When I first read about Danielle Smith about a year and a half ago, I liked her immediately. Her knowledge and love for children’s literature make her the perfect resource for writers and readers alike.
KIRSTI CALL: Welcome to WRITERS’ RUMPUS, Danielle. What is your favorite thing about being an agent?
DANIELLE SMITH: My favorite thing would have to be working with my clients and watching them grow through the process. More specifically being a part of their success. I’ve always been the type of person that enjoys giving others the tools to shine in the spotlight and that makes this one of the very best jobs for me personally.
KC: What is your least favorite thing about being an agent? DS: Getting rejections for books I love. We all get rejections, at every stage in this process. For me, I only take on projects and clients I truly love and am passionate about. So receiving a rejection hurts almost as much as if it were my own writing. That said, one or even a dozen rejections on one piece doesn’t mean the end. There’s always more and it only takes one editor to love a piece to make things happen.
KC: Writer’s get so excited about the prospect of having an agent interested in them. How can a writer really know if an agent is right for them?
DS: My biggest suggestion would be to research the agents thoroughly. Not only looking up sales or who the most popular agent might be, but scour the internet for details. Many agents have blogs, are on twitter or have done a number of interviews. Find out if you have similar taste in books and working styles. When you do get “the call” ask about these things if you can’t find them online. Also, ask them what specifically they liked about your work and what vision they have for your career.
KC: You recently moved to Red Fox Literary. Has working with a new agency changed your approach to agenting?
DS: Moving to a new agency didn’t change my approach. I’m still basically the same agent/person I was before moving to Red Fox Literary, but I now am surrounded by agents entrenched in the children’s literature world, which is why I made the move.
KC: I’ve read in the past that you liked character driven stories, magical realism, and sibling relationships— is that still true or have your tastes changed? What kinds of stories are you looking for?
DS: This is absolutely still true! I love magical realism in any age range, so that’s definitely something still on my radar. Character driven stories are also something I not only enjoy, but know editors are looking for in submissions. As for other stories and topics; I love sibling and best friend relationships like those explored in Anne Ursu’s middle grade books The Real Boy and Breadcrumbs, I’d love to see something where the setting takes on a bigger part of the story, unique takes on things kids experience all the time, stories that include diverse characters but that aren’t all about the diversity itself, and generally anything that allows the reader to experience a wide range of emotions.
KC: Do you always go with your gut in terms of choosing to represent someone, or do you go with the needs of the market?
DS:This is always a mix of both. If I’m head over heels in love with a manuscript and the author that’s something I can’t ignore and I go with it. That said, I’m also constantly reading and paying attention to the market as well as the requests editors ask from me. I’m mindful of both of these things as I’m making my decision about whether to bring someone on or not.
KC: What are the qualities of an ideal client?
DS: The qualities I look for most, but aren’t a “requirement” by any means are passion for their own work and children’s literature, patience, persistence, talent, trust, savviness and knowledge about the industry and perhaps most important of all, humility.
KC: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
DS: Keep writing, revising and persevering. Also, have patience. This business can be slow and fast all at the same time. When things happen, they seem to happen all at once and then there are long periods of stillness. It’s good to be prepared for these slower times and look forward to them as time to hone and perfect your craft. Also, taking time also means you put your best foot forward always, at every step in the process. Don’t rush things because rushing has never proven to result in positive responses, in my experience at least.
KC: What three current books make you laugh out loud? What three current books bring tears to your eyes?
Tears – The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes, The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic and Olivier Tallec, Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington and Oliver by Birgitta Sif (I know! One too many! I can’t limit myself when it comes to books!)
KC: I love the way you incorporate your children on your blog: “There’s A Book.” Do you read submissions to Turkeybird and Littlebug? Have you acquired any of their favorites as clients?
DC: Thank you! Reviewing and writing about books on my site was my first “foot in the door” to this crazy fun business of publishing and involving my children has always felt very natural. They do in fact read submissions that I receive and have been an active part of my process. It’s important for me to know that children will respond well to the books I work with because, isn’t that the ultimate goal? To have a child love the books we create. I also work with children in a local school by doing weekly read-alouds and donating picture books to kindergartners who have no books in their home. Of the books I’ve acquired, a number were read to my own children but one in particular has already sold and is very close to my heart. This book I initially read and cracked up through from the first line to the last, but I wondered how my kids would respond. Well, they actually laughed more than I did believe it or not, and without illustrations even! The book was Julie Falatko’s Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in This Book) which was quickly snapped up by Viking Children’s Books for publication early in 2016.
Thank you Kirsti for this opportunity to share a little about myself with your readers!
KC: Thanks for your insights, Danielle! I love your passion for children’s literature, kidlit writers, and children! Learn more about Danielle at Red Fox Literary.