Agent Interview: Insights into MG with Essie White

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Today is a special treat to speak with literary agent, Essie White. Essie started Storm Literary Agency as an extension of what she loves most: Children and Literature. I asked her about writing for middle grade and what advice she can offer writers.

MGM: For writers of middle grade, how do they know their manuscript is complete and ready to submit to agents?
Essie White: Personally, I do not know if a manuscript is ever complete! I have had authors submit a manuscript and then pull it back, and ultimately decide to take it in an entirely different direction. Sometimes, it is so hard to let go, and to feel “finished”. And maybe that is ok. Maybe writing is a process and a story takes on its own life, depending on where one is at, or what influences impact one’s life, at certain times. Stories are not static after all, neither is life.

But, if you want to get your manuscript published, you will have to release it at some point. And when you do, it is imperative that the text be thoroughly edited. The structure must be sound. The introduction must be stellar and the ending must be satisfying. The characters must be fully developed and they must be recognizable in the voice throughout. You must have someone with fresh eyes read the material, hopefully not your best friend or father. Someone totally objective. And the story must stand on its own. A pitch should not be necessary to “sell” it. Why? Because the first line should do that. Ensure the first line draws the reader in and the writing after, never lets the reader go.

One thing that I struggle with as an agent, is multiple reads of the same material. Reading is time consuming obviously but aside from that, multiple reads of the same project, for me anyway, removes a lot of the magic…the unknown. When I start anticipating things within a story, I know I am no longer an objective reviewer. So, please middle grade writers, submit your final. Do not “test” the waters so to speak, with agents and editors. That can be exhausting for us.

MGM: How important is the pitch in the overall submission package?

EW: I always desire a carefully crafted pitch when I submit a project to a prospective editor. I want authors to create this because they are most personally invested and attached to the story. But often, I do edit these because I have a strong sense of what may speak to specific editors. I want a pitch that immediately engages, piques interest and conveys some emotional intensity. This may be all the editor reads so, sometimes, you must sell the project as best you can, using the pitch. Like a title, it might be all that is read. So make it outstanding. But don’t make it long!

With that said, I pretty much ignore most synopsis and pitches that I receive via submissions, as an agent. They tend to not sell the story well, or place the project in its best light. The pitches do not usually engage me in a necessary way. So, I tend to skip them and focus on the first line of the story. That first line has got to snare me! It has to make me keep reading.

MGM: You have clients from all over the world. Do you find any writing styles or topics vary by region?

EW: I do have clients from all over the globe. I consider myself extremely fortunate that I have connected with so many wonderful individuals in varying countries throughout the world. I feel richer as a result. It is really fabulous. But I am not sure I have found that styles vary necessarily, amongst my clients, depending on where they live. But I do think what publishers desire varies depending on the place. Publishers from the UK, for instance, tend to desire a different stye of art, and sometimes text, than those in the US. This can be true of topics too, at least with publishers.

For more information about Storm Literary Agency, please visit www.stormliterary.com.

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