Friday, February 4, 2011

February Mystery Agent Revealed!

Our Mystery Agent is....

Chris Richman from Upstart Crow Literary Agency

Image from agency website.

 Chris Richman received his undergraduate degree in professional writing from Elizabethtown College, and an MA in Writing from Rowan University. A former playwright, contributor to The Onion, and sketch comedy writer, Chris broke into agenting in 2008 and has quickly made a name for himself by selling several noteworthy projects. Chris is actively building his list, enjoys working with debut writers, and is primarily interested in middle grade and young adult fiction, with a special interest in books for boys, books with unforgettable characters, and fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The winner and a note from Chris...

Thanks for having me, Kristal. The 25-word pitch is a tough thing to master, but I enjoy reading them, since they’re so similar to how I pitch a book to editors once I represent it. It’s always interesting to read a pitch stripped down to its barest form, and thinking about a story boiled down to such a small version can help a writer realize what the most crucial elements of the story are. For more on the 25-word pitch, head over to, where I blogged about the topic last year.

Winner (Query & Full Manuscript)

Author: Claire Legrand

Genre: MG Dark Fairy Tale

To save herself, her best friend, and the other degenerates of Belleville, 12-year-old Victoria Wright must outsmart demonic Mrs. Cavendish and her living, breathing orphanage.

I selected this pitch because it’s compact, full of necessary information, and, most importantly, sounds like it could be in line with what I’m seeking. There’s good information packed into the 25 words—the hero (Victoria), her age (12), the conflict (escaping an orphanage), the antagonist (Mrs. Cavendish), and a final, interesting detail that piques my interest (a living, breathing orphanage...sounds spooky!). Well done, Claire!

For those of you who weren’t selected, don’t be discouraged! The 25-word pitch is no easy task, and I thought many of the pitches were well constructed, even if the particulars didn’t match the types of stories I’m personally seeking. Keep writing, and I wish you all the best of luck! 

We asked Chris a little more about himself. 
Here are the questions and the awesome responses he gave. 

1.      What are some of your pet peeves in queries?

You know, aside from some of the usual gaffes like CCing every agent in creation on the same pitch or clearly ignoring my submission guidelines and sending me things that are completely outside of what I typically represent, I’m pretty easy going when it comes to queries. Things like errors in formatting, forgetting to paste sample pages, getting my gender wrong, or spelling my last name “Richmond” earn a frown, but not an instant rejection, from me. We all make mistakes and I try not to sweat the small stuff.

   if I HAD to pick a few things that get under my skin—which I do, since you asked—I suppose I can get frustrated when by writers who approach the process of finding an agent with an air of negativity right from the beginning, either by saying they don’t like that they had to follow our guidelines, or they don’t like the whole process of finding an agent in general, or even one gentleman who had an auto-reply set up to immediately respond to my passing on his novel with a form letter back to me, saying something like he was sorry, but he wasn’t taking rejections at this moment. I get it—the process can be tough and sometimes frustrating, but this sort of negativity right upfront is a significant turn-off for me.

   2.      What are some overdone concepts you’ve been seeing?

I’m hesitant to say that anything’s completely overdone, especially when any of the classic plots can be re-imagined in new and exciting ways. For example, I could say stories where a character magically travels to another world has been done to death, and yet two fantastic series I represent—Jacqueline West’s THE SHADOWS and Matt Myklusch’s JACK BLANK—begin in just this way. So I don’t think anything is ever completely off limits. Heck, I even read a submission for a vampire novel recently that really blew me away, although sadly I wasn’t able to sign it.

   Some things I tend to see all the time, especially because I specifically say I’m looking for books for boys, include one dimensional bullies, kids who have secret abilities, and standard takes on supernatural creatures (for fun I searched through the last two year and a half’s worth of queries for the word “bully” came up with 236 results). Again, bullies, secret abilities, and supernatural creatures can work, but they typically have to be done in a new and interesting way to stand out from all the books/films/tv shows that have come before.

   3.      Is there a dream concept that you’re dying for in a submission?

   I’m always looking for genuinely funny books, but recently I’ve been thinking I’ve been catching up on the show Fringe after missing it during its original airing, and I’d love for a book that successfully combines science with compelling characters and terrifically paced storylines.

   4.      What book are you currently reading?

I actually have a really bad habit of reading many books at once, so I’m technically in the middle of about four published children’s novels, several books for adults, and loads of requested material and client manuscripts. I did, however, just pick up the final Percy Jackson book after waiting for what seemed like ages for it to come out in paperback (I wanted it to match the other editions I own). I read the first 194 pages on a train ride and am itching to finish it and see what becomes of Percy and the whole gang, although I know I’ll probably be forced to start the new HEROES OF OLYMPUS as soon as it’s over. Darn you, Rick Riordan, and your snappy pacing, great concepts, and funny dialogue!

   5.      If you could be one superhero, who would it be and why?

I have a weak spot for Batman. He’s a terrific mix of brains and brawn who is basically a normal human wearing a costume in a world of heroes and villains with actual fantastic abilities, yet he still does okay for himself. That being said, I doubt I’d be able to handle all the bruising that comes with the job. Plus, dude never sleeps.

   So I guess I’d pick Spiderman. Why? Cool day job, some pretty smoking hot girlfriends/wives, and a decent sense of humor, even if it is overly reliant on spider-based puns. Plus, the costume is pretty cool.

   6.      Client or agency news?

I’ve got several exciting things on the horizon, and interested readers can typically follow what’s new at the agency by checking out our blog at     . Very soon, however, the first in Matt Myklusch’s JACK BLANK trilogy will be available in paperback with a spiffy new cover, although readers can still grab the hardcover now. 

Thanks Chris, from all the ladies at Operation Awesome. 
You are truly....AWESOME!!

And....speaking of Jack Blank (it's an awesome book by the way). 
Our special prize is for one of our  participants...chosen at random.

Ryann Jansen
You receive a copy of Jack Blank and the Imagination. 
Let me know if you'd like a kindle or hard copy.

Claire and Ryann, please email me at (at) gmail (dot) com 
for further instructions on your prizes. 

Congratulations to our winners! And thank to everyone who participated. Stay tuned for more great contests coming up this month, including more agent giveaways that you won't want to miss!


  1. Yay for Claire! Congratulations. Thanks for hosting the contest - it was fun.

  2. Congrats to Claire and Ryann! And thanks so much Chris!

  3. Congrats to the winners! Great contest!

  4. Congrats to Claire and Ryann, and thank you so much to Chris for participating. Great interview too!

  5. Congrats Claire! I recently listened to Chris at a conference and he is hilarious! Best of luck.

    And congrats to Ryann, too. :)

  6. Awesome job Claire - wishing you the best of luck!

  7. I saw Claire's entry and was pretty impressed, too. Congrats and well done!

  8. I can see why this pitch won--sounds fantastic. Congrats!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  9. Congrats to Claire! Your story sounds amazing!

    And I'm SO EXCITED about my book!

    Thanks to Operation Awesome and Chris! :0)

  10. Wow, thank y'all so much for hosting this contest, and well done to ALL participants! This was an awesome bunch of pitches, and I want to read, like, all of them. :D

  11. Congrats to the winners!

    I actually USED Mr. Richman's 25 word pitch blog post last week as an example when working on mine for this contest! Ha ha. Just thought that was funny.

    Thanks for the contest, OA ladies, as usual. =)

  12. Woot!!! Congratulations to Claire and Ryann! Big thanks to Chris for being our M.A. You rock. Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation is definitely on my to-read list.

    And thanks to everybody who entered. Like I said, the entries blew me away.

  13. Congratulations to Claire and Ryann! Thanks, ladies, for the contest!

  14. Wow that was fast! I should have guessed it was Chris. I remember reading his post on creating a pitch in 25 words or less.

  15. Great 25-word pitch challenge and kudos to the winner for nailing it! Best of luck to you, Claire. And thanks for hosting, OA! :)


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