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Guest Post: Mackenzie Brady on Sifting Through the Slush
[box type="note"]Note from Sooz: I'm so excited to share this post with you all from Mackenzie Brady, an agent at New Leaf Literary & Media. She reps some awesome projects (as you'll see below) and specializes in non-fiction for all ages as well as select YA and adult fiction. Like me, she has a scientist's background—she was a microbiologist in her pre-publishing life! And now I'll pass the mic to Mackenzie...[/box]
Good morning, Pub Crawlers!
As an agent I field a lot of questions, but one of the most common and most fun to answer is: how do you find projects? And while I could easily rattle off a quick answer—slush pile, referrals, conferences, a bit of magic—I thought it would be fun to actually figure out my personal metrics. So, here we go!
I currently represent 29 writers and illustrators.
13 queried me directly
7 were referred to me by a client, editor, or fellow agent
I met 2 at conferences
I reached out to 7
My slush pile is large, varied, and sometimes unruly, but it's also full of undiscovered gems. And I don't mind a little digging! Some of the most interesting and surprising projects I've ever taken on came to me through the traditional query process, including Sara Raasch's YA fantasy Snow Like Ashes trilogy (out now from Balzer + Bray) and Megan Kimble's memoir Unprocessed: My Busy, City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food (forthcoming from William Morrow, June 2015).
I'm also thrilled when a client or publishing friend sends an author or project my way. It's nice to know that others understand your taste (science, feminist, food or history related NF, charming or thoughtful novels) and trust that you'll take good care of a project. To get specific, I began working with two of the coolest illustrators I know, Sara Zin and Matt Sundstrom, after their equally rad artist friends (and my clients), Forsyth Harmon and Brie Spangler, sent them my way.
I do my best to attend a few conferences per year. They're a great way to meet writers in far off places, network with fellow publishing folk and, of course, discover new talent. I met the insanely funny and smart Jen Miller at The American Society of Journalists and Authors conference last year—her memoir Running: A Love Story is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2016—and began working with the delightful illustrator Anne Lambelet after she pitched me an idea at an SCBWI conference in Philadelphia this past fall. I can’t wait to see who I’ll meet at the next one!
And the final way I find new projects is through a bit of old fashioned luck (and diligence). I am what you could call a "mental hoarder." I just love to know stuff, to read the news, listen to podcasts, observe inventive pieces of art, have philosophical conversations (or debates!). It's no wonder that I work in a world of stories. But, my desire to know things has actually paid off in terms of finding writers. The very first time I ever logged onto TED.com, I watched the most recently uploaded video. It was of a woman talking about depression and disconnection in the digital age. She'd left love letters all over New York City as a way to connect with strangers and make herself (and others!) feel better. Her name is Hannah Brencher, we've now been working together for over two years, and her memoir If You Find This Letter came out last week from Howard Books. Another seemingly magical connection came via Twitter. A person I follow retweeted an article about competitive lock picking right when I happened to be looking at her feed. I read and loved the article and reached out to the writer, who as it turned out had just moved to New York City and was interested in writing a book. She didn't have a book idea at the time but we decided to work together anyway. Her name is Rachel Swaby and her timely and important book Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World will hit shelves on April 7th (Broadway Books). And these are only two examples of the kismet I've experienced when searching for projects.
If I've learned any lesson by analyzing how I find projects it's this: keep your eyes peeled and know what you're looking for. Good work is happening all around you, you just have to uncover it.
MACKENZIE BRADY was a microbiologist before she became an agent. As such, she's always on the hunt for projects that bring new facets of science to light. She is endlessly fascinated by the human body, especially the heart. Her taste in non-fiction extends beyond science books to memoirs, lost histories, epic sports narratives, and gift/lifestyle books. She is particularly interested in projects with a strong narrative and a female bend. Her favorite novels range from philosophical and charming to downright dark and gritty. She also represents illustrators (with or without book projects of their own). In the end, all she wants is to be told a good story. Follow her on Twitter for the full play by play!