I sat down with agents Michelle Zeitlin and Jane Cowen Hamilton of More Zap Productions and Management to talk about their new literary division, discuss why an author must know their brand, and how children’s literature fits into their multi-media, and currently acquiring, agency. I was curious how an agency that represents dancers, directors, and other specialty talent got into the literary world and what their unique platform had to offer. Turns out, a lot.
Michelle grew up in a house of writers – most notably her father, award winning writer and UCLA Professor of Sociology, Maurice Zeitlin, co-author of Talking Union. Her mother, Marilyn Zeitlin, was a journalist and taught creative writing. So it’s no surprise Michelle was an award-winning teen journalist for Seventeen Magazine and the Los Angeles Times before she left to pursue a dance career. In 1987 she gathered all her creative interests under one roof and founded More Zap. Michelle’s partner, Jane Cowen Hamilton, comes from a family of noteworthy literary agents – Julien Bach and John Ware – and worked in publishing in New York for years before having kids and moving to Los Angeles.
For the last two years, the two women have been building a roster of literary talent from across the board. Everything interests them: adult fiction, non-fiction, young adult, middle grade… They have long-standing relationships with both major and independent publishers in most genres and markets, so if it’s a good book and they connect with the author, they’re in.
More Zap develops people and projects. According to Michelle, “The book business is a friendly business.” Their management philosophy is about relationship-building. They don’t reject queries without offering some encouragement. They also help clients shape their passion into something marketable. That includes TV and film deals. Once a book sells, More Zap sticks with it and its author throughout the process, something not all agents do.
When I asked about advice for aspiring authors, Jane quickly jumps in. “They have to be their brand. You have to know what your voice is.” Social media followers and blogs aren’t your golden ticket to an agent or publisher. Your book is. You can have thousands of followers, but if you don’t have a consistent voice and a good book, it doesn’t matter. Spend your time accordingly.
Their advice for querying is similar. “Don’t try to be clever and funny,” Michelle says. Unless that’s your true voice. She wants to know you know how to sell yourself and your brand. “It doesn’t matter who you are if you know who you are.” And of course, be professional, eloquent, and to the point. “No run-on sentences!” Jane laughs.
More Zap is accepting fiction and non-fiction queries in both YA and middle grade. They love literary, contemporary, historical, and are open to sci-fi and fantasy. Follow their query guidelines, which include not sending manuscript pages until after your query and synopsis grab them. If you know your voice and your work is good, they’ll take it from there.
Sarah Parker-Lee is managing co-editor of Kite Tales, reviews books for Dwarf+Giant, & writes for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs. She also writes YA alt. history & sci-fi. Her humor blog, Dogs and Zombies: A Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, shambles towards your tasty brains Summer 2016. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel