I’d like to welcome Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary. Eight years ago, I was one of Adrienne’s minions slush pile interns. Three books later, I’m proud to call her my agent and BFF.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Adrienne: I’m a second generation native New Yorker and have worked in publishing for just over 8 years. I represent a very eclectic group of authors and somehow was lucky enough to have stumbled into the “when I grow up” perfect job.
Me: What were some of your favorite books growing up?
Adrienne: I always read older than my age group because there wasn’t the wide range of YA and MG books in the way that we know now. When I was a kid (because apparently I’m about 500 yrs old now), you were either an R.L. Stein/Christopher Pike, or Babysitter’s Club/Sweet Valley High reader. I was all about Fear Street. There was a really clear divide in what types of books were offered to children based on gender. I remember being made to read the Lurlene McDaniel books because they were “girl books.” I remember one really bitter summer when the assigned book for girls was The Secret Garden while the boys read Indian in the Cupboard.
So, I ended up reading a lot of Stephen King and Michael Crichton instead.
Me: So when you were in school, were Latin@ books ever highlighted/incorporated into the curriculum? I did grades 1-12 in NYC public schools, and the only Latin@ book I read in high school was House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
Adrienne: I would completely agree with you. We didn’t cover very many books with multicultural characters. I definitely read HoMS and Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia. Basically, we did classics by lots of dead authors, unless we were celebrating some kind of heritage month, which in hindsight is really sad.
Me: I agree. We shouldn’t wait for Latino or Black history months to enjoy these stories. Now, for some businessy questions: as an agent, what do you look for in submissions?
Adrienne: It boils down to quality writing. I want a well-defined protagonist, multilayered secondary characters, and a really fantastic voice. I want this regardless of the character’s race or magical species, I’m looking at you, Z.
Me: *Holds out hand for a gold star* What is the biggest mistake new authors have made when contacting you (other than addressing you as MR. Rosado)?
Adrienne: Sending me submissions before they’re ready. I see so many subs that still need another round or two of revisions and you always want to put your best foot forward.
Me: How can an author show their professionalism?
Adrienne: The most successful authors that I know have always acted as professionals before they were published. They did their research in their genres. They avoided trend chasing. They strove to make their manuscripts as pristine as possible before sending them out.
Sometimes, it’s even as simple as having a dedicated professional email address with your name as opposed to babygirl23XOXO@aol.com
It’s demonstrating a familiarity with what being a modern author entails, having a Twitter account, a blog, etc.
Deadlines are also huge. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I request a manuscript and then am told that the author needs another couple of months to polish it. That’s unprofessional.
Me: How many clients do you represent? Are you still looking?
Adrienne: I try to keep a smaller and diverse list, so I can give my authors personal attention. I’m always on the look out for fresh voices and new talent.
Me: How do you decide where to pitch a manuscript?
Adrienne: It’s not dissimilar from how an author looks for an agent. The sign of a good agent is someone who maintains a good network of editorial contacts. They know who is looking for what kind of material. You wouldn’t go to an imprint that does non-fiction with supernatural YA. Everyone’s taste is different, even within houses and imprints. Your agent should stay up-to-date with what editors are looking for.
Me: How do you work with your authors? How deep are your edits?
Adrienne: It’s different with every author and the level they’re at with their careers. Some agents don’t do any editorial work at all. I happen to do some editorial work with my clients.
With debut authors I tend to do more polishing edits, and even some developmental, before going out on submission in order to put our best foot forward in the publishing marketplace.
There has to be a level of trust in the editorial process and open communication. I would never want to make suggestions that an author felt were inauthentic to their material.
Me: What are you looking to represent now?
Adrienne: This is going to sound like a cop out, but I’m looking for strong writing, an exciting voice, something that’s going to put me in the character’s life and make me feel like part of that story that has the potential to make me miss my stop on the subway.
I accept anything from MG to Adult. I do have a soft spot for thrillers, anything dark and edgy, Southern Gothics, and things that make me laugh or cry really hard.
Me: What do you think we can do as a writing community to promote or have more books with diverse characters?
Adrienne: I think that diversity should be a facet of a character and not a defining characteristic of the story. Your work for example. You happen to be an Ecuadorian immigrant who wrote a book, which includes a diverse cast of characters, but that’s not why I represent you. I represent and read your books because I love the stories and world that you’ve created.
Me: It also represents my upbringing. My friends have always been first or second generation immigrants from all over the place. But it’s still hard to see ourselves in a lot of media without stereotypes.
Adrienne: I feel that the issues in multicultural literature are different now than they were 15-20 years ago. The stories we’re reading now are going to a generation that is used to having diversity in their daily lives. It’s less about assimilating into a new culture/community and more about individual identity. For instance, when I was a teen, if someone asked me where I was from, I would say I’m a New Yorker. That wouldn’t have been the case for my parent’s generation. Now, it’s assumed that people have a diverse background. It’s not uncommon in this city.
Me: It might be different for kids who live in less diverse communities and states.
Adrienne: Agreed. But that doesn’t mean that children and teens from a less diverse community are not going to be able to relate to another teen’s story just because it comes from a protagonist of a different race, religion, etc. People read to learn about something different, a new world, a new character, whether it’s a coming of age story or an epic fantasy. A good story is a good story. It should be how a story is told that defines the book.
Me: Totally. Though I think authors shouldn’t be afraid to write more diverse characters and make it a non-issue. In writing classes people like to throw around the phrase “write what you know,” but I think we should “write what you don’t know.”
Adrienne: I agree. Added to that, though, is that growing up happens to the best of us, so we all happen to face really similar challenges as we “come of age.” For example, isn’t it Jane Austen that said, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single teen in possession of a good prom dress, must be in want of a date.” Or something like that anyway?
Me: LOL. Something like that. Maybe the problem is that people keep making it a problem.
Adrienne: I completely agree with that. There should be more diversity in books. I think the issue is that many authors fear that they will get pigeonholed as “multicultural” when that is only a sliver of the story.
Me: Agreed. Sometimes our politically correctness gets in the way.
Adrienne: At the end of the day, write a good story. Don’t be afraid to let your characters be who they are…
Me: Well thanks for taking the time to chat with me. Now, I’m going to go write a quasi-biographical YA based on my early years.
Me: Kidding. Thanks for being with us. If you’d like submit to Adrienne Rosado, please read the NYLA guidelines.
Here are some of Adrienne’s clients:
Fabulous interview with a super-savvy agent. I always tell my students that they should write what they can imagine and imagine through the particulars of what they know. When you really think about it, imagining another human self is a huge imaginative leap no matter what the background of the character. Thanks for this excellent post!
Great interview! I totally agree about diversity in literature without making it a necessary plot point. Thanks for sharing.
Excellent interview!!! Being Afro-Cubana, it’s rare when I pick up a book that features characters that reflect me or my diverse group of friends :p I’ll be adding a few of the authors mentioned to me tbr lists 🙂