SCBWI Bologna 2006 Agent Interview: Costanza Fabbri

From SCBWI Bologna 2006:

Costanza Fabbri will be speaking at the SCBWI Bologna 2006 conference in Bologna, Italy, March 25-26, 2006. Other speakers include: authors and illustrators Scott Westerfeld (author interview), Sara Rojo Pérez (illustrator interview), Justine Larbalestier (author interview), Doug Cushman (author-illustrator interview); editors: Victoria Arms/Bloomsbury (editorial director interview), Melanie Cecka/Bloomsbury, Shannon Barefield of Carolrhoda (editorial director interview), Anne McNeil/Hodder (publishing director interview); agents: Rosemary Canter/PDF (agent interview), Barry Goldblatt/Barry Goldblatt Literary, Gabriella Ambrosioni/Gabriella Ambrosioni Literary Agency, and Rosemary Stimola/Stimola Literary Studio (agent interview). Hands-on workshops and roundtable discussions. See registration information. Note: there have been some changes in the speaker roster since the schedule was first posted; check the website for latest details.

Costanza Fabbri comes to agenting from an art background. She works with Gabriella Ambrosioni in the Gabriella Ambrosioni Literary Agency, representing authors, illustrators, publishers and other agents for foreign rights. She joins Rosemary Stimola, Gabriella Ambrosioni, Barry Goldblatt, and Rosemary Canter on the agents panel, “A is for Agent,” at the SCBWI Bologna 2006 Conference. Erzsi Deàk interviewed her in March 2006.

Erzsi Deàk: What led you to work in the field of children’s books? Can you give us a brief outline of your career?

Costanza Fabbri: My work led me here due to my interest in figurative art, which picture books are a sort of branch of. Then, it became something more. I’ve a degree in Modern Literary Studies with Historic-Artistic course (it is a specific course of study inside that Faculty) at Bologna University. Since getting my degree, I’ve started working as literary agent (at Gabriella Ambrosioni’s) and History of Art teacher (at the secondary school), keeping on with my studies by masters post-lauream in both branches at the same moment.

ED: Do you represent authors and illustrators?

CF: Inside of Gabriella Ambrosioni Literary Agency we represent both.

ED: Who needs an agent? Would you advise every professionally-minded children’s book creator to be represented by an agent?

CF: Most of publishing-roles should be represented by an agent. A literary agent is not a simple “instrument” whom writers achieve publication with, but a sort of consultant working together with them, in order to reach the same goal: obtaining better conditions in their agreements with publishers, giving deserved visibility to noteworthy-writers’ books we have worked so hard for. But an agent should be considered absolutely necessary also by publishers, who are interested in selling their foreign rights. Thanks to agents and co-agents, selling foreign rights is more diffused and effective: a sort of worldwide-web where every agency has to be responsible for its country, and handles agreements with local publishers for better conditions after selling. This makes all easier, effective and understandable. And optimizes time and gains. After these considerations, advising every professionally-minded children’s book creator to be represented by an agent sounds superfluous…

ED: What grabs your attention and makes you want to represent someone after the first “hit” of the person’s work?

CF: After realizing it is well written, I often pretend to see the manuscript as a book on any bookshop’s shelf: might it be there, according to publishing market and trends? Could it draw my attention as reader? Would I consider buying it? If I think, yes, for each question, then I realize it’s worth being represented.

ED: Can you describe what strategies you use for submitting your artists’ and authors’ work to publishers?

CF: Any sort of special strategy. After individuating the most suitable publisher/s for our client’s work, we start submitting manuscripts/books/CDs for their consideration. Usually we enclose a brief presentation for each work and, when it’s possible, press releases. Within suitable publishers, we prefer to start with the majors, and then, after eventual rejections, we keep on with smaller publishers.

ED: What kinds of books do you think travel best? Which books don’t? Do you encourage your artists and writers to adapt to the “global marketplace?”

CF: As an agent, I can say that selling picture books is more difficult than selling novels. That is to say, it’s easier selling high-ages-books (from 8-9 upwards) than lower. Moreover, fiction travels better than non-fiction. Humor and multicultural books go well. As well as educational books, not talking about “drama” or heavy language, but in preference to light and ironic words. Regarding picture books and the foreign market, Italian publishers deal more through co-editions than buying foreign rights.

ED: What is the role of agents in the co-edition world?

CF: As an agency we handle publishing and secondary rights, as an intermediary. From my experience, the co-edition world doesn’t provide for this role.

ED: Are you ever involved in the marketing campaigns for your clients’ work, once published (or once sold to the publisher)?

CF: Not directly.

ED: Do you have to actually like all your clients’ work to be able to represent it successfully?

CF: Most of the time I can say that. It depends on clients and circumstances: I have to like it when I deal with single persons (authors, illustrators, etc.). It’s not the same when I deal with publishers or agencies; in that case it depends on an eventual previous success of that title, on the publisher’s fame, etc.

ED: Are you still looking for new talent? Can you give any advice for an author or illustrator looking for an agent to represent them?

CF: We are always looking for new talent. But real talent is hard to find… A small bit of advice for authors and illustrators looking for an agent: Be humble.

ED: Are there any trends or new developments in children’s publishing at the moment that you would like to say a few words about?

CF: It’s difficult to say. Too many trends and novelties. Sometimes, I’m not so sure about their quality…

Thank you!

Cynsational Notes

Erzsi Deàk, along with Kristin Litchman, was an editor of Period Pieces: Stories for Girls (HarperCollins, 2003)(co-editors interview), which included my short story, “The Gentleman Cowboy” as well as stories by Dian Curtis Regan; Linda Sue Park; Jane Kurtz; Rita Williams Garcia; Bobbi Katz; April Halprin Wayland; Johanna Hurwitz; Uma Krishnaswami; Carmen Bernier-Grand; Kristin Litchman; and Erzsi Deàk.

Cynsational News & Links

Comics with a Twist: New Graphic Novels are Anything But Predictable by Becky Ohlsen from BookPage.

Meet Agent Jennifer Flannery of Flannery Literary by Susan VanHecke from Jennifer represents authors like Gary Paulsen (Newbery Honor Books Hatchet (1988), Dogsong (1986), and The Winter Room(1990)), Graham Salisbury (PEN/Norma Klein Award for Blue Skin of the Sea (1992), Scott O’Dell Award for Under the Blood-Red Sun)(1994)(author interview), and Kimberly Willis Holt (National Book Award for When Zachary Beaver Came To Town)(1999)(author interview). Note: site requires $6 mini monthly membership or $1.95 fee per article or 24-hour “all access archive past” or its silver/gold membership package to view. I would not normally feature a link to a pay site; however, the fees are modest and writers seriously researching agents would do well to carefully consider Jennifer. See a free online interview: Behind the Scenes with Agents and Publicists: Jennifer Flannery-Agent from Denise M. Clark. See also Agents from Children’s & YA Writers’ Links on my website.

Booklist’s New Online Non-Fiction Series Roundup: “find reviews of series titles that we have recommended in the print magazine, starting with the April 15, 2004, issue, as well as selected reviews from previous years.” Online search engine that may be used to search by age-level, subject, or publisher.

The 2006 BookSense Book of the Year Winners are: (in children’s literature) Inkspell by Cornelia Funke (Chicken House/Scholastic, 2005) and (in children’s illustrated) Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth (Scholastic Press, 2005).