Agent Interview: Tracey Adams, of ADAMS LITERARY

Hi everyone!
Today I’m super excited to interview literary agent Tracey Adams, of ADAMS LITERARY. 🙂 As stated on its website, “Adams Literary is a full-service, boutique literary agency exclusively representing children’s and young adult authors and artists. Founded by Tracey and Josh Adams, Adams Literary prides itself on nurturing the creativity of its clients and maintaining close relationships with editors and publishers in New York City and around the world.” Their clients include Margaret Peterson Haddix, Alan Katz, Jenny Nimmo, Cynthia Lord and Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, just to name a few. Let’s dive in!

Multiculturalism Rocks!: Hi Tracey, I’m so honored to interview you for Multiculturalism Rocks! Thank you very much for your time, and for sharing your experience with us.

Tracey Adams:Thank you for inviting me, and for the opportunity! I’m always excited to discuss this topic.

MR: You and I met last year during the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program conference. I’m curious to have an agent’s perspective on that type of programs. What was the experience like for you?

TA: The Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program is amazing to see in action. I’ve always known it requires a lot of work and dedication from both the mentees and the mentors, and to spend a weekend with the group made me respect the program even more. Adams Literary represents some people in the program, and we tell publishers about the authors’ involvement in the Mentor Program as a selling point, so the editors will know that these authors are seriously devoted to the craft of writing.

MR: Please, tell us a little bit about you and your agency. You specialize in children’s books, and represent authors and illustrators. What wow you in a manuscript or portfolio submission? Are you an editorial agent?

TA: The editorial agent question is the one we are asked most often right now, probably because so many editors have become agents and are doing a lot of editing. Our answer is the same as it’s always been – we will get your manuscript ready for submission, we will help you make it as strong as it can be for submission purposes, but we respect the editor’s role. An agent’s first priority is to match you with the editor who is best for your work.
We love material that we can’t put down – pages we can’t stop turning, stories we will never forget, words that make us laugh, cry, dream about your characters. It’s always a good sign for us when editors’ names are coming to mind while we read. We think: “I can’t wait to show this to X, she will LOVE it!”

MR: Hypothetical situation: I’m a writer and/or illustrator looking for an agent. I heard you talk at a conference, I’ve read your interviews online and, coup de grâce, your website (and your impressive list of clients) won me over. I already adore you and put you on a pedestal. From your experience, what are some “unrealistic” expectations writers/illustrators might have before signing with an agent?

TA: The work really should be polished. Do not submit until you are really ready! And do not submit until you have a complete novel. It’s frustrating to fall in love with a partial, only to discover that it won’t be done yet for months.

MR: The publishing world is changing. E-books are going strong, steadily gaining in popularity in the children’s book market. There are also more media developed, to make the reading experience more interactive. How does that affect you work as an agent?

TA: It only affects the way we negotiate wording in publishing agreements. We are careful to keep up with the latest contractual language and issues of who should have which e-rights.

Now, *drum rolls ,* a few questions about multicultural books!

MR: Your agency represents quite a diverse range of authors, and I’m especially impressed by the list of culturally diverse books you have represented. Therefore, allow me to renew my heartfelt congratulations for BAD NEWS FOR OUTLAWS, which won the 2010 Coretta Scott King Award.

TA: Thank you! It meant a great deal to Vaunda, who is a librarian and has served on several award committees. It’s been a wonderful and very meaningful experience.

MR: I’m too curious, so I need to ask: books with bi-cultural characters, or with elements of foreign cultures, how are they doing right now?

TA: We have many books with characters whose parents are from another culture, books full of diverse characters in our own country, but honestly I would love to see more submissions featuring characters in foreign settings – this is something we don’t see often enough. It may not be the easiest topic for an editor to acquire, but a fabulous story transcends borders.

MR: A manuscript from your favorite client (aren’t they all?) land on your desk. GASP! Foreign settings. Though the main character might be American, his cultural background is unheard of. How do you react? Are you frightened? Excited? Reaching for the Alka Seltzer? (Just kidding)

TA: I’m excited! I recently did a deal for Terry Farish‘s YA novel with Melanie Kroupa at Marshall Cavendish. Terry’s main character starts out in Juba, Sudan and ends up in Portland, Maine. It is a powerful story on many levels. I’m so excited for readers to read this story.
Josh and I both have parents who grew up in foreign countries, so we are passionate about this topic and absolutely love selling international rights to Adams Literary titles, too. This is something very close to our hearts.

MR: The underlying question is, how do you work with an author when the manuscript deals with a culture different from yours? 🙂

TA: Nothing is different, truly. We are excited that we’ll probably learn a few new things and broaden our own knowledge.

MR: From the moment a manuscript is submitted to a publisher until the final product hits the bookshelves, how involved are you in the process? (i.e. revisions with editor, marketing…)

TA: We are obviously very involved before and during the submission, and once we’ve found the publishing home for the author, we like to stay in the communication loop so we know where things are and how it’s going. As we get closer to publication, Adams Literary takes pride in announcing pub dates and great publicity via our website, facebook and twitter. We love to be involved because we love our books and our authors – it’s fun for us! We are so lucky to love our work.

MR: Last but not least: Something that brought a smile on your face and made you think, “This is why I’m doing this! [Agenting]” is…

TA: Just yesterday, we were at a neighborhood independent bookstore with our daughters, and two of our books were featured front and center when you walk in. That does it for me. 🙂

MR: Dear Tracey, I thank you a million times, and I look forward to reading more of your clients’ books.

TA: Thank you, Nathalie!

For more information on Tracey Adams and Adams Literary
o Website
o Facebook
o Twitter

Additional Tracey Adams Interviews
o Cynsations
o Literary Rambles’ Agent Spotlight
o Writing for Children by Suite 101

Edited 5/25/2011 @ 8:22 am PST

Monday Interview: Mary Rodgers, VP & Editor-in-Chief of Lerner Publishing Group

Today I’m excited to interview Mary Rodgers, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Lerner Publishing Group, an independent award-winning publishing house based in Minnesota. Founded in 1959, Lerner Publishing now has several imprints, including the well-known Carolrhoda Books. Lerner Books is known for its amazing collection of nonfiction books. The company also has an imprint devoted to books in Spanish. Some of the imprints do publish fiction ranging from picture books to young adults. Lerner’s Bad News for Outlaws, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, won the 2010 Coretta Scott King award. Congratulations! 🙂

I met Mary at a SCBWI conference, and I have rarely seen a publisher more excited to talk about multicultural books. I am honored that she agreed to this interview.

Nathalie: Mary, thank you so much for joining us today.

Mary Rodgers: Thanks Nathalie. I’m happy to be here.

What are your thoughts on the state of multicultural books in the U.S., i.e. are there “enough,” are they needed, is there a market?

MR: Lerner Publishing Group has been publishing multicultural fiction and nonfiction titles for more than fifty years. In fact, Harry Lerner, founder of our company, is proud that in the 1960s, when bigger publishers weren’t buying true multicultural art (i.e., art in which people of color were a natural part of the story), his little start-up company was.

But to answer your questions, the incredible diversity within the U.S. population creates an ongoing need for multicultural titles. The market for some of these titles may be regional—that is, the sales may cluster where the groups are clustered—but there’s definitely a need.

How does Lerner Books acquire multicultural manuscripts? (Note: is there a quota? Do you specifically look for them?)

MR: There’s no quota. Much of our nonfiction, however, is series driven. When we develop a new series, we make sure that stories about people of color are part of the mix. So in that sense we specifically plan to include multicultural subjects.

As a publisher, what are the challenges you encounter when it comes to publishing and marketing a book showcasing cultural diversity?

MR: We want any multicultural book that we publish to faithfully and fairly represent the culture in question. The visuals, as well as the text, need to achieve this. We avoid stereotyping and try very hard to achieve a balance of ethnicity, gender, and age in our multicultural titles.

What are some of your favorite non-fiction titles, books you think should have a place on every library and family book shelves?

MR: I’m lucky to be able to read strong nonfiction every week in my work. I love a good story, but I also love to browse. On the upper grades side, we’ve published two series that always catch my eye for browsing. One is Images and Issues of Women in the Twentieth Century. It covers the evolution of the roles of women in the 1900s. The other is Decades of Twentieth-Century America. It discussed various aspects of American culture—politics, media, sports, literature, economics—in each decade. I’ve browsed these with family and friends. Both series are fabulous conversation starters. On the younger side, picture book biographies—such as Bad News for Outlaws, which just won the Coretta Scott King Author Award—are a lot of fun too.

What type of manuscript is Lerner Books currently looking for?

MR: Good stories, mainly. Strong multicultural nonfiction, whether offered as single titles or in series, begins with good topics. “Good” can signify that the topic is highly curricular, meaning that young readers need solid, informative material on the topic because they are likely to run into it in their studies. “Good” can indicate that the story is gripping, unusual, or new in some way. Or “good” can simply mean the topic is of high interest to kids and has entertainment value. Strong nonfiction also relies on an authoritative voice that wants to tell a good story.

Last but not least, do you have a message for writers of color and/or writers of books with multicultural content?

MR: Know your topic well and be able to explain difficult or sensitive ideas in an interesting way. Understand your audience—what do they already know? What would surprise them? What would engage them? Look for stories that haven’t been over published.

Dear Mary, thank you very much for being a champion of cultural diversity in children’s literature, for your words of advice and for your time. 🙂

For more information on Lerner Publishing Group, please visit:
o Lerner Publishing’s website
o Learn about LPG’s award-winning imprints here!
o Submission Guidelines
o Lerner Classroom
o LPG’s Blog
o Facebook
o Follow Lerner Publishing on Twitter!

Some of Lerner Publishing Books