Hello, dear readers. Meet Michelle Brower, today’s spotlighted agent! This is my 11th spotlight in a series of posts focusing on agents attending the May 2012 Backspace Conference. The spotlights are on agents who rep YA.
Agent Profile: Michelle Brower, agent at Folio Literary Management
(Image linked from Folio website)
Status: Accepting Submissions (as of 5/19/12)
About: “I began my career in publishing in 2004 while studying for my Master’s degree in English Literature at New York University, and have been hooked ever since. During that time, I assisted the agents Wendy Sherman and Joelle Delbourgo, and found myself in love with the process of discovering new writers and helping existing writers further their careers. After graduating, I became an agent with Wendy Sherman Associates, and there began representing books in many different areas of fiction and non-fiction. My list includes the authors Rebecca Rasmussen, Tara Conklin, Cassie Alexander, S.G. Browne, Michele Young-Stone, and Julia Wertz just to name a few, and it is equally split between fiction and non-fiction.
I greatly enjoy working with emerging writers, and will work closely with you to make sure your novel or proposal is in great shape before sending it out to editors. Although I do find many of my authors through referrals, I understand that there are great sources of untapped talent out there, and many of my authors have come through my submission pile. Those submissions that stand out to me are professional, straightforward, and show that the author has done his or her research about the publishing industry and what I in particular might like. I also love working with authors who are not afraid to get out there and promote their book once it is published; as I always say, you are always your own best publicity tool! For instance, an author might cultivate a demonstrable online following, show that they’ve attended conferences or joined groups that might be interested in their subject, studied under masters in their field, etc.” (Link)
Genres she is currently seeking (as of 5/19/12):
Gay & Lesbian
What she’s looking for:
“I’m interested in fiction that pays equal attention to both the voice and the story, and I’m particularly drawn to thrillers and literary mysteries, quirky women’s fiction, “book club” fiction that brings a tear to the eye and a thrill to the heart, books with a fantastic/paranormal element that reach beyond genre fiction, and literary fiction that pops off the page. I am also selectively representing edgy YA with the same qualities. In non-fiction, I am mostly interested in subject-driven narratives, memoirs, or journalism, but will always be on the lookout for the right book on the right practical subject. Food, science, psychology, pets/animals, and humor are some of my favorite topics. Overall, I love a book that takes an unusual look at the world, whether that’s by writing through the lens of a personal story or focusing on the big picture.” (Link)
What she’s not looking for:
“I am not looking for genre romance, cozy mysteries, westerns, hard science fiction or fantasy. I also do not represent children’s picture books, plays, or screenplays.” (Link)
Query Pet Peeves:
“I absolutely hate queries that begin with a rhetorical question. If someone asks, “Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were an elephant?” and my answer is “No!” I don’t have any reason to read further.
I also hate it when the only descriptions of the story are vague or only about a character’s emotional development. It takes a real story for a novel to work.” (From interview)
A query that “worked” for Michelle:
Dear Ms. Brower:
Please consider representing my novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.
A literary novel, The Handbook… spans nineteen years in the lives of the two main characters (Becca, born into privilege in 1969, and Buckley, born into poverty in 1959), and suggests that people, however disparate, are linked. The 400-page narrative encompasses multiple themes, but ultimately the book is a story of redemption.
Buckley, whose mother is struck dead by lightning, writes a nonfiction handbook, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors, excerpts of which appear throughout the novel. Becca, a repeat lightning strike survivor, buys Buckley’s Handbook through an ad in the back pages of a magazine. Becca and Buckley, destined to collide, meet during a massive electrical storm where there is a surprising reversal of fortune.
Structurally, the novel tells Becca’s story, then Buckley’s—the tension mounting until the two meet.
I am a thirty-four year old MFA fiction graduate My screenplay Spotting Normal was a 2003 semi-finalist for the Chesterfield Writers Film Project Award and a 2004 finalist for the CineStory screenwriting award. My story “Cop Drag” was a finalist in the First Annual Lewis Nordan Fiction Contest sponsored by Algonquin Books. My second screenplay, Paint Spain With Bart, was a finalist in the 2006 Screenplay Festival Contest sponsored by InkTip. I am currently halfway through my second novel.
Let me know if I may send you the first 100 pages or the full manuscript.
Commentary from Michelle
Michele’s query absolutely jumped out from the slushpile for me, at first for one reason alone: her title was
amazing. For all readers, a title creates a visceral response, and as agents, we want that response to be “I must pick this book up!” In this case, there is what we call a “high concept” aspect to the plot–two separate characters, different in almost every way, are linked together by lightning–and the title conveyed that quickly and with great charm. I knew that if the story and the writing lived up to the promise of the title, I would find a receptive audience for this book among publishers. I always think that a really good book can make up
for a bad title that will eventually be changed down the line, and no title is good enough to cover for shoddy writing, but this letter is a good example of how the perfect title can really light up a query.
In reading this letter, I could also tell that this story hit the right beats for book club fiction, and the kind of thing I love to read even if it’s something I’m reading for pleasure. It seemed quirky yet deep, and Michele’s bio showed that she had spent time developing her craft and had been nominated for some awards. I truly became hooked once I started reading the sample pages, and became quickly convinced that there was something special going on here. I knew I had to work with Michele on this book when I got to the ending and cried my eyes out. Happily, editors and now reviewers have agreed with me! The Handbook has been piling up accolades and we are all so excited to see it make its way to bookstores.
Where to find Michelle on the web:
Folio Literary Website: http://foliolit.com/michelle-brower/#
Publisher’s Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/mbrower/
Agent Query: http://agentquery.com/agent.aspx?agentid=974
Submission Guidelines (as of as of 5/19/12–please verify before submitting!):
Query Michelle directly from the Folio Literary Management website, by filling out a “form” on Michelle’s page.
Click here to access the form.
The form requests contact information, genre, audience, comps, and that the query and first ten pages be pasted into the box provided.