I’m a snoopy person by nature. I can watch marathons of “House Hunters” and “Property Virgins” on HGTV and never get tired of getting that peek behind everyone’s closed door. I try not be creepy – I just love to know what makes people tick. And, I’ll confess, one of my favorite things to do is to take a look at someone’s bookshelves and bedside reading tables. Did you ever wonder how an agent chooses books for their bedside table? This month, RU’s favorite agent, Sara Megibow, tells us how she picks the books that make it into her TBR pile. And, she gives away two books this month to one lucky commenter!
How an agent chooses what books to read.
You’ve all likely heard of a TBR pile, yes? Otherwise known as the “To Be Read” pile – these are books that pile up on our nightstand waiting to be read. Probably you even have a TBR pile too – on a bookshelf or an iPad. As an agent, I have to choose what I read very carefully and my TBR pile is more political than most. So, how do I choose what to read?
First of all, please understand that I read queries, sample pages and full manuscripts every week. I also read and edit manuscripts sent to me by my clients (and I have 17 clients that each write between one and three books per year). I read Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace and Shelf Awareness every day (as well as Locus Magazine and the Romance Writers Report every month). I read my twitter feed, blog posts from my twitter feed and blog posts by my boss, my clients and other agents. I read for fundraisers, auctions, chapter contests and Writers Digest webinars. Then, I go home and have a stack of books on my bookshelf to…read. So, that’s where we start.
Why do I buy so many books? (Yes I do buy them. I don’t mooch for freebies even though I could get them easily. AND, I usually buy from an independent bookstore – my local indies are Boulder Bookstore and Tattered Cover) First of all, I simply love to read. So, the honest answer is – I love books so I buy them because I am looking forward to reading them. The more complex answer, however, is that I buy them so I know what is in the marketplace right now. This makes me a better agent for my clients and my future clients.
How do I choose what to buy?
1) I choose books (especially those by debut authors) in the genres that I represent (young adult, middle grade, romance, science fiction and fantasy). I’m looking for books recently published by major publishing houses (both big press and small press). To make life interesting, I try to read one YA book, one romance and one sf/f each week (yes, that’s AFTER all my other work is done – yikes, huh?)
2) My top priority is to read books produced by editors to whom I would like to submit. For example, I recently sold an historical romance called A TALE OF TWO SISTERS by debut author Ashlyn Macnamara (a Golden Heart finalist) to Caitlin Alexander of Ballantine Bantam Dell/ Random House. I loved PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS by Sherry Thomas which was edited by Caitlin. So, when I called to pitch TALE OF TWO SISTERS, I could say (sincerely) “I loved Sherry Thomas’s book and I’m hoping that you will love this submission which is also a very sexy historical romance.”
3) Frequently, once I sell a client book, I go out and buy more books produced from our new editor partner. For example, Roni Loren’s upcoming debut CRASH INTO YOU is edited by the amazing Kate Seaver of Berkley Heat. Kate also edited THE PERFECT PLAY by Jaci Burton and that book is sitting on my nightstand right now. (can’t WAIT!)
4) I buy books when I read a fabulous review. For example, www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com raved about SCANDAL by Carolyn Jewel. I bought it and completely fell in love with the book. So, good reviews do result in sales!
5) I buy books that hit the NYTimes bestseller list, USA Today Bestseller list or whose sales numbers are really strong.
6) Every day I watch sales posted at www.publishersmarketplace.com. When I see something that really catches my eye (especially if it’s got a really engaging pitch), I add that title to my TBR pile and buy when it releases. For example, this middle grade sale was posted in October 2010, “Sherry Shahan’s ICE ISLAND, in which a 12-year-old girl who dreams of competing in the grueling 1,049-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race gets lost during a training run in the untamed Alaskan wilderness during a freak snow storm.” ICE ISLAND comes out in January 2012 and I’ve been waiting 18 months for it. How awesome is that – a 12 yr old wanting to race in the Iditarod?!?!
7) I buy books from authors I find fun or engaging on twitter (yes, twitter sells books!) Megan Hart has an awesome twitter voice (@Megan_Hart) so I bought her novel NAKED last winter. I absolutely, positively rave about this book! Sooooo glad that I followed up and bought it as it’s one of my all-time favorites.
8) There are so many awesome agents out there! When I’m at conferences, I try hard to meet (and drink with) as many of these fun people as possible. Naturally, we end up talking books. I write down their suggestions and support my agent friends. So, if I know the agent, I will likely buy the book.
9) During my almost-six years in publishing, I’ve met some charming authors who are just fabulous people. Not my clients, but fabulous people. I buy their books too. SWEET ENEMY by Heather Snow hits shelves in Feb 2012 and Heather is one of the nicest people on the whole planet. I’ve already pre-ordered two copies and I will hunt her down and get them signed.
So, that’s about it. Books produced by editors at imprints to which I’d like to submit, books written by authors who have worked with editors I know, books I find from reviews or sales announcements or some form of social media (twitter and blogs mostly) and books by authors to whom I have some personal connection (via conferences, other agents , etc). That’s my list. And the end result is – I know what kinds of books are being written and sold right now in each of the genres that I represent. I know comparative titles, “hot” concepts and popular voices. And there is a huge pile of great stories waiting for me each night when I get home from a long day of work.
What is in your TBR pile? How do you find the books that end up on your reading list? Any books you can recommend to Sara?
On Friday, Leanna Renee Hieber talks about Writing Adult vs. Young Adult Fiction
And for one lucky commenter, Sara will give away two books this month!
For Olivia Markham, laMalediction is the ideal setting in which to complete her work. But something is sending a chill up the usually fearless author’s spine. There are the unearthly noises, the sliding panels, the hidden passageways…and John Landry, the sexy caretaker who seems less than welcoming.
John has work of his own to do and he doesn’t need the distraction of a mysterious beauty claiming the old mansion is cursed. But he can’t ignore the fact that someone is doing everything to scare Olivia away – permenantly. Working together to uncover laMalediction’s alarming secrets and root out the evil stalking them, John finds Olivia impossible to resist, and he knows it’s only a matter of time before something unexpected – and undeniable – happens between them
One remote bayou mansion was holding tight to its secrets……
Bodyguard Brian Marcentel knew Justine Chatry had a job to do, but so did he. He’d been hired to keep her safe – from whatever lurked behind the walls of a long-neglected mansion. And yet, the beautiful researcher insisted on helping him investigate every suspicious noise and following him through the murky bayou as he tracked down trespassers. All of that paled in comparison, though, to his greatest challenge: trying to resist her when the fear took over and she looked to him for protection.
Still, no matter how fiery their attraction, there was something about this frustrating, sexy woman that seemed so familiar. But trying to penetrate her secrets was like trying to keep her out of his arms. Or out of his bed.
Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC
Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.
Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http://http://www.nelsonagency.com/for submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow) is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibowHow an agent chooses what books to read.
- Sara Megibow Sells Romance!
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- Sara Megibow Sells Romance – A Second book deal – the cause for REAL celebration!