Kristin Nelson is the president and founder of Nelson Literary Agency. She is also on the faculty for the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the SCBWI fall conference scheduled September 19-20, 2015. Registration can be found here: Follow this link or type in:https://rmc.scbwi.org
Thank you for serving on the faculty for the upcoming RMC SCBWI fall conference and for agreeing to this interview. I want to let our participants feel like they know you before you pull into the Marriott’s parking lot, so thank you again for taking time to answer the following questions:
Here’s some info I hijacked off Kristin’s website:
Being an avid reader practically since birth, I’m equally happy reading a Pulitzer prize-winning literary novel for my book club as I am reading a sexy historical-romance. I established Nelson Literary Agency, LLC, in 2002 and over the last decade+ of my career, I’ve represented over thirty-five New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers. Although I’m a very nice Midwesterner, I’ve heard through the grapevine that editors call me “a hard-working bulldog agent that will fight for you.” What a compliment!
When not busy selling books, I’m quite sporty. I attempt to play tennis and golf. I also love playing Bridge (where I’m the youngest person in the club). On weekends my husband Brian and I can be found in the mountains hiking with our 12-year old rat terrier, Chutney.
I’m looking for a good story well told. How you tell that story doesn’t need to fit in a neat little category. For specifics, check out the examples on the SUBMISSIONS GUIDELINES page, follow the clear directions posted there, then submit a query directly to:
You can read about Kristin’s latest sales at Publishers Marketplace.
Kristin was one of the first agent bloggers, and her blog PubRants is still going strong. You can visit her site at: http://nelsonagency.com/pub-rants/
ICE BREAKER: Where is your favorite hiking spot in Colorado (and does Chutney love it, too)?
|Kristin and Chutney|
KN: Ha! If I revealed it, then it would probably no longer become a favorite spot! J However, I can say that I love the country and the hikes around Crested Butte. Everywhere you look, it’s scenic. And there are literally a 100 hikes to do and all worthy.
1. On your blog PubRants, you post an article titled #querywin A Middle Grade Novel Sparks Memory. You talk about how you requested a full manuscript from an author, because you were instantly captured by the voice of the narrator. You say, “As I was reading, it made me recall exactly the way I thought when I was that character’s age. And I had forgotten that I had felt that way when I was that age. Right there, that’s brilliant writing at work.” I assume that voice was in the few pages of the manuscript submitted, not in the query itself. Am I correct? KN: This is kind of a yes and no question. Because for our submission guidelines, we ask for a query letter and the first 10 pages of the manuscript within the query email itself. That way if the query captures me, I’ll read the opening pages. If the opening pages grab me, then I’ll request the full. So it was the sample pages within the query that caught my attention.
Secondly, what are a few additional #querywin tips? I know your blog covers query tips in depth (everyone should read Kristin’sblog!) and you tweet tips regularly at #NLAquerytip, but for purposes here, please provide a few of your favorite quick pieces of advice beyond rookie stuff like spelling (Kristin, not Kristen), personalization (Dear Kristin, not Dear Agent), and how authors should please (PLEASE) read submissionguidelines.
KN: My pleasure! Here is my quick and dirty secret to writing a terrific query letter.
1. Nail the pitch.
2. Know that the pitch is not a summary of your entire novel. In fact, you only need to look to the first 30 pages of the manuscript to craft your query pitch paragraph. The writer’s inciting incident should happen within those first 30 pages. [The inciting incident is the plot element that happens that starts the story forward. Without it, there would be no novel. Note I say it’s a plot element. Not a theme. Not a character.]
3. Craft the pitch paragraph around that inciting incident.
4. Last but not least, the pitch should read like a teaser blurb you’d find on the back cover of a book jacket (or on the inside flap if reading a hardcover).
2. You have been an early pioneer in many activities—taking your agency paperless (before it was the
cool thing to do),
blogging, tweeting—those activities may be common now, but you were one of the
first. It seems you’re a trailblazer again with the digital arm of your agency.
Please give us a brief education about this direction.
|This month's featured digital book|
KN: The short story: in 2011, several of my authors were having their rights reverted to them and wanted to get the material back out there but didn’t have an easy avenue to do so. That’s originally why we created NLA Digital LLC. It’s a supported environment that helps our clients self-publish their backlist content. In the last couple of years, that platform has now morphed to help our clients self-publish frontlist materials—some of which were shopped to traditional publishers and weren’t bought.
In 2014, we expanded NLA Digital LLC once again to allow successful indie authors such as Carly Phillips and Ava Miles to come on board as guest clients and have access to the lucrative Library market through NLA Digital.
One key difference to know is that NLA Digital is not a publisher. Authors and clients are not granting any rights to us. They maintain full control of their rights at all times. We simply provide access and a supported environment to digitally self-publish and to have a Print-on-Demand edition available.
Our clients and guest authors, on average, make $3000-5000 a month in royalties from self-publishing through NLA Digital. Some make over 10k a month.
Nice work if you can get it, right? It’s a solid living completely outside of traditional publishing.
|Misty The Proud Cloud |
by Hugh Howey
3. Your client list in the children’s category shows you represent writers of Young Adult and Upper Middle Grade novels (and you do not take queries for nonfiction or for memoirs).
|SHIFT by Hugh Howey|
If you have a client who writes YA and picture books, would you represent those picture books, or would that client find a different agent for those sales? KN: I would definitely rep them and have done so. Hugh Howey did a picture book last year. It’s just that I won’t take on a NEW client with that project.
How many queries did you receive last year, and of those, how many new clients did you sign?
KN: Over 36,000 queries last year. I only took on one client. But this year, I’ve taken on three so far.
4. How much importance do you place on authors needing a social media platform, and if you consider a platform extremely important, which forms of social media do you recommend? KN: For me, it’s all about the writing. If the writing is wonderful, it’s easy enough to help someone to build a platform or social media presence. That part is not rocket science. J
5. I recently attended the SCBWI International conference in California where Wendy Loggia peppered a panel of editors with a series of questions (you may have a leg up on these questions, since you were in the audienceJ). I’m asking you and all members of our RMC faculty to pretend they’re on that California panel—picture Los Angeles, the sun warms your face, and you’re about to dash out to the pool bar and order something exotic, but first you must dazzle the audience with answers to the following questions:
a. What hooks you in a manuscript? KN: Losing myself in the writer’s unique voice.
b. What turns you off when reading a manuscript? KN: Writing that isn’t quite ready for an agent to read. And remember, I’m not saying the writer won’t ever be ready, just that he/she isn’t there quite yet. Writing is a craft and can take years to master.
c. What’s on your #MSWL (for those of you on Twitter, #MSWL is where agents and editors post their Manuscript Wish List)? KN: I honestly have no idea. Not until I start reading that special novel. Then wham, the realization hits that this is the one I’ve been waiting for. For example, when I took on Stacey Lee for UNDER A PAINTED SKY, I certainly didn’t have in mind that I needed a young adult historical western with two girls cross-dressing as boys to disguise themselves on the Oregon Trail. That would never have come up on a #MSWL! I didn’t know I wanted it until I started reading. Then I couldn’t live without it.
From Kristin’s website: Here’s what she’s currently seeking...
Kristin is looking for a good story well told. How you tell that story doesn’t need to fit in a neat little category. For those looking for more specifics, the below might be helpful:
- Young-adult and upper-level middle-grade novels in all subgenres
crossover novels with one foot squarely in genre
(Wool, The Night Circus, Gone Girl)
(Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, The Art of Racing in the Rain)
(Keepsake, My Sister’s Keeper, Still Alice)
romance (historicals especially)
(Ravishing The Heiress, The Ugly Duchess, The Heir)
title or hardcover science fiction and fantasy
(Soulless, Game of Thrones, Old Man’s War)
Please remember that I do not look at submissions for nonfiction, memoir, screenplays, short-story collections, poetry, children’s picture books or early reader chapter books, or material for the Christian/inspirational market.
For a list of recent sales, please visit Kristin’s page at Publishers Marketplace.
Please note that NLA’s submission guidelines have changed!
Please remember that submissions are accepted via email only. Because all queries and submissions are tracked (in case a response needs to be resent), no queries by snail mail, phone, in person, or through social media, including Facebook and Twitter.
How to submit your email query:
1. Start by making sure NLA represents the type of project you’ve written. See details outlined below.
2. Open a new email and address it to email@example.com.
3. In the subject line, write QUERY and the title of your project. This will help ensure that your query isn’t accidentally deleted or caught in our spam filter.
4. In the body of your email, include a one-page query letter about your project followed by the first ten pages of your manuscript.
5. No attachments please! Because of virus concerns, emails with attachments are deleted unread.
How to Send to Kristin
Submit a query directly to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I read and respond by email to each and every query sent to me. Expect a quick response to queries (within 5 days). Occasionally, it may take longer.
If you have not received a response after two weeks, then something might have gone astray in the cyber world. Is your email account still active? Are emails to you being spam-filtered? My reply to you might have bounced or been deleted. You might want to resend your email query.
If you have submitted sample pages to our submission database per our request, please remember that a response can take up to two months. As with queries, I will email my response to sample pages electronically, so keep an eye on your spam folder.
Very thorough post. Thanks again, Kim!
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