusiasm that I feel, but rejection does come with the territory.  If I’m unable to find a good home for a client’s manuscript, we’ll work together to determine when it’s time to refocus our efforts, at which point we’ll zero in on a few specific goals to keep the energy and optimism high.     

As to self-publishing, if the self-published project could be managed in a way that I thought would help build the client’s career rather than tarnish it, I certainly wouldn’t stand in the way. There would be a number of conversations to be had, for sure, but self-publishing doesn’t really have the negative aura that is once did, and it’s not necessarily a stay-or-go situation.

How many editors would you go to before giving up on a manuscript?

Oh, gosh.  It varies wildly, and depends in part on the particular tenor of the responses we’ve received from the editors who have declined.  If they’re uniformly pointing to some major issue that the writer and I hadn’t considered, that might suggest it’s time to regroup after a single round of submission.  But in other cases, I’ve gone to as many as 40 or 50 editors.  Those are the sales that leave me feeling proudest!

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at Andrea Brown if it was good, but not your style? 

Oh, yes, we’re a supportive and collaborative bunch, and we send referrals to each other constantly.

What do you think of digital and audio books? Are they part of every sale these days?

Electronic rights for digital books are always part of the standard rights you sell to a publisher, and my, thank goodness for them, especially during pandemic times when buying physical books may not be feasible for everyone!  Audio rights are also addressed in every book contract, but sometimes they are controlled by the author, and sometimes they’re controlled by the publisher, depending on the specific deal that’s been negotiated.  Most books wind up as electronic books, but not every book winds up as an audiobook, since that takes a more significant production effort (hiring voice actors, recording, and so on).  That said, it’s been interesting to watch audiobooks evolve—now that accessing them has become so frictionless, this format is becoming increasingly popular across all age groups.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry? 

Well, this may be stating the obvious, but remote workplaces are, in my view, going to become more the norm even after our lives return to a closer semblance of pre-pandemic times.  I think the way publishing has been able to continue with minimal disruption has really shown the possibilities for editors from disparate locations to collaborate and keep making quality books.  It’s likely going to de-center New York City as the be-all, end-all of publishing careers, which will, in turn, help with the intense need for more diversity across the board.

Any words of wisdom on how a writer can improve their writing, secure an agent, and get published?

One of my clients memorably points to a watershed moment as she struggled to gain traction as a pre-published writer.  A writing partner took her aside and asked her, “When are you going to take yourself seriously as a writer?”  She says she later realized that she had been approaching it as a hobby rather than as a profession.  I would encourage creators to operate as professionals, an attitude that would encompass market research, networking, seeking out professional development opportunities at conferences (many of which are continuing virtually!)  Plug yourself into the wonderful, generous community of published writers to any degree possible.  If you don’t have a critique group, join one or form one—a circle of trusted, well-informed fellow humans who can serve as first readers is invaluable.

Would you like to attend other conferences, workshops writer’s retreats?

Of course, once such things are possible again—may it be soon!

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR THE FOUR FIRST PAGE RESULTS FROM JENNIFER.

HERE ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR AUGUST 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “AUGUST 2020 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

PLEASE name the Word document file by putting 2020 August  – Your Name – Title of first page. Thank you.

REMEMBER: ATTACH THE WORD DOCUMENT AND NOT GET ELIMINATED! Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page.

Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: August 21st. – noon EST

RESULTS: August 28th.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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