Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Literary Agent Gina Panettieri Answers Representation Questions for Authors


Panettieri will take pitches, present a workshop session and a master class during the Fifty Shades of Writing Conference 


Gina Panettieri is the president of Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC, located in Milford, CT, with a satellite office outside Boston. She is a 25-year industry veteran who has worked as an agent, author, and freelance editor. Two of her more recognizable sales—BROKEN, and its sequel, TAINTED, by A.E. Rought—have been optioned by ABC Family for development as a series. Another DEAD JED by Scott Craven, was optioned by Nickelodeon for development as a movie.

Gina loves all genres of literature, from history to travel. To see the many other genres she and her agents are looking for, visit her website here.

While at the ‘Fifty Shades of Writing’ conference, Ms. Panettieri will take pitches on a first come, first serve basis throughout the day on Saturday. Also, she will be leading a breakout session entitled, “Dialogue: Using it to Your Advantage." Attendees at this session will learn how to enhance characterization, keep the pace crisp, add humor or suspense, among other things. For more details click on the link above.

Additionally, she’ll present a Sunday master class entitled, “Brilliant Beginnings.” This three-hour class will focus on the key elements you need to demonstrate in your opening pages, and the errors you absolutely must avoid.

Brian: Ms. Panettieri, thank you so much for joining our ‘Fifty Shades of Writing’ conference. When reading your bio, I see that you and I have a lot in common: books are a huge part of our lives. What was it that led you to a career as an agent, rather than taking the path like many of us book lovers, as a writer?


Gina Panettieri: I actually began as a writer. I married young and had children while still in college (I attended Long Island University at Southampton and then University of Virginia) and needed whatever income I could muster for both going to school full-time and raising three children. So I wrote whatever I could that would pay the bills and for the rent and the diapers with everything from investigative journalism to writing stories for the confession magazines.

It was only after having an agent of my own and learning about that end of the industry, and being asked by other writers who were part of a Saturday morning critique group that met in my living room to help them find publishers and negotiate their contracts that I realized I really enjoyed this side of the table very much indeed. It was a short hop from there to putting out my own shingle.

Brian: Many agents are only interested in very specific genres, but you seem to be open to just about anything. Is there any type of manuscript that you just won’t touch?

Gina: I don’t work with picture books or poetry. Past that, I’m a true omnivore and represent really a full range of fiction and nonfiction for adults and children.

Brian: I see on your website that you have a link entitled, “Rights Offerings.” Can you tell us how listings like this are used by agencies to benefit the clients?

Gina: In creating rights offerings, agents are letting editors, scouts or sub-rights managers know about projects we have to offer.  We’re often contacted by a scout for a film producer, or a translation rights manager, or perhaps even an American book editor right here who has been on our site and noticed one of our listings. We often also list our rights offerings at Publishersmarketplace for the same reason. The rights offerings helps expand our projects visibility.

Brian: In your breakout session, you plan to focus on dialogue. What can dialogue do for a manuscript that other ‘Show Don’t Tell’ techniques can’t?

Gina: Consider some of your favorite lines from novels. What did they do to really help heighten characterization that nothing else could have? Why do we sometimes use lines of dialogue from movies or books to sum up who we are, how we feel, what our world view is? Dialogue can be used to explore relationships between characters in different and often more economical ways. For instance, we certainly know how a long-married couple speaks as opposed to people on a first date, and we can tell from their dialogue what that relationship is like. While I think other techniques can be employed to also do so, dialogue can convey backstory, heighten tension, create conflict, tighten your pace, and of course, add humor!

Brian: When an author signs with your agency, what can they expect from you as an agent, and what do you expect from your authors?

Gina: I’m a pretty hands-on agent. I don’t just sign books and forward them as is and hope for the best. I work with the client on developing the book to its full potential. I will discuss my plans with you concerning your book. It’s a partnership and I want your input, too. I want to know what your hopes and aspirations are and we’ll discuss new work and how to develop your long-term goals.

I expect the author to always keep me informed about the progress of any books under contract and to let me know in advance of any problems. Likewise, let me know when good things happen! I can fight your dragons and be your biggest fan, but I have to know what’s going on. Talk to me about new WIPs and talk to me about your social media. Authors can make some very serious social media blunders, both before and after being accepted by a publisher. Letting an agent give you advice and guide you can avoid a lot of those pitfalls.

Brian: When working with your clients, I see that you and your agents not only offer direction to their career path, but also assist with book proposals and establishing the author’s platform. Can you share with us some of the definitive ways you assist your clients in these areas?

Gina: As I mentioned above, we do like to dig into books and help develop them, so expect to do some editing when you work with me or another of the agents here.  Depending on what you write, we may get you involved with shaping the direction and focus of your nonfiction book to make it more appealing.  

With platform, we direct our authors to become involved with networks that will help get them out in front of journalists and television producers and bookers and help them cross-pollinate their efforts with other, higher-visibility writers to create multi-author platforms to benefit everyone. We encourage out-of-the-box thinking in book promotion and author promotion to draw readers and fans to author pages, to build real cohesive, supportive communities rather than simply people skimming looking for ‘gimmes’, freebies that require no real involvement.  Those are fun, too, of course, but shouldn’t be your exclusive draw. You want your readers to keep coming back, and to really engage with you and your material. We have a few new tools in the kit that we’re debuting in 2014 that are only available to our writers, so I can’t discuss them here just now, but you’ll start to see the effects as the year goes by.

Brian: I see that your agency works with new, unpublished authors! That’s great for many writers who are yet to be published. What advice would you offer any first-time author before they submit a manuscript to your agency?

Gina: Polish your prose. Put the manuscript through a copyedit. Don’t send first drafts. It makes a seriously negative first impression if the author hasn’t taken the time to send me her very best.  I know writers are excited to get their work out there, especially if they have requests for books. But take the time and make sure it’s ready, even if you need to delay forwarding your work.

Brian: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Ms. Panettieri. We look forward to meeting and working with you at the conference!

To attend the MWG “Fifty Shades of Writing” annual conference in St. Louis and pitch to Gina, be sure to register by March 31. Agent pitch sessions are included in the regular registration rates, but are assigned on a first come, first served basis.


Interviewed by Brian Katcher, author of Playing with Matches, winner of the 2010-2011 North Carolina Young Adult Book Award; and Almost Perfect, winner of the 2011 Stonewall Young Adult Book Award. His newest book, Everyone Dies in the End: A Romantic Comedy will be out March 2014. Visit him on the web at www.briankatcher.com.
 

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