Tuesday, July 5, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Thao Le

THAO LE is a literary agent at the Dijkstra Agency. Thao is currently looking for: Adult Sci-fi/Fantasy, Young Adult, Middle Grade, and is selectively open to Romance, and Picture Books by authors who are also illustrators. She loves beautiful literary writing with a commercial hook and stories with memorable characters who can make you feel the whole gamut of emotions. She is actively building her list and is always on the lookout for more diversity (including, but not limited to, all ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical health, and socioeconomic status).

Some of her notable sales include: NYT Bestseller Roshani Chokshi's The Star-Touched Queen (St. Martin's), author/illustrator Jessie Sima's debut picture book Not Quite Narwhal (S and S), Elle Katherine White's fantasy Heartstone (Harper Voyager), and Sandhya Menon's contemporary YA When Dimple Met Rishi (Simon Pulse).

You can follow her on twitter via @ThaoLe8.

And now Thao Le faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

This is a toughie. I have so many favorites and they could change on any given day. Also because I could possibly list ALL of Diana Wynne Jones’ books as a favorite. After long and hard consideration I’m going with: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (surprise, surprise), The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (good revenge stories are my kryptonite), and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (I cried the first time I read this book in high school because it was the first time we read about Asian people. Representation matters!).

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

Another top three? You’re killing me with these. I watch way too much TV and movies. My life is basically “read, watch, eat” honestly.

For TV, the first one is easy: Sailor Moon. Bear with me for a moment while I talk about how Sailor Moon is super duper awesome:

A) Strong female heroine who is imperfect (clumsy, bad at school, not classically beautiful), but spunky and full of heart.

B) Female friendships galore, this whole show was basically about strong female friendships.

C) Great LGBTQ representation! I mean I know the older US dubbed version tried to change Neptune and Uranus into “cousins” to censor it, but they were totally lesbian and it was awesome. And there was even trans representation in the later series. The Sailor Starlights were male (a boy band!) in their human forms and transformed into females as the Sailor Starlights, complete with snazzy bikini-esque costumes. One of them was even Sailor Moon’s love interest! 

Conclusion: Sailor Moon is spectacular and amazing.

Ok, Sailor Moon ramble over… my other favorite TV shows would include the 2004 rebooted Battlestar Galactica (so say we all), and the 2009 Emma BBC miniseries (Emma is my absolute favorite Austen heroine and I totally swooned over Jonny Lee Miller as Mr. Knightley).

For movies, I’m going with childhood favorites that I’ve re-watched over and over: Mulan, Spirited Away, and The Princess Bride.

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

I like working with passionate, creative, and ambitious writers who are also grounded and are willing to work hard. Publishing can be difficult sometimes, but we have to be a team. I plan to stand behind them 100%, but they also have to be flexible and have realistic expectations. I need to know that they can weather the good as well as the bad. Authors who are open to suggestions and critique, but also willing to stick to their vision. And most of all, authors who are kind and enthusiastic. That part is usually easy because I think the writing community is one of the nicest and most supportive I’ve ever been a part of.

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

Right now I’d like to see some more romance, particularly fantasy romance or historical romance that is trope-y but also with a twist. I’d also like to see more middle grade, especially if there’s a strong family or grandparent theme. I lived in a multi-generational household growing up, so I would love to see that more often in children’s books.

I often use #mswl (it stands for manuscript wishlist) to tweet what I’m currently looking for and I have a post up on the mswl website that you can check out:http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com/mswl-post/thao-le/. That said, I love being surprised by fresh and unique stories that I never would’ve imagined falling in love with.

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

My favorite thing is working with my authors on revisions. I love seeing how the authors take my suggestions or comments and run with it. They impress every time. I also love the submission process because I basically get to fangirl to my editor friends about how utterly fantastic a manuscript is and why they should offer on it ASAP.

My least favorite is probably dealing with anything tax related. The IRS is never fun. It’s like going to the dentist. It’s a total myth that agents just sit around reading manuscripts all day. There are many less glamorous duties that the agent handles so the author can focus on what they do best: writing.

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)

Learn about the publishing industry. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be taken advantage of by scammers. They are out there. Especially since anyone can just label themselves an agent and put up a website. Make sure you do your research and find reputable people to submit to. And also, make sure the people you submit to are people you can see yourself working with for the long haul. Ideally your agent will be with you for your entire career.

If you are considering self-publishing, think about why you want to do it. Again, research about what it takes to successfully self-publish. It requires a lot of work (and investment) on your end: cover design, copyediting, PR, marketing, etc… Make sure you have a game plan before tackling. And also know what you really want. Self-publishing is not a “short-cut” to traditional publishing.

Make friends. The writing community and the reading community are some of the best people I know. They will be your support system, your source of inspiration, your peers. Get to know them. Lift each other. Writing can be solitary, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. You’ll appreciate having friends who understand the process to complain to and to celebrate with.

Keep writing. Really hone your craft. In the end, there’s a lot that writers cannot control. The thing you can control is your writing. Always aim to get better. Good books will find the right readers.

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

Diana Wynne Jones, hands down, no competition. Her books, first read throughout the ages of eight through twelve, carved my childhood love for reading. Everything else that I read was always held to her standard. Her books were always so smart and clever. They felt like puzzles and I would stay up all night reading to unravel them. I sobbed when I found out she died. I still remember that day. I was on the way to a relative’s house for family dinner and my younger brother showed me the news on his phone and I just broke down and sobbed in the car. I always dreamt of meeting her and was crushed by the news, so if I ever had the miraculous chance to have lunch with any writer in the world, it would absolutely be Diana Wynne Jones. 

1 comment:

  1. I would imagine working with creative people can be taxing, so if they are also reasonable (as in grounded) that would make an agent's life so much easier.


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