Best of Ask the Agent: Shiver Me Timbers

Metaphors gone wild, captains, ships, pirates, mermaids, witches, and MORE!

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Best of Ask the Agent: The Newsletter. I’m Jennifer Laughran, Senior Agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and each week I dig through the treasure-trove that is the long-running #AskAgent Tumblr and find the best questions, so you don’t have to.

But first: I meant to point everyone toward this link a while back (time has become something of a nebulous concept, so I’m honestly not sure if I read this last week or fifty-seven years ago, but whatever) — if you are finding yourself overwhelmed and anxious during these strange Pandemic Times, this read just might help. (It did for me!): Your Only Goal is to Arrive.

Now - on to the question of the day, and if you hate questions, feel free to skip to the end where I recommend a stunning new YA book!

Best of Ask the Agent: Who steers the Career-Ship?

“I wondered if you had insight for an author who has ambitious and prolific writing goals but whose agent's goals or ambitions for her do not quite seem to match. Who steers the career-ship? The debut, naive, starry-eyed author, or the person with the industry experience: the agent? How can one handle such disjointed, unaligned goals?”

As you say, the agent (hopefully) has a lot of experience/expertise. So if the writer is really “naive and starry-eyed”, the agent can give (again, hopefully) sound advice, some of which might involve the author managing their expectations. Ultimately, though, it’s the author’s career. The agent is supposed to give advice, help you reach your goals, etc, but we follow the marching orders of our clients. I can give you my recommendations, but the orders come from you. I guess in your analogy, the author is the captain, the career is the ship, the agent is the helmsman or navigator. 

The captain is in charge of the ship. Ideally, even a new captain is paying attention, knows the vessel is in trim, has an eye on the weather, takes into account the excellent advice given by their experienced crew, etc. The navigator is in charge of helping the ship get places safely.

So, what if what the captain really wants and what the navigator sees actually happening are vastly misaligned? Like, if the ship is becalmed and the navigator sees a kraken, but the captain is holed up in their berth babbling about islands covered in gold and pepper? It’s a problem. On the other hand, if the Captain is on top of things, but the navigator seems to be uh… all over the map… and sends them sailing in circles — that’s also a problem. If the ship has sprung a leak in the hull, and one of them is helping bail and patch the hole, while the other one is just bitching about it — THAT’S a problem, too! If any of these things are going on, they need to GET ON THE SAME DECK and have a frank conversation. If they can’t work it out, it’s time for the navigator to go back to port.


(p.s., I don’t know anything about boats)

New Release This Week: A brilliant YA debut!

THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall is coming out… right now, like, in a few hours, from Candlewick! You can buy it wherever fine books are sold. It’s the absolutely dazzling story of a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady who find a connection on the high seas. It’s an ASTONISHING debut. But don’t take MY word for it!

Kirkus, Starred Review: “Witches, mermaids, and secret operatives add layers of magic and intrigue to the queer romance at the heart of this book.”

BookPage, Starred Review: “A strikingly original and accomplished debut, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea reads like an undiscovered classic with impressively modern flair.”

“The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea will take you on the journey of a lifetime. Maggie Tokuda-Hall has created characters I've never seen before, then put them in an adventure that feels more real than real life and twice as unpredictable. I wanted to live in the world of this book forever, and I can't stop obsessing about the rich tapestry of pirates, mermaids, witches, and conniving nobles who inhabit it. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea might just remind you of why you fell in love with adventure in the first place and change how you think about the genre forever. I envy anyone who's getting to experience this incredible book for the first time."
--Charlie Jane Anders, author of the Nebula Award-winning novel All the Birds in the Sky 

"An utterly romantic and breathless adventure that wouldn't let me sleep until I'd devoured every last word. It's a journey of love, magic, and self-discovery unlike any I've ever read." 
--Dahlia Adler, author of Under the Lights and editor of His Hideous Heart 

"Arrrrr you ready for the swashbuckling, gorgeous, action-packed world of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea? I've been in love with Maggie Tokuda-Hall's writing for a long time, and I'm thrilled that you get to fall in love with it, too. A stunning fantasy that breaks all the rules--and hearts--in the best of ways." 
--Sara Farizan, author of Here to Stay and If You Could Be Mine 

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is a beautiful confrontation of a book. Maggie Tokuda-Hall explores the cost of violence from every conceivable angle, trusting the reader to follow her intricate story and the complicated characters who inhabit it. Everything has a price, and every adventure takes its toll. The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea asks what parts of ourselves we're willing to sacrifice, and who we're willing to sacrifice them for." 
--Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars and When We Were Magic

It’s also an Amazon “Best Book of the Month”!

Buy it. Thank you. I love you. BUY IT!!!

Anyway… that’s all from me this week. Feel free to share this newsletter, or, if you’d like it delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe! xo Jenn