Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November Mystery Agent Reveal + Winners!

Thank you so much to all who participated in the November Mystery Agent contest - we loved reading your pitches! And our fabulous MA is..

Kaylee Davis from Dee Mura Literary!
Growing up in The Middle of Nowhere, Ohio, Kaylee’s lifeline to sanity was the local library where she nurtured her love of all things literary. Kaylee received a B.A. in English Literature and a B.A. in Sociology from Miami University, and she is certified in Copyediting from Emerson College. Recognized for her obsessive-compulsive attention to detail and crazy-fast reading ability, Kaylee joined the team as a professional copyeditor, proofreader, and administrative assistant. She has recently been promoted to Associate Literary Agent.
Find her on Twitter at @kaylee_davis_  
And the winners are...
Grand Prize (1): full manuscript req (with query+synopsis) with feedback


Honorable Mention (5): first 50 pages req (with query+synopsis) with feedback


Congratulations to all the winners! Please shoot us an e-mail at operationawesome6(at)gmail(dot)com for submission instructions!

And to learn a little more about Kaylee, see the interview below:

1. Any tips for writers struggling with their pitches? Common mistakes you see in them?

Think of a 140-character pitch as an opportunity to create a big impact while encapsulating the overall essence of your project. The most common mistake I see is when a writer is too generic and there’s nothing to really get excited about—the ultimate point of a pitch is to get your reader excited! Effective pitches are concise and evocative, and they focus on what makes your manuscript stand out.

Here’s a great example of a successful pitch*:

YA sci-fi: Sleeping Beauty meets Avatar in a world that pits cyborgs against humans, and Prince Charming is the rebel leader.

This pitch gave me goosebumps and I just had to know more. Immediate request.

*For more info on the fate of this pitch, please see below!

2. What books have you read lately that you've fallen in love with (your clients' or others')?

Of course I’m obsessed with all my clients’ work, and could never pick a favorite. But some other things I’ve read lately and have loved are The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both have the character development and emotional depth that really sticks with me long after I’m done reading. And that’s pure gold.

3. What are you seeing a lot of in your slush pile lately? What would you like to see more of?

I’m one of those crazy people who actually loves my slush pile. I have found almost all of my writers this way, and even though it’s sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack, the process can be so incredibly rewarding.

That being said, I can’t say enough how often I see writers make the same mistakes:
- Not following submission guidelines. All writers deserve to start out on an equal playing field, no exceptions.
- Taking query rejections personally. I understand how getting a rejection can feel personal, but I promise it’s not. And ultimately you shouldn’t want to be represented by someone who’s not 150% behind you and your work.

- Querying too soon. My general advice for fiction is to get feedback from trustworthy people who aren’t family members or otherwise morally indebted to say you’re fantastic no matter what. Consider the feedback seriously and as objectively as possible. Revise. Then rinse and repeat until you’re convinced your manuscript is the absolute best it can be. Then it’s ready to send out.

      Things that I wish I saw more of in my slush pile: 
- Writers who mention following me on Twitter (and actually do). If you check out my feed, I guarantee you’ll have a much better idea of what speaks to me and what I’m likely to request. And you’ll have access to pitch parties I participate in, as well as query critiques and other giveaways I do. So if you query me traditionally, don’t be humble here. Tell me you follow me, or saw my #MSWL post that matches your concept, or something I mentioned that is relevant to your project. It shows me that you’re serious as a writer because not only are you carefully researching agents you’re interested in, but you are also actively building your social media platform.
- Fiction that explores alternate worldviews, from the conspiracy theories of Ancient Aliens to the survivalist mentalities of Doomsday Preppers. Think fun, fascinating, and psychological.
- Steampunk in MG through Adult. I’m still looking for an engaging concept that’s fantastically executed.

      4. I loved that, in your wishlist, you said that you'd like to see projects that explore character growth and identity. Could you talk a little more about that?

       The thing is, IRL no one stays the same. Identity isn’t this static force, this constant that never wavers. As we grow we change, and our interactions with the world influence our internal and external identities.

        No matter the genre, I think the strongest storytelling incorporates this change. The characters who show growth in ways both profound and mundane are the most evocative and real. And that allows readers to connect more emotionally to them.

      5. Any exciting agency news you can share?


    To that pitch I mentioned above. The author is Dina von Lowenkraft, and I’m very happy to announce that I just signed her! : )

      It’s incredible to say I found a client directly via a social media pitch event. Here’s the story.

       Dina’s pitch was strong, and I had just mentioned on #MSWL that I was looking for a cyborg project. Dina and I were already Twitter buddies so I knew she was very active in the industry, both as a writer and as Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium. Most importantly, however, Dina’s synopsis and writing in the first 25 pages really spoke to me. I requested the full, and ended up reading into the wee hours of the morning.

     I made “the call” after coordinating around my trip to the annual SFWA Reception and the ridiculous time difference between Belgium and Boston. Dina and I talked for hours about everything imaginable and could have easily talked for hours more. Most importantly, though we made sure we shared the same vision for her manuscript and that we were on the same page about edits.

       Dina hadn’t yet begun querying traditionally but already other agents had shown interest in her work. I was incredibly flattered she had done her research and knew so wholeheartedly that she wanted to work together. I always have a warm fuzzy moment when a writer accepts, and it will always feel like glitter and fanfare and magic.


6. And a few just for fun:

      Coffee or Tea? Both! In this weather, I’m gravitating to a hot honey latte (or two, or three) in the AM and Moroccan mint tea in the PM.

      Sea or mountains? Sea. The ocean’s the new frontier!

      Chocolate or bacon? Chocolate, on popcorn.  

      Ebook or print book? Print. And organizing my bookshelf like a crazy person.

     Favorite tv show? Sherlock and Doctor Who are pretty tied for me right now.

Thank you for joining us this month, Kaylee, and thank you to everyone for being a part of the contest! And be on the lookout for our next contest on December 1st. Stay tuned for more details!


  1. Congratulations to the winners, and a big thank you to all who entered!

  2. Congratulations to those creative people who came up with winning Twitter pitches. I so struggle with this aspect of self-promotion. I love Kaylee's example!


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