Why I signed.. Brodi Ashton

I thought I’d give you, our readers, a bit of insight into what I like and what I look for in a submission.  It’s often hard to articulate what does and doesn’t work once you get past simple mechanics and formatting–which is one of the reasons agents often blog and write about those details.  I hope hearing about why I signed Brodi Ashton gives you a window into my thoughts.

This story is going to start in a surprising way, maybe even for Brodi herself!  Brodi came to me highly recommended by not just one but several clients.  I had actually been hearing about her for quite some time before she queried me.  The clients recommending her were enthusiastic about not just her work, but also as a person.  Everyone seemed to like her.  You’re probably thinking that this was all weighing heavily in her favor, and the truth is, it was…and wasn’t.  By time she queried me, I’d heard such good things that I was a bit overwhelmed by the praise, and frankly concerned she couldn’t live up to it.  But her email query was very friendly, and I really liked the sound of her novel, which she mentioned was based in part in Greek mythology:

“17-year old Nikki Beckett has just returned from the Underworld to a family who doesn’t know where she’s been, a boyfriend who doesn’t know why she left, and old friends who think she’s using. But Nikki won’t have time to answer questions. She only has six months at Park City High before the tunnels of the Underworld come for her again. Six months for goodbyes she’ll never be able to say out loud. Six months to find redemption, if it exists.

She didn’t plan on Jack’s reaction to her return. The boy she betrayed so long ago doesn’t care why she left him or why she’s back, as long as he doesn’t lose her again.

When Nikki discovers she didn’t return to the surface alone, being near Jack becomes dangerous – for him. Cole, an Everliving, followed her back from the Underworld, and he needs Nikki in order to make his push for the throne. He’ll do anything to make it happen, even if it means going back to high school.

Jack would sacrifice anything to help Nikki defeat Cole, but the choice will be Nikki’s: serve the Underworld, or rule it.”

Greek mythology?  Supernatural beings?  Undying love?  And a heroine who who must choose between two seemingly terrible alternatives?  Yes, please!  Paranormal books continue to sell very well, and this pitch was full of both romance and high stakes–something I knew editors were looking for.  I was also impressed that I was able to understand the heart of the story very easily from a short pitch, despite not understanding the rules of the world yet.  I was paying attention by this point, but it was the next paragraph of her query that really drew me in:

“I wrote this story because as a teenager, I had a friend who just took off one day. When she returned months later, she was different. Broken. I never found out where she went, but I wondered what would do that to a person as I watched her try to reclaim her life. I was fascinated in the before and the after, so this story looks at why Nikki left and the struggle after she returned.”

I love to know where writers get their ideas.  And I really loved that Brodi used Greek mythology to explain why something happened in real life–just like the Greeks used myths to explain the world around them.  So, before I got her email I was apprehensive that she couldn’t live up to the hype, and then she blew me away with just the kind of story I love.  I was totally, completely hooked, and I hadn’t even read a word yet.  Though she’d included a sample, I didn’t need to look at those pages to know I’d be reading the whole book.  So I quickly requested the manuscript that day.

Needless to say, the manuscript lived up to the query letter.  I knew about half way through that I wanted to work with Brodi, but the moment when I knew I could sell this book came only a few pages from the end when–and this is hard to admit–I may have teared up.  Or cried.  Whatever you want to call it.  The story moved me in a way that I did not expect.  Before I could reach out to her, Brodi let me know she already had more than one offer of representation, and I immediately set up a time to speak with her.  We discussed the book at length, and it turned out that she and I had a similar vision for it and the rest of the series.  We talked about what I thought worked and what needing more fleshing out, and we talked about dramatically changing the very end of the book.  I was happy with the conversation, confident that my vision was the right one for the book, and nervous beyond belief.  In the end, I was lucky enough to have Brodi choose me over several other agents clamoring for her book, now titled EVERNEATH.  In the fall, we accepted a pre-emptive offer from the amazing Kristin Daly at  Balzer + Bray, and the book is due out in 2012.

So that’s why I signed Brodi Ashton.  Hope it gives you a better idea of what I’m looking for and what the process is like.

8 Responses to Why I signed.. Brodi Ashton

  1. Alli says:

    Thank you to Michael and Brodi for sharing this story. EVERNEATH sounds like a fascinating read and I love the title!

  2. EEV says:

    That was really amazing! Thank you Michael, it is great to know how other writers make the breakthrough. I’ve been finishing and polishing my MG/YA, and sometimes I think… I think there’s nothing out there for me – everybody is way better than me, etcetera.
    But your post made me realize the emotional charge a writer nails on their writing matters – and that gives me hope.

    And please remind us of Brodi Asthon’s book release date – I definitely want to read it!

  3. Brodi Ashton says:

    Thanks Michael!
    I remember that phone call like it was yesterday. Michael came highly recommended (he is universally loved) and he totally lives up to the hype! I knew, once we agreed on the crazy turn for the end of the book, that I’d found my match. I’m honored he took me on.

  4. I’m an avid reader who enjoys hearing more about authors and their stories but this is the first time I’ve read an agents take on things. Thanks for a fun look into the other side of things I dont often get to see. I can’t wait for EVERNEATH.

  5. Yahzi says:

    Eh… he’s not universally loved.

    But congrats on your sale, Brodi.

    This is an interesting post, particularly for this sentence: “I didn’t need to look at those pages to know I’d be reading the whole book.

    In other words, the pitch is really, really important. So put as much work into your pitch as you did into at least the first 3 chapters of your book. One might even suggest you write the pitch first, and then write the book to match it… (which is what you’ll be doing as a pro under contract, anyway.)

  6. Bryan Bliss says:

    No, I’d say universally loved is probably adequate.

    Brodi – this sounds awesome. I think you may have been too humble in your own description. This sounds amazing… I should’ve given you all my fries.

  7. Brodi Ashton says:

    Bryan- I should’ve STOLEN more…

  8. Draven Ames says:

    Wow, what a great story. It makes you wonder what might be getting said about you, somewhere behind that curtain. Thank you for letting us peak behind. The story does sound interesting.

    Crying at the end is a great sign. That is something we can all hope for with our writing.

    Congratulations Brodi, it sounds like you deserved it!

    Draven Ames

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