I remember that when I was querying I loved reading agent interviews to see if they were a fit. So now I bring you one of them! Meet Lora Rivera of the Claire Gerus Literary Agency. I hope you enjoy this one!
Lora Rivera began her publishing career at the Claire Gerus Literary Agency in 2008. With an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arizona, she takes an editorial approach to new projects. Working for two years as editor and book doctor for numerous agency authors, she is now actively building her own client list. She currently lives in Tucson where she teaches English composition, writes literary and YA fiction, and composes biographies for CPS children through Aviva’s Life Book program. More info can be found at www.lorarivera.com.
1. How did you become an agent, and when did you start building your own client list?
After interning with CGLA for two years, and watching the ever-increasing buildup of new fiction submissions, Claire and I decided we could handle the files faster if we worked them separately. Claire’s focus is now nonfiction, while I handle all new fiction proposals. We initiated the separation in September ‘10 and finalized it when I signed my first author in October.
2. What genres are you looking for right now? Would you rather represent a commercial book like Twilight or a more literary one, like The Book Thief—or both?
I read widely. I love both literary and commercial fiction and would be thrilled to represent either. The clincher for me is story and voice. Do the characters come alive for me? Can I sympathize with their struggles and inmost desires? As for genres, I’d really like to see some guy-focused YA, startling middle grade, or solid (not ironic) adult literary fiction. But I can fall for pretty much anything if it reels me in.
3. What type of manuscript you definitely wouldn’t represent?
I don’t want to rule anything out here, but I’d say I’m feeling a little burnout with “clever” adult lit fic. This may be due to the MFA experience, which ultimately led me to writing genre fiction, especially YA, where the literary and genre world can happily meet. In a positive, often beautiful, straightforward way. Thus, sarcastic literary fiction would probably have an uphill battle.
4. What kind of voice captures you and makes you want to read more?
“Voice” is a word thrown around quite a bit these days in publishing and is somewhat slippery. In a 1st person book, it’s often the character’s voice coming through on the page. In this case, it’s the character herself who keeps me reading - Is she funny, scathing, naive, sincere? And how will these qualities, seeping through the prose, play out over the course of the book? In 3rd person, voice can be the author’s voice, or simply that elusive spark - a fantastic or unusual turn of phrase, an on-the-nose descriptive line... I’m afraid “I know it when I see it” rings true for this.
5. Could you tell us about The Claire Gerus Literary Agency and your role as a fiction associate?
“Associate” is fairly synonymous at CGLA with junior agent. I receive and assess all fiction submissions and sign my own clients. And when needed, Claire eagerly supplies her impressive 30+ years of experience.
6. According to your submission guidelines, you only ask for a query and not any sample pages. What makes you ask to see more? And if a writer pastes a couple of pages below the query, would that annoy you?
We’ve all heard it: A fantastic query letter is the most effective way of getting an agent to peek at a manuscript. I ask for a synopsis because this helps me get a clearer idea of the book. And I ask not to see sample pages mainly because it’s frustrating to open long emails on my tablet phone. I won’t automatically reject a submission if it comes with sample pages, but I’d prefer authors to take the request seriously.
Update: Ms. Rivera is now requesting the first five pages PASTED below the query.
7. Are you an editorial agent? A career builder agent?
I’ve always felt this division is somewhat misleading. A good agent will do both: improve their authors’ storylines, help tighten their prose, offer suggestions for weak characters - all editorial functions - and equip authors for a promising career, brainstorming for new book ideas with the market in mind, fighting for the best contracts, offering suggestions for web presence, publicity, marketing, etc.
Last question before the fast five:
8. Can you tell us why writers would be happy to have you as their agent?
As a fellow writer, I know how hard the work is – both to get the manuscript into shape and find a home for it in this tough market. I will obsess over your manuscript as much as you do. And if you’re not obsessing, maybe find an agent who isn’t quite as passionate about getting your quality literature, entrancing plots, and inspiring characters into the hands of a loyal audience.
And now for fun:
Guilty pleasure? In-and-Out Burger. Animal style everything. If and when I move back east, I will miss this. Though my arteries will probably thank me.
Dream vacation? Italy, Ireland, India.... Some place starting with an “I.”
Your wish for 2011? I’d love to land a 3-book deal. Series are just so much fun!
Random fact about you that we probably don’t know?
I’m a voracious eavesdropper. Whenever I need to get outside my own head, or when I have a nasty case of writer’s block, I take a stroll and listen in.
Cookies or coffee? Both, please?
Okay, fine. You can have both :D
Thank you, Ms. Rivera, for your answers. And if you guys enjoyed “meeting” her, you can follow her on Twitter (@lroseriver) and query her via email to lora.rivera at gmail.com. (Query only. Include a short synopsis (2-3 pages) in the body of the email. No attachments, please.)