Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Sarah LaPolla!
Hello my darlings!
Oh, oh, oh, I am so excited.
Today I am bringing you an interview with, are you ready for this…Are you sitting down!?
SARAH LAPOLLA. *drops mic*
That’s right, kids. My super fantabulous agent took some time to answer my very loony questions, and I am bouncing and squeeing with glee to hand them over to you all.
Aside from being my most favorite agent in all the land (Totally non biased. Mmhmm.) Sarah has always been an amazing agent to follow on Twitter. She Tweets all the wicked important things that you absolutely need to know about querying and wooing her as an agent. These are important details, yo.
Read on, my babies, and swoon!
1. Let’s cover the basics. How long have you been an agent, and what made you choose this crazy profession in the first place?
I’ve been an agent – in the sense that I’ve been taking on clients and trying to sell their books – for two years. I’ve been working at Curtis Brown, Ltd. for almost five years. I started, and still am, in the foreign rights department, which was a great place to begin in publishing. Few agents get to see that side of the business, so I’m happy to have had the chance to learn about it.
I chose to be an agent once I figured out what an agent was! I interned at agencies while I was in grad school, but at age 23, I was sure I’d be hand-picked by Random House to be their star editor. That, um, didn’t happen. Instead, I read slush, got good at figuring out which slush was good enough to be published, and learned about a side of the business I didn’t know much about. (As a writing major in undergrad and grad school, I was told agents were “that thing you need.” No professors ever elaborated!) By the time I got the job at Curtis Brown I knew I wanted to stick with agenting.
2. For all those who sit there thinking, “Gee, I wonder if Sarah reps my genre as she is the dreamiest agent EVAR.” (And there are many. True story.) tell us what you rep, and what you are looking for right now?
I primarily represent adult and YA fiction. Genre-wise, for both age groups, I like mysteries (dark/psychological; not cozy), light sci-fi, low fantasy, and magical realism. My heart probably lies most in contemporary/realistic fiction though. Real people living interesting lives are what I love to read about. My taste is on the literary side, so high quality writing, layered stories and characters, and a unique narrative voice are what’s going to impress me. I like books that make me think about more than what’s on the page.
3. What part of being an agent gives you the very best feels? What part makes you want to punch bunnies?
My clients are the best! I shouldn’t be surprised that people who write books I love are also AMAZING, but it’s such a bonus that I’m able to get along with my authors on a personal level as well as professional.
The part that makes me want to punch bunnies? Rejection. Whether I’m the one rejecting someone or an editor is rejecting me and my author, it’s just the worst. It makes up such a huge part of the industry, and everybody hates it.
4. Hindsight can be a jerk when you realize a hideous mistake was made in a sent query. Is there something you wish you could tell every author *before* they query you to avoid those hideous moments?
Email your query to yourself before sending it to an agent. It’s a good way to see how the formatting of a query will look once it’s sent. Then read it carefully as if you received it from someone else to make sure there aren’t any last minute typos.
After they do that, I’d tell them not to worry if a typo went through to an agent. I’ve gotten additional emails from writers who apologize for leaving the H off my name or want me to know the word count is actually 63,859. I… don’t care. Agents are pretty forgiving when it comes to typos. As long as the query is addressed to me (er, with an H, please) and you tell me what your book is about, I will read and answer your query. Pointless follow-up emails make a way worse first impression than a typo.
5. What is something you are working on right now that is giving you the happy agent tingles?
I have something on submission right now that makes me so excited I can pee. But, it’s on submission so I can’t talk about it. (Sorry!) Other soon-to-be-submitted projects include hilarious women’s fiction (*ahem*). I’m also entering new waters with a MG fantasy. A young girl trusts a man who claims to know her missing father, only to accidentally embark on a journey in which she discovers she’s the key to saving an entire kingdom. What I love most about it is the cast of characters, which include a headstrong best friend, a former thief/current scoundrel, an army general who turns into stone at dusk, and – if you follow me on Twitter you know why I’m excited about this – a CENTAUR. A centaur who is a scholar, wine drinker, and chef, no less.
6. There has been some debate about this, so perhaps you can finally clear up the mystery. Did you or did you not in fact push an agent out of the way to sit next to a particularly Fizzy author at a conference?
The only people who know the truth are me, that agent, and that agent’s lawyer.
7. This is totally random, but go with me. One of my favorite things about you is your delightful appreciation of geeky things. With that in mind, what three literary characters would you have over for dinner, and what television show would you make them show-slam with you?
Geekiest question ever! This is why I love you. OK, in my YA-loving mind, I would invite over Charlie from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter, and Ponyboy from The Outsiders, and we’d show-slam My So-Called Life. In my adult mind, I’m inviting over Mr. Knightley from Emma. No one else is invited.
8. It seems to be a common misconception that agents spend their days sorting queries, reading submissions and the like. It’s always been my understanding that these are things you squeeze in during spare time. Could you lay out what the life of an agent is like? And side question: When the actual hell do you guys sleep!?
My office hours are spent combining my job in foreign rights with my agent life. So, my responsibilities on a daily basis involve answering emails from clients, editors, foreign agents/publishers, and other Curtis Brown authors/agents (on matters usually involving foreign rights). Or, I’m shipping books abroad; sending foreign language contracts and tax forms to CB authors; reviewing contracts, compiling pitch letters and submission lists for my own clients; or doing an unknown task that ends up becoming urgent and throws off any plan I may have had for that day. Then, if I have time at the end of the day, I answer queries. Most query reading and almost all manuscript reading is done on the weekends.
Like Chuck Norris, agents don’t sleep; we wait. Or pass out.
9. I lurve you. That’s not a question. Just wanted to throw that out there.
10. And lastly, as you have entered the realm of my blog, it is mandatory that I ask for an embarrassing or heeeeelarious moment. I’ll give extra credit if this story contains accidental nudity.
Once upon a time an author tweeted at me that she wanted to pitch to me at a conference, but I had already rejected her query for a YA fantasy and I didn’t represent the genre she’d be pitching at the conference. I responded, GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU STREET RAT!
Then a few months later I, quite literally, saw her from a distance at that conference, not knowing she was the one who tweeted at me. I had a very ‘80s teen movie moment of “who is that girl???” and vowed to stalk her the rest of the conference. This writer with cool hair who I was crushing on didn’t even pitch to me! I was heartbroken. Finally, she came up to me and explained she wasn’t pitching to me because I didn’t rep her genre, but she loved me on Twitter. That’s when I realized SHE WAS THE STREET RAT I HAD SHAMED.
Neither of us mentioned it. I simply told her I recognized her from Twitter too and then turned bright red and ran away. Then I ALLEGEDLY maimed another agent for the chance to talk to her and requested her pages even though I ALLEGEDLY didn’t represent her genre.
A few months and one revision request later, she agreed to be my client! And we lived fizzily ever after.
Fizzy here. Okay, not gonna lie. When I first read this, my brain screamed, “SHE THINKS I HAVE COOL HAIR!!!”
Because I am super smooth like that.
Isn’t Ms. LaPolla the bees knees!? And I am not just saying that because I was referenced in this interview.
Love her. Follow her. Query her!!!
And most importantly, leave her love in the comments so she can read all your feels!!
Until next time,
Peace, Love, and STREET RATS!!!