Today, our faculty spotlights continue with Carrie Howland, literary agent at Empire Literary.
Welcome, Carrie! What’s on your wish list right now?
I am always looking for beautiful writing and strong voices. Who isn’t, right? But my background is in poetry, so I am drawn to really beautiful sentences. For YA, I’d love a good literary thriller. Think Marisha Pessl for teens. Or even something a bit more commercial leaning, like Gillian Flynn. I do tend to like darker subject matter, so these books really speak to me. For middle grade, and maybe it’s just the season for it, but I’d love a good horror or mystery. The fall has me thinking about a good ghost story! I’m also from Michigan originally, so I always love a book set in the Midwest. And I LOVE animals. I volunteer for a dog rescue, and grew up with everything from rabbits to horses, so if your main character loves animals, I’ll probably love him/her.
What’s your best tip for creating a strong pitch?
Practice! No one sits down and writes a brilliant elevator pitch on the first try. I know I don’t! Write down whatever comes to mind, then edit. And involve your friends. Practice on them! If they’re fellow writers, great, but they don’t have to be. Just anyone who will appreciate hearing about a good story. Really watch their reactions. Do they seem like they’d want to read your book? Have you been talking for ten minutes and their eyes have begun to glaze? Then ask them for their honest feedback! I also think bringing in other writers/readers is a great way to think of your comp titles. Describe your book to friends. Does it remind them of another book, or even a movie or television show? I bet they’ll tell you! Again, it won’t be perfect the first time, it takes some work but writing that strong hook, and using great comp titles will make a huge difference in your submission.
Thanks for all your advice, Carrie!