Tamar Rydzinski worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She graduated from Yeshiva University in 2003 with a major in literature and a minor in business. Tamar is not interested in prescriptive/practical non-fiction, humor, coffee table books or children’s books (meaning anything younger than YA). She is interested in everything else that is well-written and has great characters, including graphic novels. A fantastic query letter is essential – “you need to make me want to read your book, and be excited to read it,” she says, “with those first couple of paragraphs.”
1. What is the best part of being a literary agent?
Oh wow! What a question. The best part, to me, is getting to work on books I love (and you’re going to read the word, “love” a lot in this answer). I’ve yet to represent a book that I don’t truly love and I count myself very lucky for that. When I submit a book to editors, I get ridiculously excited. And when I sell an amazing book and I know that the rest of the world is going to get a chance to experience it too, well, I just love that feeling. And, truth be told, I get a little thrill out of negotiating, too; I was a business minor in college.
2. How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
My agenting philosophy is very hands-on. I usually go through quite a few rounds of editing before submitting a book to editors. And I continue to edit second and third books in a series, even if they’ve already sold, because a) I always enjoy reading my clients’ books and b) I think it’s important to have as many pairs of editorial eyes as possible on a manuscript. If your book is good, readers are unforgiving of mistakes or missteps because they’re so invested in the world you’ve created. Plus, I like to tell myself that what I think is important to my clients.
In terms of what I expect from an agent-author relationship, respect is key. I have to respect the work you’ve put into the manuscript and your opinions about every step of the process (my editorial ideas, the cover, etc.) And you have to respect me and the knowledge I have of the publishing industry, my guidance, my time–I try to get back to my clients emails immediately and read their manuscript as quickly as possible, but I have more clients than just you and they deserve my time and respect, too.I also have demands on my time outside of work.
3. What’s something coming out now/soon that you’ve represented and are excited about?
The next book coming out that I’ve represented is Nocturne by Syrie James (January, 2011). It’s a wonderful vampire romance set in the Colorado mountains. The book actually came about because Syrie James has written three great books (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and most recently, Dracula, My Love) which came to the attention of the editors at Vanguard who approached us and wanted Syrie to write for them because they so admired her talent. Which I think is just a really fun story.
4. What are the primary mistakes you see writers make in query process?
I’m going to answer this with a few tips:
Check an agency’s website and follow the submission guidelines posted there.
Don’t query me with more than one book at a time–choose one, the one that you think is in the best shape and bring that one to my attention.
Make sure that my name and the name of my agency are both spelled correctly.
Make sure to give me a paragraph or two on plot and a paragraph, even if it’s short, about you. It’s OK if you’re telling me that you have no writing credentials but live alone in the woods so you’ve lots of time to reflect and write. Whatever it is, I want some clue as to who you are and more than just a clue as to what your book is.
Don’t tell me your book is the next ______. Comparable books are great, as in, readers of ____ and ____ would enjoy my book. But grandstanding and making outlandish claims is never a good idea.
Check for spelling errors! If you’re too lazy to read your query 25 times to make sure there are no mistakes, then being an author will be tough on you since you will have to go back to your manuscript numerous times, first for your agent, then for your editor, then to make sure there are no mistakes before it’s printed and spelling mistakes in your query doesn’t bode well for the process.
5. With fiction partials, what makes you stop reading and start skimming-or stop reading altogether?
I guess the two biggest things that make me stop reading are lack of authenticity and lack of pacing. To me, dialogue needs to be spot on or I lose interest in the character or characters, and if I’m not interested in the characters, the story is shot for me. And especially in fantasy/sci-fi, the world needs to be authentic and interesting, too. I want details! Without data dumping. Sound tough? It is! But when it’s done well, you’ve got me hooked. And to make things even harder, while you’re trying to give me realistic characters in a well-developed world, you’ve got to keep the pace up so that I’m not waiting for the story to start.
6. Can you tell us some of the fantasy/sci-fi subgenres that you’re drawn to?
I do love the epic fantasy, but I also love paranormal, historical retellings, steampunk. Um, actually, I’m not sure there’s a subgenre that I wouldn’t be interested in…
7. When accepting young adult, what subgenres do you lean toward?
Again, I’m really open to anything. But I would love to see a thriller, something really dark and twisted. And one thing I love about fantasy is the openness–I find that there’s little attention given to sexual or racial mores of “our world” in these other worlds and I would love to see some more of that in YA, both fantasy and not.
8. Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
I don’t have any planned right now.
9. What’s the best way to contact you?
Read through our submission guidelines here: http://www.ldlainc.com/dailsubmissions.html
10. Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
One of the reasons that I don’t like to limit what I’m looking for too much is that you really need to write what you’re passionate about, whatever that is. And if you do that, it comes across and it helps with the authenticity that I mentioned earlier. A reader can tell when you’re writing to a specific genre that happens to be doing well at the moment and this reader, for one, doesn’t appreciate it.
Social media is huge right now. Make sure you’re on Twitter: @trydzinski and on Facebook (I am). Blog, if you can. Basically, build yourself as big of a social media platform as you can before your book ever comes out.