I am so excited to have the opportunity to introduce you to my literary agent, Weronika Janczuk of the D4EO Literary Agency. Although we’ve only been working together for a short time now, I can tell you that Weronika is passionate about writing and the authors she represents. Weronika is an editing agent, and as I work with her on the edits for my novel, I’ve found her to be the kind of agent I love working with. She points me in the right direction without stifling my voice, and I’ve found her recommendations to be insightful and on target.
Both Weronika’s love for writing and her love of reading contributed to her professional interest in publishing. Her career began in 2009, where she interned with Brian Farrey at Flux. She also worked in different capacities with Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management, Mary Kole at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Bob Diforio at D4EO Literary Agency before her promotion there to agent.
While she lived in the Twin Cities, Weronika volunteered with a literary group that programmed events for teens. Now that she lives in New York, Weronika continues to volunteer her time by teaching immigrants on the Lower East Side how to write in English.
Her name is pronounced ‘Veronica,’ the spelling is different because of its Polish roots; Weronika is one hundred percent Polish and a first-generation American resident. She was born in Ontario, Canada, a few months after her parents immigrated, and since then has lived in Ontario, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. She now makes her home in New York. She speaks/reads/writes both English and Polish fluently and hopes to add French to the list before long.
Weronika is a new agent looking to expand her client list, so if your novel is complete and you want to query Weronika, check out her interview, then read her submission guidelines. Weronika makes every effort to respond quickly to queries.
I have a great deal of respect for literary agents, not just the amount of work they face, but also their willingness to answer questions for writers looking to break into the business. Yet the business of being a literary agent seems overwhelming to me. What on earth made you decide you wanted to pursue a career as a literary agent?
A few different things fueled my interest in the industry, but primarily it was the opportunity to work with books. I’ve always been a bookworm and I thought I would have to go with teaching (and write on the side) before I learned about editors and literary agents. Now I can work with books—both in a business and artistic capacity; with clients, I can bounce around ideas and really maximize the potential of stories, for example, while working with contracts and royalties behind-the-scenes. It’s the perfect fit for me, as no day is the same. I also like to work independently, and so it would be tougher for me to be limited by a publishing board and other departments at a large publishing house.
You encourage people to send you questions on your web site and really bend over backwards to help novice writers. Do you ever get tired of answering the same questions over and over again?
If the question is one that is easily researchable and has been answered before on my blog or other blogs and websites, yes. I’m more than happy to assist when someone has a question that is mind-bending, but otherwise there are tons of other opportunities out there, and I recommend that all writers join forums such as the ones on QueryTracker and AbsoluteWrite.com and flesh out their knowledge before they take advantage of agents who are open to helping. Otherwise, I do realize that issues come up constantly, and I do my best to shape the advice for the particular writer.
You’ve worked with Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Literary Management, Mary Kole at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Bob Diforio at D4EO Literary Agency. Tell us a little about your work with these various literary agencies and some of the things you learned from them.
That’s a tough question.
I’ll make an addition here—I also worked with Brian Farrey at Flux (and some of the other editors at Llewellyn, of which Flux is the YA fiction imprint), and I think that one experience gave me the most knowledge. Work on both the editor’s side of the desk and the agent’s side of the desk can be pretty similar, even if the two want different things from the writers they’re working with. I learned about contracts, I learned about editing, I learned about the dynamics of a small publishing house, I learned how to research competitive titles, how sales are calculated, how advances and royalties are decided upon, and more.
With the agents, I really shaped my editorial eye as I read manuscripts and queries. It’s after the experience with them that I felt comfortable reading through my own queries and making judgments. I also learned a bit about contracts, sales, the work agents do for their writers after publication, and more.
You have a very extensive and informative page for the kinds of books you like to read. What kind of books just make you want to sing and what kind of books do you find to be absolute turn-offs?
This is an impossible question to answer; for me it’s the writing that is always the deciding factor. I’ve been enraptured by some cozy mysteries in the past but turned off by some gritty award-winning mysteries all because of the voice and the writing, and the same goes for different dynamics across all genres. Even with specific submissions I sometimes find it difficult to put my thoughts into words—it just doesn’t click. I say query me, regardless, even if I’ve said before I don’t like a particular kind of subject or style—you never know.
How do you see e-books impacting the literary scene?
I hope they’re like audio books—they’ll hit maximum potential and then stay like that before decreasing in popularity—but I don’t suspect they will be. I think e-books are going to change the way the population reads dramatically, and though there are many optimists out there, I try to be one even though it’s already been demonstrated that e-books are more powerful than predicted. They will take out traditional publishers and they will be the point in contracts that determines good deals from bad deals.
A lot of novice writers try to write novels based on what’s selling now, because they don’t realize it can take up to a year or more to write a novel. What is in and what genres might be on the way out?
Mermaids are big right now in YA, and I would love to see a good mermaid book for adults.
Otherwise, I think we’re still going to see vampires and zombies and the traditional paranormal creatures because they’re selling, but I do think there will come a time when paranormal and fantasy and sci-fi will be the backdrop to contemporary literature for a while.
Chick lit is a dying term and type of genre.
Romantic suspense is kind of hot.
I’m also a big believer in the adage ‘Good writing beats out old trends,’ so send me what you’ve got.
Some writers complain that agents don’t critically assess the query and accompanying material (first five to ten pages and/or synopsis) before rejecting material. What are some instant turn-offs for you in terms of queries and the first ten pages?
I don’t read queries. I jump straight into the pages, and there it’s bad writing or writing I don’t love enough that is an instant turn-off because I don’t have the time to spend on things I’m not passionate about. This can mean anything—too much voice, too little voice, too much/little of a voice I hate/like; bad grammar; inability to be prosaic; lack of characterization and plot development; background info dumps; no hook-ish scene or material (feels repetitive); etc. Again, even with specific submissions sometimes, it’s hard for me to put my finger on it so I don’t try to. Last thing I want to do is mislead an author.
What does a writer need to do to catch your eye with those first ten pages?
Obviously good, clean writing and a control of the story. Something that grabs me and doesn’t let go.
Can you tell us about the steps involved in the submission process?
An author of mine will each finish his or her rounds of edits — might be one round, might be five.
Once the ‘final’ draft is ready to go, I’ll sit down and put together my final submission list. I think it’s best for me to go on submission with projects in tiers of five to ten publishers; if the project is particularly edgy or may have a component to it that could prevent it from selling, I might send it to three or four publishers to get a reaction and see if a serious overhaul of the project is going to be necessary before I submit too widely.
The author and I can talk over the list of houses and editors or s/he can just give me an a-okay on it, and then I start submitting. This is really just like querying. I write up my own or revise the author’s query into a pitch for editors, which includes a hook for the book, a comparison to books already on the market, and a brief biography. I email that pitch to editors and then the waiting begins. Like agents, editors will read through pitches and request manuscripts. Once the manuscript is requested, the wait can be anywhere from a day to months; this depends on how excited the editor is about your project, how many projects s/he has requested, how recently she acquired a project (most editors have a quota on the # of projects they can acquire per year), and how often I check in (every two to three weeks). It will be ideal if within two to four weeks we hear back from an editor that s/he is taking the project to pub board. This is a great step, but projects do get rejected at the pub board stage.
After the pub board consents, we move to the contract stage. If only one house per tier offers (and all others have passed, for example), I negotiate for the best terms with said house unless we decide there is a benefit to submitting to houses in the lower tier. If a house in the first tier offers and I haven’t heard from the others, I will do as you would do with an agent — send an email to notify the editors of the interest. Two things can happen then—I can hold an informal auction, where I barter by email for better terms, or I host a formal auction with set standards of the contract. If the book does go to auction (and most don’t), I will ask for a few things from each editor, and then I take into consideration the advance, payouts, royalty percentages, marketing/publicity plans, series or multi-book deal offers, and many other different contract points, and help the writer make the best decision.
The writer signs the contract with the publisher, I announce the sale in Publishers Marketplace, and the writer is free to shout from the rooftops that his or her dream is going to come true.
Plans for marketing and publicity begin on the writer’s part.
The book comes out, the writer works his or her magic while I work behind the scenes to handle business.
The writer writes more books, and unless the book is part of a series or multi-book deal, I start the process again.
Your enthusiasm and your drive to succeed are phenomenal. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I imagine I’ll still be an agent, but that future really depends on the next year or so—whether I sell any books and to whom. It’s a track record, just like an author’s, and I can’t risk my professional reputation by being sloppy. I am very confident right now, but books can get rejected for the strangest of reasons.
I hope that I am a very good agent, an agent-in-demand, and that I can work with awesome literature and place it with excellent editors and houses. I hope that I have a bestseller or two on my lists, or an award-winner, or something that demonstrates I’m at least capable. And I hope that I have secured each of my writers a book deal; the thing that scares me the most is giving a writer hope and then having that fall through.
I’d like to open my own agency at some point in the future, too, but again, that depends on how fast things start to happen for me on this end of the sphere.
I hope you enjoyed meeting Weronika. I know I appreciate her taking time out of her busy schedule to stop by and answer a few questions. If you want to know more about Weronika, check out some of these great interviews she has done for other blogs:
“Interview: Literary Agent Weronika Janczuk” – Katrina L. Lantz–Author
“Agent Interview: Weronika Janczuk” – Literary Life
“Interview with Literary Agent Weronika Janczuk” – Sierra Godfrey
“So You Want to Be a Writer . . . An Interview with Weronika Janczuk” – Young Writers @ The Loft
“Fangirl Friday” – The Punching Bag Fights Back
“The Drug of Good Writing – the Weronika Janczuk interview” – A. Victoria Mixon, Editor
“Interactive Interview with an Agent: Weronika Janczuk” – Mother. Write. (Repeat.)