Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Agentopia: Rebecca Podos

Welcome to the May edition of Agentopia! For more information and to see other Agentopia posts, click here.

This month Rebecca Podos from the Rees Literary Agency is in the spotlight.

Rebecca Podos is a graduate of the MFA Writing, Literature and Publishing program at Emerson College, whose debut YA novel THE MYSTERY OF HOLLOW PLACES is forthcoming from Balzer + Bray. Rebecca is interested in Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction of all kinds. She's looking for projects with compelling characters whose journeys feel human, whether they're high school students, were-dragons or space travelers. She is thrilled to represent books like Rin Chupeco's THE GIRL FROM THE WELL (Sourcebooks), Ryan Bradford's HORROR BUSINESS (Month9Books), Mackenzi Lee's THIS MONSTROUS THING (Katherine Tegen Books, 2015), Sarah Nicolas' DRAGONS ARE PEOPLE, TOO (Entangled, 2015), Ashley Herring Blake's SUFFER LOVE (HMH Children's, 2016) Kenneth Logan's THE SLOW THAW (HarperCollins Children's, 2016), and Emily Ross's HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH (Merit Press, 2016.)
Rebecca prefers email submissions, and unfortunately is only able to respond to queries she is interested in pursuing. 
To query, please submit a query letter and your first three chapters in the body of the email to
What are you looking for in YA submissions right now?

I’m always looking for complex and complicated female relationships in YA, be they familial, friendly, antagonistic or romantic. Romance in general is fine, as long as “will they/ won’t they” isn’t the highest stake in the novel. I love books that play with genres – literary horror, magic realism, gothic mystery, soft sci-fi with a strong focus on character. I’m always looking for beautifully written contemporary. Right now, I’m especially looking for more LGBTQ books; contemporary, yes, but also across sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, etc.

What's an immediate turn-off in a query, something guaranteed to get the author rejected?

One turn-off would simply be a query letter that doesn’t focus on the story. I know queries are tough, and you want to stand out amongst the dozens of letters an agent receives each day, show personality. But a lot of authors start out by talking about their childhood inspirations, or when they decided to become a writer, or setbacks they faced along their journey toward publication, or how the book came to them on a long drive across the country. That’s a conversation best left until an agent requests more of your book, or better yet, offers you representation. Trust your story, and use your limited space and an agent’s limited attention span to sell it.

My general advice, when structuring a query letter, is to look at the back of a published YA/ MG novel for inspiration (with a few obvious additions, like word count and genre.) You’ll usually find 2-3 brief paragraphs that introduce us to the main character, let us know enough about his/her journey that we want to find out what happens, and communicate the stakes of that journey; what is the main character trying to accomplish, and what will happen if she succeeds? If she fails? Then at the end, you can include your (brief!) author bio with credentials and vital information.

What's the story got to have to make you want to represent it?

There are a lot of ingredients that go into a wonderful YA or MG – a unique and relatable voice, complex character development, great tension and pacing, etc. All are important, and they all need to be present. But then there has to be something else. That phenomenon when a manuscript is more than the sum of its parts, and as you turn the last page, you just know: this is a book. I think for me, it happens when a character’s internal arc is working perfectly with their external plot. When there’s a deeply human core inside a character’s quest, whatever the genre. So your MC has to retrieve a magic amulet in order stop the apocalypse and save the hot young swamp monster with a chip on his shoulder; what are the emotional stakes of the story? If she succeeds, will she learn how best to love herself and others? If she fails, will she never have the chance to figure it out?

I guess what I’m saying is, that magic amulet better MEAN something.

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