Welcome to THE BOOKSHELF DETECTIVE, A site for readers and writers
Welcome to the Bookshelf Detective, a site for readers and writers of children's literature. Thank you for visiting, and please let me know how this blog served you. Cheers, Kim Tomsic
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Interview with Literary Agent Shannon Hassan
Today on the
blog we have agent Shannon Hassan from Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Prior to
this interview, Shannon and I sat down for coffee, so I can tell you from my face-to-face
encounter, Shannon is personable, smart, and funny. The whole package!
been an agent for three years, which is good news for writers seeking an agent,
because she is currently growing her client list. Please know, her short time
as an agent does not mean she is a “newbie” to the field of literature or
contracts—she has years of experience as an acquisitions editor at Fulcrum Publishing
and also years as a corporate attorney.
KT: Hi, Shannon!
Thank you for meeting with me and for agreeing to answer my “fast five”
SH: Thanks for having me on your wonderful
blog, and for your kind words! So Marnice to meet you and have you as my neighbor.
KT: ICE BREAKER: You’re clearly one
smart cookie! You earned a BA in Journalism and Economics at
George Washington University, a JD at Harvard Law (Harvard!), and then you
worked as a corporate attorney at a Park Avenue law firm—so please settle my
burning questions. Which is better—cats or dogs? Dogs Pasta or sushi? Pasta Subway or bike? Bike!
1. KT: Imagine we could strap into a time machine (ours can be a Tesla
instead of a DeLorean) and travel back to your middle school and high school
days—what books would we see on your night stand (and what else might be
SH: Well that would send me back to Texas
in the 80’s, when I had big bangs, ha! The first book I fell in love with was The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Another
favorite was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
I also read a lot of Stephen King—I’ve always been an eclectic reader.
KT: Also I know you have twelve-year-old
twins—what are some of their current favorite titles?
SH: All Four Stars, Pax, When You Reach Me, The Land of
Stories, The Crossover, and Book Scavenger.
I enjoyed those too!
Some writers spend hours crafting their query letter (and they should!); others
simply whip something together (yikes). I’m sure you can tell the difference. What
are three tips you can give writers on query do’s and three tips
·Ask your critique group to give you feedback—it is impossible to
have perspective on your own query letter after you’ve immersed yourself in
writing the novel for so long.
·Mention one or two “comp” titles—books that have been published recently (in the past couple of years)
that show the type of audience you are hoping to reach.
·Show your voice. I don’t mean write the letter in one of your character’s voices (that never works!).
But do give a taste of what the voice of the story will be. For example: if
your story is humorous, then get that humor across in the query.
·Don’t write a long lead-in about yourself or why you wrote the
book, etc.—just get right to the hook.
·Don’t tell us every minor plot point—your query should be a
concise, engaging blurb like you would see on a book jacket, not a synopsis.
·Don’t forget to proofread. First impressions matter!
Taste is subjective, but great writing trumps all. For example, I would have
said I’m not a fan of dystopian, but then I read (and loved) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (and of
course I love the obvious dystopian leaders, Hunger Games, Divergent, The Giver, etc.). What are your favorite genres?
love a range of genres, and my list for MG and YA includes everything from
contemporary realistic, to humorous, to historical, to suspense, to romantic, to
adventure and fantasy. See part two below on what these stories have in common….
KT: And part
two—the important question (drumroll please)—what hooks you when reading a
SH: A fresh voice and compelling, authentic characters! If you give me amazing characters that leap
off the page and into my heart, then I will pretty much read about them doing
couple of my recent wish-list items include a page-turning historical in the
vein of Laurie Halse Anderson or Ruta Sepetys, something that plays with
narrative structure in the vein of Challenger
Deep, and quirky stories with humor and heart.
Your bio shows that you represent authors who write middle grade and
adult, but not authors who write picture books. If you sign an author based on
a middle grade project, and they also write picture books, would you represent
their picture books, too, or would they need to find a second agent? Also, do you represent chapter books (i.e.
similar to Junie B. Jones, Clementine, etc.)? Lastly, please tell us about the nonfiction
you are interested in.
SH: I am not actively
acquiring picture books or chapter books, but when I have existing clients who
want to work on those things, I will represent them. But if you are looking to
make your debut with a picture book, then I am probably not the right agent for
you. For nonfiction, I am
interested in narrative nonfiction and memoir from authors with strong
Writers love to feel like they have the inside scoop—like they know you. Please
tell us a little known fact about you (other than the fact that you ride an
adorable purple cruiser with basket and all).
let’s see…I love to travel. Since our twins were barely out of diapers our
family has been to some far-flung places like Easter Island, the Galapagos, and
Shannon! It is a pleasure getting to know you! Please provide your query
Shannon Hassan, an agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, has
worked in publishing and law for more than a decade. She represents
authors of literary and commercial fiction, young adult and middle grade
fiction, and select nonfiction. On the kid-lit side, she is looking for
fresh MG and YA, and is open to a range of stories as long as they have
authentic, memorable characters: contemporary stories with humor and heart, adventures,
thrillers, and mysteries, original fantasies (with one foot grounded in
reality), page-turning historicals, as well as nonfiction from authors with a
Before becoming an agent, Shannon was the Acquisitions
Editor at Fulcrum Publishing, and prior to that, a corporate attorney at Arnold
& Porter in New York. She received her JD from Harvard and her BA from
George Washington University. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.