Saturday, February 2, 2013

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Molly Jaffa

Molly Jaffa has been working closely with Folio authors’ projects since 2008, and is an Associate Member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR). In addition to building her selective but growing list of clients, Molly utilizes her editorial background, previous work experience in the e-publishing industry, and intimate knowledge of the Folio list in her position as Director of International Rights. She actively pursues sales of international and audio rights and attends all major international book fairs, helping Folio clients’ books reach wide audiences in as many formats as possible. Molly is an avid reader, and when she’s not devouring manuscripts, she can usually be found camped out in the aisles of the Union Square Barnes and Noble (until they kick her out at closing time). 

Her clients include Lana Krumwiede (FREAKLING, Candlewick, October 2012, and an untitled sequel in 2013), Julie Murphy (SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, HarperCollins/Balzer and Bray, 2014), and Gever Tulley (50 DANGEROUS THINGS, NAL, 2011). Follow her on Twitter @molly_jaffa.

What I’m looking for:

Fiction: I focus exclusively on middle grade and young adult fiction. I’m looking for books that challenge the reader intellectually and emotionally, from the high-concept and fantastical to the frank, fresh, and contemporary. I love fiction set in another country, time, or place (real or imagined!) that opens up a rich new world for the reader to discover. Stories featuring characters with strong passions, talents, or smarts – or characters in search of theirs – resonate with me. I’d also like to see: Contemporary YA that’s not afraid to explore complex social issues, historical fantasy, smart middle grade adventures, and good, old-fashioned YA romance.

Nonfiction: I’m looking for books that explore social issues relevant to women of all ages. Think Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters; The Purity Myth; Pledged; The Morning After; Enlightened Sexism.

What I’m not looking for:

Paranormal “creature” YA (no werewolves, vampires, shape-shifters, selkies, or mermaids, please). I’m probably not the right person for books narrated by animals or focusing on a human-animal bond (girls and their horses, boys and their dogs). 

For more information, check out my friends Natalie Aguirre and Casey McCormick's wonderful blog, Literary Rambles.

And now Molly Jaffa faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Oh, this question is always so tough! I’ll make it a little easier and choose the books that mean the most to me. Harry Potter (we’ll go with the first book for its sentimental value), The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank, and Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival which, in a very strange, roundabout way, is the reason I am where I am now. I took a course on Parzival at the first college I attended. That professor saw the work I did, encouraged me to transfer to a specific school in New York (which I did!) and get a publishing job (which I also did). I’m forever grateful.      

Can I pick some most-loved children’s books, too? REDWALL; THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY; ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.                                 

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?

TV: The West Wing, Law & Order (the original, and only with Jerry Orbach), and Arrested Development. My list is a little outdated, for sure! I don’t actually own a TV. I’m not home often, and when I have leisure time, I’d rather be reading a book.

Movies: Taxi Driver, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I’m also an unabashed lover of movie musicals, and theatre in general.    

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

My ideal client is a forthright communicator and a great idea generator. I want to be with my clients for the long haul, so they need to have more than one book in them. I’ll work with my clients to brainstorm ideas, but the basic framework—and the drive to move on to the next project if need be—has to be there. I love working with people who are passionate about their work and treat writing as a career, not a hobby.   

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

One that surprises me! I do keep an updated wish list on my blog (, but more often than not, it’s the projects I didn’t even know I wanted that captivate me most. At the moment, I’m really
only looking for middle grade and YA, but that may change in the year ahead.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing is definitely making the “we’ve got an offer!” call. It’s such an honor to be a part of what is, for most authors, a big step toward a lifelong dream of seeing his or her book on a shelf. There’s usually lots of screaming and a little crying—on both ends of the call! Seeing a client’s book’s cover for the first time is a close second. For me, it’s when an author’s book begins to feel Real. It’s amazing to see the publisher’s vision for the finished book and look back on the journey that brought us to that point.

My least favorite is the waiting. Publishing can be a very slow-moving business.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Read as many recently published books in your genre as you can. It’s important to know what’s selling, what’s working.

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Tamora Pierce. Her books were so inspiring to me as a young reader and as a young woman. When I say I love strong female protagonists, I mean a Tamora Pierce kind of girl.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome interview Robert and Molly. I own a TV, but like Molly, I don't watch much because I'm too busy and prefer to read. Molly sounds like a fantastic agent and she's on my list to query my upper middle grade fantasy this year.


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