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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Secret Agent Interview: Part I

All shall be revealed!

I haven't really meant to keep Secret Agent Man's identity hidden. I just love secrets, and the poetry of having a Secret Agent, and the reality of being agented by (I humbly put forth) one of the very best in the biz.

I have chattered about our first meeting at Suzanne Young's...I have posted clandestine shots of our double-date on the roof near the UN...and I have virtually jumped on the couch after his sizzling sale of my first novels...

And now, I can't resist interviewing the very honorable and completely awesome Edward Necarsulmer IV, Children's Director at McIntosh and Otis.

The Summer Revision Smackdowners have been putting our all into making our manuscripts the best they can be. A potential next step is to send those polished and fabulous manuscripts out to the agents of our dreams. So I asked Edward to answer a few questions about how one might go about snagging his dream-agent attention.

Holly: What are the top things you look for in a submission?

Edward: Funny is always good. I don’t do a lot of historical fiction or very high fantasy, but if I saw something amazing, I would pursue it to the best of my ability.

A really strong first line, especially one that’s funny, provocative, ominous or striking – that will really get to me. It will send me a message about the voice of the character and that the project is, perhaps, something out of the ordinary. Of course, the next and integral step is complementing that strong voice with a plot, a narrative arc and “something actually happening.”

It’s more important now than ever to be honing your craft. Everybody, or a large subsection of the population, has an idea for a novel, but taking your time to finish and polish it, that’s what inspires people. Please approach agents/editors with finished works. More than ever we want to see into what we are going to invest our time (and hopefully down the road on the publishing side), money.

How much of a submission do you read before deciding its fate?

It depends. If it’s clearly something I don’t do – an epic poem in verse with 28 year-old protagonist – or missing the basics of a middle grade or picture book, I’ll put it aside. Usually I’ll read all five pages. These days, we need to get an editor’s attention extraordinarily quickly, so if you can’t catch my attention in five pages or so (there are exceptions, naturally), you won’t be able to catch an editor’s. It’s a tough undertaking, as you certainly don’t want to give away the farm, as it were, right away, but we do need to jump right into the action. You know if you have a visceral reaction to something, the author is doing something right.


Come back tomorrow for the rest of the interview!


  1. Lovely, informative first questions with SAM, Holly!

    Brimstone Soup is delicious even in this heat.

  2. Ditto--and I love SAM's honesty and modesty. What a great catch for you!

  3. Hey Holly. This is awesome! Congrats on having Edward as your agent, and thanks to both of you for sharing this!

    The first line, the first five pages... We all obsess over it, but what doesn't get said a lot is that you can't really WRITE the first five pages until you've written the entire novel. I guess I mean that you can't really know exactly how and when your story starts until you know exactly how it ends. So, at least for me, the trick is to just put something there for the first draft's opening, and then try like heck NOT to revise it until I've made it through to the end. Then I have a much better idea of exactly how to make those first five pages work.

    Thanks again for this interview - good stuff!

  4. Thanks for the inside scoop holly :)

  5. Great idea for a post, Holly. And Edward's first comment is particularly useful for me as I start revising two YA projects and I know voice is going to be key. I'm sticking his remarks about voice to my screen today as I work!

  6. Very swank Holly. Sounds like an awesome secret agent. I hope you ask him what gadget from his utility belt he uses when cornered by hordes of the unagented.

    Actually that sounds pretty scary, the unagented... I'm their leader.