Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Q&A with Literary Agent Adriana Domínguez

Adriana Domínguez, literary agent at Full Circle Literary Agency.

From Full Circle Literary Agency:

Adriana Domínguez has over 10 years of experience in publishing, most recently as Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, where she managed the children's division of the Latino imprint, Rayo. Prior to that, she was Children's Reviews Editor at Críticas magazine, published by Library Journal. She has performed editorial work for many important children's and adult publishers, both on a full time basis and as a freelance consultant, on English and Spanish language books. She is also a professional translator, and has worked on a number of translations of best-selling children's books.
Adriana is based on the East Coast (New York), and interested in building a strong list of children's picture books, middle grade novels, and (literary) young adult novels. On the adult side, she is looking for literary, women's, and historical fiction, and in the area of non-fiction, for multicultural, pop culture, how-to, and titles geared toward women of all ages. When not working - which is rare - Adriana can be found at the nearest airport, waiting to be whisked away from it all; along with publishing, travel is her biggest passion!

Adriana recently answered a few questions and offered some advice for readers of Musings who are interested in taking that next step of contacting a literary agent.

My sincerest thanks, Adriana!

It seems that there is a universal consensus towards the proper way for a writer to approach an agent.  This includes: researching the agency and particular agents within the agency to make sure your work coincides with their interests, having a polished manuscript before querying, following their query/submission guidelines, and being respectful.

Is there anything else that really sets a writer apart for you in that initial contact?

I have received a number of referrals, for which I am always grateful, so I tend to pay special attention to those out of respect for the folks—many of them authors themselves—who have taken the time and effort to recommend me. But not everyone knows someone in the business, so my suggestion would be to write your query as if you did. By this I mean, try to come across as professional and informed about the business as possible in your query. Think of it as a job interview, not a call for help. A badly written query that does not conform to the guidelines on our website, or that adopts the tone of someone seeking help, or sending me "a bunch of their ideas" (as opposed to a well thought-out, polished, proposal) is an automatic pass for me. On the other hand, I tend to immediately connect with (and respect), folks who have obviously done their homework and approach me in a way that lets me know who they are. And who they are, is a writer ready to go professional and to give everything they've got to that part of their lives. Those folks inspire me to roll up my sleeves and get started working on building their careers. Of course, my ultimate requirement for taking on a writer is the quality of the writing itself. There are particularl requirements related to non-fiction projects as well, but I won't go into those here since that information is readily available on our website.

When you consider taking on a new client, are you looking at the immediate project at hand, or are you looking ahead towards a long-lasting relationship with the writer?

I am looking to build long-term relationships. The amount of time and effort I generally devote to my authors would not be worthwhile otherwise, as we often spend long periods of time working on manuscripts and polishing them until they are ready to present to publishers. By the time all that work is done, whether the manuscript in question is sold or not, I have generally fallen in love with the author's work, which means that I am fully invested in my clients' long-term success. 

In regards to representing previously unpublished authors, do individual agents have full authority to sign on a new client, or is this usually an agency-wide decision?

One of the reasons I chose to join Full Circle Literary is that the agency offers a very supportive environment for agents and authors. I am free to take on any project I choose, but I tend to consult with my colleagues on most because I respect their opinions and they have been in this part of the business longer than I have. In terms of our day-to-day dealings, we often help each other with ideas for manuscripts, for creating marketing platforms for our authors, and many other things. This way of doing business ultimately benefits authors most, as is enables them to reap the benefits of receiving indirect feedback from a number of experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds within the agency.

What sort of issues might make an agent/agency decide not to renew their representation contract with an author? 

This is a particularly difficult question for me, as I have not yet encountered this situation. If I had to guess, I'd say that the author's work ethic would probably do it for me. When I take someone on, I do so with the full intention of giving that person my time, energy, and expertise. If I were to feel that someone was not reciprocating in any of those areas, or not taking the work of being an author seriously, I'd probably reconsider my relationship with that person.

Once signed and working with an agent, what can a writer look for to determine if the agency/agent is a good fit for them? 

These days, most publishers don't accept unsolicited submissions, so an agent is a must for most authors, particularly those looking to break into commercial (as opposed to, let's say, academic) publishing. An agent should bring many things to the table: their industry contacts and expertise that informs them on what will sell and to whom, their ability to negotiate the most favorable terms in an author's contract, the ability to strategize an author's career (hence the long term investment cited above), the ability and willingness to help authors by providing feedback on their manuscripts in order to bring them into shape for editors, the ability to help authors create their marketing platforms, and much more. 

In short, if an author feels that his or her agent takes a passive approach toward their career rather than an active, enthusiastic role, they should first discuss the situation with their agent (it's only fair since that person has made a considerable investment in choosing to take them on in the first place) and if that still doesn't work, move on to someone who measures their own success in terms of their clients' [success].  


For more information including what kind of work Adriana Domínguez is looking for, check out editor Marcela Landres' interview with Adriana Domínguez at Latino Book Examiner.

Make sure you stop by and bookmark Adriana's blog, Voces. You can also find her on twitter.

Also, make sure you check out Full Circle Literary's blog.

1 comment:

  1. Adriana, I have kept your name in my address book for over 2 years. I have written a multicultural children's book in English and Spanish and I always hoped you would be my agent, I have been looking for an editor and I read someplace that you are an editor as well. Please let me know if I can send you my book to be edited,or better how to proceed, that is the question, I am very excited please reply.


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