Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 20, 2022

May Agent of the Month: Julie Byers – Interview Part Two

ANNOUNCING MAY’S AGENT OF THE MONTH

JULIA BYERS AT THE SHELDON FOGELMAN AGENCY

Julia Byers joined the Sheldon Fogelman Agency in 2018 as a temp, after spending several years interning around the publishing industry, working at a bookshop, and running a nonprofit organization for young writers. She enjoyed working with SFA so much, she decided to stay on, and is now excited to take on a more hands-on role by working with clients and foreign rights. She received her B.A. in Honors Creative Writing & Literature with a minor in Global Media Studies from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, as well as certificates from the St Peter’s College, Oxford University Summer School and the Columbia Publishing Course UK. Julia is enthusiastic about working with authors of children’s fiction, spanning picture books through YA, and looks forward to taking on new clients.

Julia enjoys working with children’s books for all age groups.

Fiction: Children’s, Middle Grade, Picture Books, Young Adult Favorite sub-genres: Contemporary Young Adult, Fantasy YA, Fiction Picture Books, Funny MG, High-concept YA, Humor YA, LGBT YA, MG Action Adventure, MG Fantasy, YA Rom-Coms, YA Sci-fi, YA Thrillers, contemporary MG secret identities

Within YA, I’ll read pretty much anything, as long as it has a strong voice, tight plotting, and a great sense of humor. I like to see protagonists struggle with big questions and their place in the world, no matter the circumstances, and welcome darker stories about contending with trauma and grief (as long as there’s still some humor and hope woven in). That said, I’m always a sucker for:

  • time travel
  • globetrotting adventures
  • high school theatre
  • anything dealing with movies/TV
  • socially conscious protagonists
  • super fluffy rom-coms

Also, if you can comp your book to Taylor Swift’s music (especially folklore), PLEASE send it my way, I beg of you.

Middle grade-wise, I generally tend toward books with a lot of heart, especially humorous mystery and adventure stories. I can never get enough of kids going on quests, whether that be to save the world or just to beat a mean girl at the local scavenger hunt. I’m not the best fit for stories from animals’ POVs, but if your protagonist has a cute animal companion who goes everywhere with them, sign me up (as long as said animal companion does not die; the last time I read a book with an animal death, I accidentally threw it across the room).

In terms of picture books, I prefer fiction, but otherwise my tastes are very open. I love both laugh-out-loud humor and quieter, more lyrical writing. What I really look for is a strong character arc and sense of plot structure.

Across all age groups, a priority is working with underrepresented voices. I’m especially interested in stories with incidental diversity, rather than issue-driven books, and happy (or at least bittersweet!) endings.

*******

BELOW IS PART TWO OF MY INTERVIEW WITH JULIA:

Do you have any pet peeves?

a.) I’m personally really not a fan of authors who write outside of their lane when it comes to marginalizations.

Have you noticed any common mistakes that writers make?

a.) So often, writers query before their projects are ready. Really take the time to hone and tighten every element of your story, from the prose to the plot to the character arcs, before sending it out. I’m so sad when I see stories that have a ton of potential but have gone out too soon.

What are your feelings about prologues?

a.) I am generally anti-prologue, because often it makes it feel like the story is starting at the wrong place. I do think prologues can be used effectively in select circumstances, but those circumstances are rare for me.

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

a.) I am currently largely off social media and such, but my MSWL page is a good place to look! https://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/julia-byers/

Do you give editorial feedback to your clients?

a.) Yes! I love working with our agency’s clients to really hone projects before they go on submission.

How do you like to communicate (email vs. phone)?

a.) As all cliché Millennials do, I prefer emails over phone calls.

Once you submit a manuscript to a publisher, how often do you communicate with your client during the submission process?

a.) That depends on the client and how involved they want to be in the submission process.

What happens if you don’t sell a book and the author wants to self-publish a book? Would you be okay with that?

a.) I think self-publishing is great, but it’s also a really difficult path to tread, because the author is on their own for handling all the work that a traditional publisher would have a whole team to tackle. It’s also not something with which we can really help, on the agency side. So, I can’t really recommend agency clients go this route. That said, if a client is really passionate about getting a particular book out there and traditional publishers just aren’t biting for whatever reason, I’m happy to work with the author to revise the manuscript until a traditional publisher does buy it.

Do you seek help from other agents at your agency to get suggestions on editors and/or publishers to submit to for the clients you sign up to represent?

a.) Definitely. SFA is an incredibly collaborative agency, so we draw from the knowledge and expertise of the agency as a whole throughout every aspect of the publication process.

Would you ever send a manuscript to another agent at SFLA if it was good, but not what you want to represent?

a.) Yes! We’re always passing around submissions that show potential but aren’t quite right for the original agent queried.

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

a.) I love both digital and audiobooks! They aren’t part of every domestic sale, but they are part of the vast majority (and when they aren’t, it’s generally because we’ve fought for the client to keep those rights so that we can sell them separately, which means more income for the author).

Do you handle your own foreign/film rights contracts or does your firm have someone else who handles those contracts?

a.) As SFA’s foreign rights manager, I work with a number of talented, hardworking subagents around the world to place our clients’ books in foreign territories. And as for film rights, the agency is all-hands-on-deck to make sure we get the client the best deal possible.

Do you see any new trends building in the industry?

a.) We’ve been hearing from editors that contemporary realistic YA fiction is a bit of a hard sell right now. On the picture book side of things, I’ve seen growth in editors looking for projects that really cater to the specific developmental stages young readers are at.

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

a.) Being an author is hard, because you need to be an expert at SO many different things before you’re likely to find success in this hyper-competitive industry. So, spend as much time as possible learning and growing at every stage of the process. There are more obvious things an author can do here, like participating in critique groups and attending workshops, but perhaps even more than those, I think what helps is simply analyzing what does and doesn’t work—and how and why—about the books, movies, television, stage plays, music, etc. you either love or hate. There are lessons to be found in every piece of media we consume, if we look for them.

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

For sure! I’ll be accepting pitches at a couple of the online Writing Day Workshops this summer, with potentially some other events on the horizon as well.

*******

BELOW ARE THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES:

In the subject line, please write “MAY 2022 FIRST PAGE CRITIQUE” Example: Paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you put your name, the title of the piece, and genre: a picture book, chapter book, middle grade, or young adult, Non-fiction, contemporary, historical, Sci-fi, fantasy, 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 2022 May  – 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.

DEADLINE: MAY 20TH. – noon EST

RESULTS: MAY 27TH.

CHECK BACK NEXT FRIDAY FOR FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing this information.
    Loved the blog!

    BabyBoo Fashion

    Like

  2. Excellent interview filled with great information. Thank you Kathy and Julie. 🙂

    Like


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