Saturday, November 30, 2013

Big News! Interview with Author Laura Renegar and Agent Laura Zats!

Today I get the honor of being part of an amazing announcement while also having the honor of interviewing the two lovely ladies involved in that announcement. Needless to say, Olan Rogers has said it perfectly. I'm excited!

Laura Renegar's been sitting on some amazing news. That news is actually what this post is about. Well, that and also Laura Zats news. It's been tough keeping this in the bag, but we all did it. And now that it's finally time to let it out, we can finally say that my AMAZING FRIEND AND CP, LAURA RENEGAR, HAS SIGNED WITH AGENT LAURA ZATS OF RED SOFA LITERARY!

Check out Red Sofa announcing Laura Zats, (in a really cool way in my opinion,) to the agency by clicking here!


I sat down, or actually emailed, both super awesome Laura's and interviewed them. So keep reading and learn more about soon-to-be Best Seller Laura Renegar and agent extraordinaire Laura Zats! I promise, with these two, you won't regret it!


1: To start this interview out how about we start by having you tell everyone a little something about yourself.

I’ve always lived in North Carolina except for three weeks studying in Cambridge, England while in college. I have a great husband, two creatively fun daughters, two fish, two woolly worms, and a new chi-weenie mix puppy. I love playing guitar. My favorite movie is Jaws.

2: Since this is a big announcement interview, who did you sign with and why?

I signed with Laura Zats, a new agent at Red Sofa Literary. After reading my full, Laura requested a phone chat. I was super-impressed with her professionalism, her drive, and her passion for my manuscript. She asked great questions and answered all mine with confidence and clarity. I loved her enthusiasm and her editorial suggestions. We really clicked.

3: What was the title and genre of the MS you queried? Was it your first book or are there more hidden away?

I queried Laura with my contemporary YA called ASHES AND INK. I’ve written a chapter book manuscript and several picture book manuscripts, but this was my first YA. My current WIP is a YA thriller.

4: Did you do any fun research for your book? What was it?

ASHES AND INK centers around a tattoo shop, so I spent time in one. I took notes on everything from equipment to facial expressions. It was so much fun! The tattoo artist I hung out with was fabulous and witty and altogether awesome. I love watching people get tattoos and hearing the stories behind why they choose what they choose.

5: We all know querying's hard and rejections happen. What was your query stats?

I started querying ASHES AND INK (formerly called INK) back in 2012. I received my share of requests and rejections, but many of the rejections came with personal feedback. I took a couple of big breaks from querying (even withdrawing some fulls from agents) to do two major revisions that utilized some of that feedback. Not long after finishing my last revision, Laura requested a partial after reading my pitch on Twitter’s PitMad.

6: If you could share one piece of advice for querying authors, what would it be?

Don’t give up! Do your research to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about the agents before sending them your best and already critiqued and revised work. I may have slipped in more than one piece of advice there. We writers tend to be a bit verbose!

7: Now for THE CALL! What was it like? Are there any questions you feel every author should ask during the call?

I have a great imagination, so I’m often am a little disappointed by reality, but the phone call was all that I’d hoped it would be! It is so awesome to talk to an agent that connected with my story and felt all the feels I’m hoping my readers will feel. She asked lots of questions, and I was relieved none of my answers scared her away. As for what questions a writer should ask an agent, I think that depends on what’s important to the writer. For me, good communication is a must, so I asked questions to find out her style and preferences. It was also important for me to know where and how far she thought my novel could go, so I asked about that too. I asked lots of questions and took lots of notes.

8: I'm loving that both you and your agent's names are Laura. It's like you were meant for each other. And I know you've just signed, but is there anything you'd like to share about Ms. Zats? (Feel free to gush.)

Laura is AMAZING. She’s professional, but personable. She’s hard-working. She’s got mad editorial skills, and I am thrilled to be partnered with her!

9: What do you feel all authors should have when writing, querying, and also when they're on submission?

I am incredibly thankful for writer friends and critique partners like you, Jamie! I love having other writers to bounce ideas off of, to help me strengthen my manuscript, pitches, and query letters, and I’m thankful for those moments when they’ve commiserated or celebrated with me. And it’s fun to read and brainstorm on what they’re working on too. The writer’s journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one!

10: Would you like to share the query that grabbed Ms. Zats attention?

Dear Ms. Zats,

With a slip of paper and a lighter, Mazie ruined lives. With her sketch pad in a tattoo shop, she’ll try to save one.

She didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. Now, fresh out of juvie for arson, fifteen-year-old Mazie is abandoned by her bitter Aunt Deb minutes after she’d signed for Mazie's release. While living on the streets and drawing flash for a tattoo shop, Mazie learns that Samantha, the daughter of the firefighter killed in the flames Mazie started, has disappeared. When she finds out a serial kidnapper is on the prowl, and that Samantha is likely one of his victims, Mazie hunts for clues that could save Samantha from becoming the next body to wash ashore.

Bringing Samantha back to her family could help make up for the tragedy she caused and put an end to Mazie’s nightmares. But finding Samantha means NOT laying low—a risky gamble since Aunt Deb already has Mazie running from the cops for crimes she didn’t commit.

ASHES AND INK is my contemporary young adult mystery complete at 52,000 words. It will appeal to fans of fast-paced suspense such as Lisa McMann’s WAKE trilogy.

I am an active member of SCBWI Carolinas and served in the past as the chapter’s online networking coordinator. I have also had an article published in Writer's Digest's 2010 SONGWRITER'S MARKET.

I was thrilled when you favorited my pitch on PitMad yesterday. Congratulations on your internship. It sounds like Red Sofa Literary is super-impressed with your knowledge of Young Adult literature. Thank you for considering ASHES AND INK. I have pasted the first fifteen pages below and would be happy to send more at your request.


Laura Renegar

11: Would you like to share any words of wisdom or anything else?

I found online contests and pitch sessions to be super-helpful for honing pitches, discovering agents, and networking with other writers. It might not work for everyone, but I got some terrific requests from them, and ultimately, it’s how my agent found me!

Congratulations for signing with the lovely, Laura Zats!! I'm so proud of you!!!


1. Thank you so much for doing this interview and congratulations! How about we begin things with you telling us a little about yourself?

Thanks so much for having me! Well, when I was little, I'd always say I wanted to be a book editor when I grew up. Mostly because I thought it meant reading all day. I actually fulfilled that childhood dream when I entered the book world. I started as an editor, and in true the-grass-is-always-greener fashion, I wanted to see what that whole agent thing was about! I was recently announced as an Associate Agent for Red Sofa Literary, which means that I actually get to read a LOT more than I do as an editor! I've got a soft spot in my heart for coming-of-age YA novels, but I can read and fall in love with just about anything. 

Beyond books, I love to brew beer, swing dance, cross stitch, and bake cookies and shove them on unsuspecting acquaintances. I also still don't know how to spell "acquaintance" on the first (or second) try.

2. What made you want to become an agent?

When I started working with Dawn Frederick and Jennie Goloboy of Red Sofa Literary, I didn't really know what an agent did. But after a while, I began to see that being an agent is essentially one part matchmaker, two parts #1 fan. I love how agents are the fairy godmothers who make an author's dreams come true. They pick writers up when they're down, and give them this amazing support system, and really, an agent's entire career is based on positivity. Books they love. Authors they care deeply about. And I wanted to be a part of it. Luckily, Jennie and Dawn decided they'd want to keep me!

3. What are you looking for when going through the slush? Dark and gritty or sweet love stories? Or would both be something you'd be interested in representing?

I tend to gravitate towards the grittier side of things, not because the books are dark, but because they tend to have a bit more depth than the lighter books. I want layers to my books. Even a sweet romance needs to have some depth: fully-formed supporting characters, a history for the MCs, and a few side-plots to pull you through the main one. 

I'm not usually going to reject something based on the type of book it is (unless it falls outside of my representative categories), but I only fall in love when a book has enough meat to it to keep me emotionally satisfied long after I finish reading.

4. What genres do you represent?

I represent fiction. Middle Grade, YA, and New Adult, contemporary Women's Fic, science fiction/fantasy, romance, and erotica.

5. What are you not looking for in a manuscript?

Unless it's a romance, I don't want a book where the main plot/conflict is a romance. I'm not looking for books where the action is primarily made up of the universe acting on a MC. I want to see agency. I'm also not terribly into mainstream creatures (angels, vampires, etc). If fantasy is your game, I'd like something lesser-known and rooted in historic conceptions of said creature.

6. You currently signed my lovely CP and friend, Laura Renegar, as a client. Yay! What drew you to her book Ashes and Ink?

I found Laura through Pitch Madness (#PitMad), which is a Twitter event where authors have 140 characters to pitch their book to the world. I loved that it was set in a tattoo shop, so it had this gritty edge to it from every direction. But I fell head-over-heels when I saw that the MC was fully-formed from the beginning of the first page. She had demons, and a past, but she was fully committed to moving beyond that history to create something new.

7. If you weren't an agent or in the publishing world, what would you be doing right now?

Editing! Well, I actually also do this right now, but it was my first love and I'm not planning on stopping! But if I wasn't allowed to be in the publishing world, I'd probably be living in a tiny apartment in Dublin and traveling to exciting places every weekend.

8. Everybody has a weakness. So, chocolate or Nutella?

Ugh! I'm actually allergic to hazelnuts, even though I LOVE, if I want to avoid being bumpy, I would have to say chocolate!

9. Is there anything you feel a potential client or every author should ask during THE CALL? What would you recommend not doing?

Don't be hasty. The call is not an offer. It's an interview. And it's an interview where we're trying to decide if it's worth our time to work with you, and we'll probably have a long, long list of things for you to fix about your platform or MS. You're allowed to not jive with the agent, and you're allowed to say no, but you need to think about it, take your time, and make sure it's the best option for you.

10. What is the best way to query you?

All I want is a query letter in my (virtual) mailbox! And I would hope that it goes without saying, but the best way to query me is with a book that fits into a genre that I actually represent.

11. And finally, if you could give a piece of advice to potential new agents, interns, and authors, what would it be?

Focus on what you love. Trends come and go, and there's always new technology or something shiny and topical, but if you're working on something you love, you'll never miss the boat.

Congratulations on becoming an Associate Agent at Red Sofa Literary! May you receive all of the amazing queries your inbox can handle!

And congratulations on signing the always spectacular Laura Renegar as your client!!

I'd like to thank both Laura Renegar and Agent Laura Zats for doing these interviews and I wish you both nothing but success!

If you'd like to share your congratulations to both Laura's, you can leave them in the comments or tweet them directly. You can find Laura Renegar here and Laura Zats here. I'm sure they won't mind all of the pixel confetti and drinks!

Until next time, happy reading and writing everyone!