Friday, June 11, 2010

Agent Interview: Sarah LaPolla

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Sarah LaPolla of Curtis Brown, Ltd. I met Sarah over lunch a few weeks ago when I was there job shadowing, and she is basically made of awesome. (Everyone at CB is. No, really, it's written all over them in multicolored Sharpies. Not that you can see it in the picture, but it's there.)

Sarah is super nice and very easy to get along with, just don't mention Thin Mints. (They're all sick of those evil little cookies.)

About Sarah (courtesy of the Curtis Brown website):

Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions at

Now then, on to the torture interview.

Me: I understand that you’ve been at Curtis Brown for a couple of years but that you are now taking on your own clients; how does that feel?

Sarah: I started at Curtis Brown in 2008 as the foreign rights assistant. A couple months ago, around April, I was promoted to Associate Agent and I am absolutely thrilled to start building my own list. Before Curtis Brown I interned with other agencies, so it is reassuring to know that all of the work and education that led me to this step in my career has paid off. And then there’s the added bonus of getting asked to do interviews like this, which is incredibly fun (and humbling!).

Me: Happy to have you! Now, what are some of the hardships/perks of being a newer literary agent and building your client list?  

Sarah: Newer agents in general are usually more open to taking on debut writers, which is a group I love to support. I like the freedom of being a younger agent. It means I can devote more time to individual clients and take bigger risks on a project. I’m also a big believer in an agent’s editorial role, so I like the idea of having more time to focus on a single project before submitting. More established agents do editorial work too, of course, but sometimes they might have to pass on a project that needs revision because they don’t have the time to take on the extra work.

Of course, the main hardship of trying to build a list in the midst of established and successful agents is that possibility of seeing a project I love go to someone with more experience.

Me: Do you spend most of your time trudging through the slush, trying to make manuscripts shine, on submission to editors, or something else entirely?  

Sarah: Right now, since I’ve only started accepting submissions a few months ago, my main job is going through slush. I also spend some time editing manuscripts I request, especially if I think there’s a potential in them that’s not quite being reached yet.

Me: You heard it guys, she edits! :) Your page on the Curtis Brown site says that you represent YA, are you looking for anything in particular?  

Sarah: My favorite type of YA is for older teens, or anything that can have crossover appeal. I like urban fantasy and paranormal lit, but I’d also love to see a return of realistic fiction. Usually what hooks me in YA is a strong narrator. That’s true for my adult preferences too, but I think it’s even more important in YA to have a voice that readers can connect with.

Me: You represent a variety of things, is there anything you absolutely don’t want to see in your slush pile? Do you have any pet-peeves in writing?

Sarah: I know it’s too early for me to throw around words like “never,” so I’ll just say that right now I hope to avoid seeing queries for traditional romance, self-help or general nonfiction books, or picture books. My biggest pet peeve in writing is probably cliché, whether in phrasing or in depicting certain character traits. However, most pet peeves can be ignored if I think the story is good enough.

Me: It's never too early to say never! (I think.) It sounds like you really enjoy your job; what is your favorite part of being an agent so far?

Sarah: The best part of being an agent so far has got to be requesting a manuscript, realizing I LOVE it, and then realizing I have the power to make others love it too.

Me: That does sound pretty amazing. If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?  

Sarah: For writers looking for help with their writing, take all advice in form of “suggestions.” For writers looking how to query, take all advice as gospel.

Me: That's really good advice! Do you have any tips or pieces of advice for those who want to become agents themselves?  

Sarah: Keep up with publishing news and trends, and don’t listen to anyone who says publishing is dying.

Me: Good ad- wait, publishing is dying?! I kid, I kid. Are there any projects that you are working on right now that we can look forward to reading some time soon?  

Sarah: I am anxiously awaiting a revision on an urban fantasy about a group of telekinetics in New Orleans. It is going to be brilliant, and I can’t wait to begin submitting it!

Me: Oh, sounds interesting! Okay, one last question for fun, what is the best book, published or not, that you have read recently?  

Sarah: See above :) 

Me: Haha, alright, now I *really* want to read this book. Keep me posted! Well, thank you so much, it was a real pleasure having you!

A huge thank you to Sarah for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions! I hope a few of you can add a new agent to your query list now if you didn't already have her. You can even follow Sarah's blog. She's fabulous and she's looking to expand her client list, so get querying!


Michelle Muto said...

Great interview questions and answers! Thanks so much, Amanda & Sarah!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Thank you for this interview! It's great to learn more about Sarah. Her blog is fantastic, and I wish she represented my genre. :)

St. Catharines, Ontario said...
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Kathryn said...

I love Sarah's blog. She's always got some great writing on there. Thanks for the advice and how fun was it to interview her??

Lydia Kang said...

Great interview! I think I'll throw a query her way, when the time is right!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I heart Sarah. Glad to hear she's as awesome in person as she seems on her blog and tweets.

Thanks for sharing the interview! :)

Kasie West said...

So cool that you got to meet Sarah. I'm super jealous. On my way now to read the interview. :)

Mohamed Mughal said...

Great interview, Amanda. As writers, some of us might tend to be unaware of all the hard work and hopes on the other side of queries, on the agents' side. Thanks for sharing!


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