You’re a writer and an agent. How did you come to literature for young readers?
Years ago, my niece had asked me to read books with her. None of her friends were really readers and she wanted to have someone to chat with about what she had been reading. She would tell me what to buy and we had our own little book club.
It was a great way for us to connect and while reading these stories with her I realized how much I loved young adult books. There is so much hope wrapped up in them.
It’s a time in life where really anything is possible, and since I got to be an adult every day, it felt like a nice escape from that.
Let’s start with Writer Ann. Are there certain types of stories that call you to write them?
Absolutely. I actually have lists of ideas for books and have started at least half a dozen more manuscripts. For me, the genre itself doesn’t matter. My first book is a light science fiction (Road to Eugenica), and my second is dystopian with a hint of sci-fi, too (Breakout). But I have a paranormal I’m writing right now, and at least four contemporaries.
It’s not so much the story, but the character that begs me to get on the page, so I happily comply.
How do Writer You and Agent You inform each other?
You know that is a great question. I would like to say that being an agent has greater influence on my writing, but it really doesn’t. There are stories I just want to write, so even if I know that it could be a tough sell, it doesn’t stop me.
Now on the other hand, writer me highly influences agent me, meaning that since I have been on that side of the table I know what I would want in an agent—someone I can partner with, who is available to work though plot issues, someone I’m not afraid to talk to, someone who is going to push me to be a better writer not just to have a book they can sell but the best book I can write.
And since I’ve been in the deep, dark writing cave and had all those feeling I think it allows me to more deeply empathize with my clients and potential clients.
There was a time when children’s-YA authors and illustrators debated the need for an agent at all.
Do you think that time has passed? Why or why not? What considerations should be weighed?
I think in the end it has to come down to what the author wants. The short answer to this question is: No, you don’t need an agent to publish a book. But in that same breath, if you want to have the reach that some publishers have with readers then, yes, you do.
It’s true, anyone can write a book and put it up on Amazon to sell. But if a writer wants the chance at massive distribution and the backing of a top-five marketing team, they will need an agent.
Going “trad” means giving up some of control over the story. Publishers have editors, and marketing teams, and cover designers that work to make the book what they feel is best, and that isn’t always going to be what the author feels is best. They also take a large cut of the percentage of sales to help recoup all their costs.
But they have the ability to reach hundreds of thousands more readers.
Self-publishing allows the author to have full control and a larger percentage of sales. But they are also competing with the other millions of books already for sale on Amazon. So either way is an acceptable way to publish a book; it all just comes down to what the author’s goals are.
What types of clients do you represent—in terms of body of work, art vs. text, age levels, genres and more?
Are you looking for a certain kind of book that says “Prospect” or for a widely diversified body of work from your client base?
For me, it always comes down to voice. It doesn’t matter what genre the story is if there is a compelling character that makes me care about them from the first page.
That said, I’m looking to represent MG, YA and select adult genres. I’m not the right fit for Horror, or Erotica necessarily. If the book starts with a character waking up, I’m really not interested—This is because I see this opening at least two times in every 10 submissions, it’s just too common, and I’m looking for something that has more punch. (You can do better. I promise.)
Our books should represent our world, and I think we have a lot of catching up to do.
I’m not afraid of unlikeable characters, (actually I love a good, unlikeable character) or tough subjects that deal with what people today are struggling with.
As for clients, I’m looking for authors who are looking to build a career, who want to better themselves with every book they write. If they are someone who just wants an agent to gush over their work (and trust me I gush—I adore all my authors) but can’t take any tough talk, we’d probably not be a good match.
I have to believe in the author just as much as the story to take them on because I’m in this for the long haul, good and bad, we’re a team.
Why should an unpublished but competitive writer consider querying Prospect (and you specifically)?
Wow. That’s a really great question. I guess I’d say because with me you will have your strongest advocate.
And with Prospect, we are an established agency, a member of the AAR (Association of Authors’ Representatives) and will be around for a long time.
We operate as a family and our goal collectively is to get great books in the hands of readers.
How about established authors who, for whatever reasons, finds themselves without representation?
I think the answer stays the same. Sure there are publishers who get excited about debuts, but in the end it’s about getting great stories out there.
So, debut or not, if I love your work, I’ll champion it for you.
To what degree do you do career framing and consultation with your clients?
I think it’s completely in my scope to discuss and plan out career goals, so if my authors want to have these talks, we should do it.
Ann Rose graduated from San Diego State University with a BA in communication. She grew up in California, lived in Florida for eight years and now resides in Texas with her husband, two boys and three cats.
Ann will be speaking at the upcoming Austin SCBWI Conference May 18 and May 19. A few pitch sessions with her may still be available.
She is also a faculty member for DFWCon on June 22 and June 23 in Dallas, the North Texas SCBWI Fall Retreat on Oct. 4 and Oct. 6 in Waxahachie, and Oktoberfest with the San Francisco North and East Bay SCBWI on Oct. 19 in San Ramon.
Gayleen Rabakukk holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She’s worked with Cynthia Leitich Smith as a Cynsations intern since 2016 and also serves as assistant regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Gayleen is represented by Andrea Cascardi of Transatlantic Literary Agency.