We're proud to welcome Literary Agent Laura Bradford with Bradford Literary Agency to Hooked on Romance today.

Laura Bradford has fifteen years of professional experience as a literary agent, editor, writer and bookseller. Laura began her career as a literary agent at Manus and Associates Literary Agency and formed Bradford Literary Agency in 2001. She considers herself an editorial-focused agent and takes a hands-on approach to developing proposals and manuscripts with her authors for the most appropriate markets. During her own misadventures as a writer, Laura came to understand the importance of having a friendly but critical eye on your side, a career strategist in your corner and a guide who can lead you through the travails of publication.

Her recent sales include books placed with Berkley, Grand Central, Harlequin/Silhouette, Kensington, Spice Books, Pocket, Virgin Books, Avon, Dorchester, Hyperion, NAL, Eos, and Mira Books. She continues to actively build her client list and is currently seeking work in the following genres: Romance (historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, category, contemporary, erotic), urban fantasy, women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers and young adult as well as some select non-fiction.

She is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) and Romance Writers of America and she is an RWA-recognized agent.

Laura is with us today to answer any questions you may have about publishing, agents, submissions, etc. If you would like to get some feedback on a query/pitch, you can post that here (limiting it to 3 or 4 lines) and Laura will try to help you out to see where you might be able to improve it. Or you can ask her any other questions that pop into your head.

This is one of those chances that we don't get all the time, so I hope you'll take advantage of it.

Comments (37)

On September 24, 2009 at 9:03 AM , Nikki Duncan said...

Thanks for being here, Laura. First question(s) of hopefully many:

What's it like for you to sit and listen to pitches for hours?

Do you get nervous? Why?

Obviously you want to find something GREAT. What advice do you have for authors meeting with you?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 9:33 AM , Jo-Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
On September 24, 2009 at 9:34 AM , Jo-Anne said...

hanks for being here today. I'm going to dive right in and make the most of this opportunity. Hey, when opportunity knocks you should answer, right?

I’m working on my first MS, a paranormal romance. Blurbs, tag lines and titles have been the vain of my life since I started the project. Would you mind throwing your input at me, I want to make sure I’m on the right tracks and don’t bore Agents when I submit.

Complete at 80,000 words, SEX, LIES AND PAST LIVES is a tale about a reincarnated gypsy who must join forces with her former past life lover in order to defeat the killer who took both their lives one hundred years ago.

The tag line is: To stay alive this time, their only hope is love.

Also, as you’re a top agent, representing some of my favourite authors, you’re on the top of my list to submit to. On your website, submission instructions give a postal address only, is that the only way to submit to you, or do you accept email queries, too?

Again, thanks for sharing your expertise here today! I look forward to reading your responses

 
On September 24, 2009 at 9:36 AM , Jo-Anne said...

That's 'thanks' for being here -- not 'hanks'. Paste and copying, I missed the first letter!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 11:28 AM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi Nikki,

I like taking pitches...there is always a sense of anticipation that I might hear about something fabulous. Of course it isn't really realistic that this will always occur, so often I am hoping at the very least I can find something positive to say or some way to be helpful. Even if the author pitching and I aren't a good fit, I still want them to feel that they have gotten their money's worth, so to speak.

Do I get nervous? Of course. I have a lot of responsibility for a lot of people, so there is a lot to feel anxious about. I don't phone in my job and I try my hardest to do my best work. It is a great job but nerve-wracking and stressful? You bet.

Advice for meeting me? I am really laid-back and know that sometimes people get nervous about meeting agents and pitching. I don't hold that against anyone. If you know ahead of time you'll be meeting with me, all I really ask is that you do your research. If it says right on my website that I am not looking for X, maybe that isn't something you want to pitch to me.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 11:38 AM , Nikki Duncan said...

Laura, you mentioned that you might know if you and an author are a good fit from the pitch. I know that I've walked away from pitches knowing I wouldn't work well with an agent. When you have that impression after a brief pitch, do you still request their material if it's a good pitch or do you decline in hopes that you might have read the situation wrong?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 12:01 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Dear Jo-Anne,

I do accept email queries, but via email I only take query letters (without attachments or pasted in samples of work). I realize that lots of agents are moving towards taking submissions exclusively by email, but I find it is easier on my eyes to read submissions in hard copy, so that is my preference. I don't hold it against anyone who prefers to send me an equery, I just ask them not to send the accompanying samples.

Feedback on your blurb/tagline... the blurb looks pretty good. I suppose I am curious whether the heroine was a gypsy before she was reincarnated AND after, or just before. Like is your heroine a schoolteacher in present day? And does the former past life lover know he's been reincarnated and remember the heroine? Sometimes blurbs can be more hook-y if they are vague, but I wonder about all of this stuff--the logistics about how it works. The tag line: I don't really require these or even look for them in a pitch and I think this one is a bit vague/misleading. It makes me wonder if they were killed before because they WEREN'T in love and if it is simply love that will save them this time (as opposed to weapons and/or pulling a fast one on the bad guy). I think "this time" is what I am objecting to. Also, and this will sound odd coming from a romance agent, but love in this context can sound a little flat. It doesn't really emphasize a dynamic story, with action and people fighting for their lives against a killer determined to do them in. This tag line tells me you have a nice little love story. I'm looking for more than that. Does that help at all?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 12:50 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi again Nikki,

Pitches can be dreadful, authors can be horribly anxious and stumble and sputter or read off a note card in a monotone or talk a mile a minute. The truth is, pitches can be bad more often than they are good. Really what is important is the writing and sometimes people that are the absolute worst at pitching (or writing synopses) can be the best novel writers, so it always behooves me to err on the side of cutting authors who pitch badly some slack. Unless the subject matter is something I just do not work with at all, I will usually ask for a sample. I have never decided not to ask for a sample based on a perceived personality conflict. Even if the author pitching me came across as a self-righteous, obnoxious, prima donna, I would still request a sample if it was in a category I represented. I'd file away all of that personality stuff to consider if I did end up liking the sample, though. I would hope it was just the case of an author having a bad day, but one never knows.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 12:56 PM , Nikki Duncan said...

I'm signing off to head out of town. Laura, thank you for being here today and taking questions. I always enjoy getting to see things from an agent's or editor's perspective.

Okay guys, get to asking questions. I'll try to stop in tonight, but I'm about to be playing the airport game for the next 8 hours or so.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 12:56 PM , Kristy Bock said...

Hi Laura, Pleasure to meet you. It's insightful reading what you have to say :)

~Kristy

 
On September 24, 2009 at 12:57 PM , Ann Aguirre said...

What's your favorite sale story?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 1:28 PM , Jo-Anne said...

Hi, Laura!
That most definitely helps.
Thanks for clarifying the submission question – good to know.

In a nutshell, it sounds like I might have hooked you in for a further read into the query, but I lost you with the tagline. RE, the tagline, now you’ve said it, I can see it screams vague and flat. Thanks, Laura, Q & A sessions with an agent are a life line for us newbie’s. It's a massive bonus that you represent romance authors I love.(I’m a Maya Banks and Anya Bast avid reader).
Your advice is dully noted, truly appreciated and invaluable. I hope it’s not too OTT if I blow virtual kisses of appreciation your way, for your time and knowledge. xx

JoAnne


Nikki, thanks for hosting and asking interesting questions for Laura to answer. Safe journey!!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 1:30 PM , Marissa Scott said...

*waves* Hi Laura!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 1:57 PM , Likari said...

Hi, Ms. Bradford. Thank you for doing this. You rep one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre.

I have a technical question. How do you distinguish fantasy romance from paranormal romance -- or do you?

My novel is a postapocalyptic romance with shapeshifters, angels, mutated species, and gods and goddesses with a cosmology based on the gnostic creation story.

The tag line could be Shapeshifters stole my baby's soul! (joking) or Lorna Doone meets Children of Dune.

All that is the backdrop for the love story between the heroine and hero who are both trying to do the best they can while war breaks out in heaven and on earth.

Is this paranormal or fantasy?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 2:08 PM , Kim B said...

Hi Laura,

Thank you for doing this today, these interactive blogs are really helpful to us 'up and comers' your time is most appreciated.

I too am looking for logline and blurb feedback re pitching my paranormal romance wip. So here they are...

A love neither wants is all that can save her life and his immortal soul.

For five thousand years Remy Murano has craved death. Then Khara Devlin came to town searching for her missing sister and stole his heart. The touch of an amulet ignites something dark in him that wants more than Khara’s heart in return, it wants her life. With his immortal soul hanging in the balance, only she can save him but first she must decide, is he her saviour – or a killer with her his next victim.

Looking forward to you input and advice, thanks again.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 2:42 PM , Nancy Kay Bowden said...

Hope I'm not too late! Waving "hi" to Nikki! Thanks for being here, Laura!

Laura, my questions pertain to your representing YA authors. How high is YA on your wish list? Is there a certain kind of YA plot that grabs your interest? And last, when you say "YA," does this include "tween"?

Thanks again!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 2:43 PM , Danica Avet said...

Hi Laura, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. :)

What's more important to you, character driven stories, or plot driven stories?

If there's a manuscript you've read that has potention, but needs more work, do you make suggestions and ask to see it again, or give it a fond farewell?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 2:59 PM , Jax Cassidy said...

Laura, thank you for joining us at Hooked On Romance. I've heard excellent things about you and have had the pleasure of hearing you speak at the Passionate Ink luncheon in DC.

I think it's wonderful you started out as a bookseller which most likely gives you an edge in the romance world, because you already have a feel for what readers like.

Thanks again for answering these questions!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 3:30 PM , Stephanie Feagan said...

Laura, do you have any thoughts on the market right now? Homegrown, hometown, heart-warming stories were talked about a lot at RWA this summer, but I'm not really seeing lots of deals like that. Is it another unicorn? :)
Also, are eds asking for anything specific right now? More erotic, paranormal, historical...cowbell?
Thanks for doing a Q&A and thanks to the Hooked on Romance ladies for hosting!
Stef

 
On September 24, 2009 at 3:31 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Dear Likari,

To me, a fantasy romance is a kind of subset of paranormal romance and I think it is is distinguished by simply embodying elements that one might find in a fantasy novel. It is a certain mood...maybe denoted by kings and dragons and magic and other realms and elves. Those are just examples. The presence of an elf does not necessarily equal a fantasy. I'd call your story a paranormal romance. Doesn't really seem to have a fantasy mood at all. Unless you meant urban fantasy. I'd still probably just call it a paranormal romance because that is fairly general. The description you gave seemed to sum it up nicely.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 3:51 PM , M. K. Stelmack said...

Hi Laura,

Thanks so much for doing this. I read with your interest one of our posts where you talked about your attraction to the edgy characters, the good hero/heroine who does bad things. I write historical romances set in Russia. Russo-regencies, I guess. My heroes always end up doing something horrendous that they have to spend their story sorting out.
Anyway, here's my blurb for my current WIP

On the eve of Russia’s 1825 revolution, an Englishwoman must entrust her family to a Tsarist spy who has no intentions of keeping his word to the people who would tear apart his lands.

Any advice to whip it into shape will be most gratefully sucked up!!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 4:41 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Dear Kim B,

I just wrote a really looooong response to your post but it disappeared with the click of one wrong button. Gah! Here I go again.

Logline: It is a bit clunky. I had to read it a couple of times to be able to tell where the pauses were--"neither wants is all that" just doesn't really roll off the mental tongue. I'd work on making it a bit more smooth.

Blurb: This is how the blurb reads to me: The hero meets the heroine and falls for her. Some amulet from somewhere, somehow gets touched and that makes the hero want to kill the heroine. The heroine has the power to save the hero if she trusts him. And her sister is missing. My questions: The amulet does not have a lot of context for me. Who does the amulet belong to? When in the chain of events does it get touched? Had the hero already begun a relationship with the heroine at that point? What does the missing sister have to do with the plot? Does she play any significant role or is she more of a device? You mentioned that the amulet ignites something dark in the hero, but if he has been craving death for five thousand years, he seems pretty dark to me already. How can the heroine save him? I assume there is something she can do that does not involve her giving her life, something she can choose.

I'm pretty much playing devil's advocate here. The truth is, the blurb is pretty smooth if you don't delve too deeply into it looking for begged questions, though the missing sister and amulet jump out at me as needing to be better rooted. Most blurbs beg questions...they are supposed to titillate and compel the reader to want to take a closer look at the story, not blurt out every detail. Take a step back from your blurb and ask all the questions that spring from what your blurb doesn't say. If the missing sister really doesn't have anything to do with the plot, maybe just leave her out of the blurb. Does that help at all?

 
On September 24, 2009 at 4:49 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Dear Nancy,

I love YA and it is definitely something I am looking for at present. I actually get a ton of YA submissions--they are probably at least a third of my submissions overall. A lot of people are interested in writing it, but I find that YA voice is really hard to effectively pull off. There isn't really a specific type of YA I am especially looking for. I am really open to anything, except for inspirational YA. I don't handle middle-grade work, so it depends on what you mean by 'tween. Some tween books I think are for the younger YA set, some for older middle grade, so it depends. I am not really looking for books featuring protagonists under the age of 13 or so.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 5:14 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Dear Danica,

Personally, I like character driven stories, but there needs to be some plot hooks in order for me to sell a book, so my ideal is something that falls in the middle somewhere. I think readers always want to fall in love with a character, but that beloved character needs to do something in order to propel the story. It is really difficult for me to pitch a story that is all about the character when there is little more to say about the plot than "and then hilarity ensues". It might be true, but it doesn't really make an editor want to read it very quickly.

If a ms has potential, do I make suggestions or just pass? It depends on how much work is required and what type of work it is. Plots can be changed fairly easily, but if the voice is wrong, sometimes there is no help for that. I am more prone to give suggestions on work where I already like the protagonist and voice. Pretty recently I read this full ms I'd been terribly excited about and I LOVED it and I also HATED it. There was a lot I thought needed to be changed--some big, giant plot destroying things. I hesitate to ask anyone to excavate their ms that completely and normally I just would have passed on it, but the things this author had right, were so right they were brilliant. I decided to take a chance and send a very, very long revision suggestion note back, knowing full well, she could get totally offended by my leave-taking. But as it turned out were were on the same page and she decided to go ahead and do a thorough revision. On the flip side, other times I have sent detailed suggestions back to an author, they have responded with letters telling me all the ways I didn't understand their book and how I was clearly a big dumbass. If I ask for a revision, I am pretty serious about it and as a matter of fact the last author I signed was an author I had invited to resubmit a revision. She did an excellent job.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 5:33 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi Stephanie,

I talked to several editors earlier in the summer that said they were looking for contemporary romance/women's fiction hybrids. Material similar to Lisa Kleypas' contemporaries, Sheryl Woods, Debbie Macomber and Jodi Picoult were specifically referenced to me. I think that publishers are looking for that crossover mainsteam appeal rather than specifically desiring books set in small towns. I see plenty of contemporary romances--which I still consider difficult to sell in this market-- that don't have that mainstream crossover appeal. It is a certain mood, rather than any specific plot elements. There isn't an equation, small town + single mom hairdresser + special needs child + crotchety but wise handyman = NYT bestseller. I haven't really seen anything recently that seems to fit the bill as that type of book the publishers were asking me for a couple of months ago.

I haven't been asked for anything specific recently other than some of that aforementioned sweet contemporary romance/ women's fiction. Paranormal and historical still seem to be doing pretty well. And swinging towards writing hotter work seems to have a lot of appeal, if done well.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 5:44 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi M.K.

Sounds pretty good to me. I would caution you to not assume that everyone reading your blurb will have any idea what Russia and England meant to each other in 1825 or what it meant to be a "Tsarist spy". You didn't actually say in the blurb that it is set in Russia, so I might expressly do that. I'm not sure why this Englishwoman is in Russia, but I would be curious to know the reasons behind it. I'd also like to know what you mean by her entrusting her family to this spy...like is she handing over the physical care of her children to him? Or entrusting him with their protection and safety. And by family do you mean her parents and brothers and sisters, or her husband and kids? Is she a widow? Not knowing a whole lot of detail about the Russian revolution, should I assume that to the spy, it is the English that will tear apart his lands? This specific family or the English in general? His specific lands or Russia in general? Hope that helps!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 6:05 PM , Stephanie Feagan said...

Thanks, Laura. You summed it up nicely, and clarified what it is they're looking for. I've been hatching a romantic women's fiction, unsure if there's a market for it. Maybe so, and that'd be all kinds of awesome.
(No crotchety handyman, however. Grouchy ex-con with an attitude.) And why don't people use the word 'crotchety' more often? It's making me laugh...
Thanks again-
Stef

 
On September 24, 2009 at 6:08 PM , M. K. Stelmack said...

It helped heaps!! The tough part of blurbs is knowing what to add and how much. Your questions have set me straight. Thanks!

 
On September 24, 2009 at 6:13 PM , Vonna Harper said...

Hi Laura,
I'm curious about the foreign market for romances, specifically foreign rights for US pubbed work.My guess is that the major romance publishers (Harl) hold onto those rights, but I'm wondering how well romance sells in Europe and whether there are reputable publishers oversees and whether you spend time exploring possibilities.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 6:33 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi Vonna,

The foreign market for romance has been growing and certain genres do better in some regions than in others. I understand that Germany is crazy for historical romance right now and Asia (Thailand, Japan) has been pretty hot for paranormal. The foreign market for erotic romance has been growing steadily but it isn't huge. I use a foreign rights subagent, and she attends all of the major overseas conferences/book fairs, like Frankfurt and London, with a specific eye on selling any subsidiary rights I have retained for my authors. A lot of major NY publishers do like to keep foreign rights because...why wouldn't they? Some houses are more amenable to leaving those rights on the table than others, some houses have better sub rights departments than others. Sometimes when trying to retain foreign rights at sale time, a publisher will tell me, we get world rights or no deal. In that case, the decision is up to the author. It is usually harder to try to begin to retain foreign rights when there is already a precedent established with the author granting world rights to a current publisher.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 7:13 PM , Kim B said...

Hi Laura,

Yes it does help, I'll have another look at both the logline and the blurb and see if I can find a way to tighten up the first one and shift some of the focus on the second one.

I appreciate your comments and suggests Laura, thanks much.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 7:21 PM , Dangerous Scribes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
On September 24, 2009 at 7:22 PM , Dangerous Scribes said...

Hi Laura! Thanks so much for this opportunity! I almost worked up the nerve at the RWA conference in DC to walk up to you and introduce myself, but I couldn't do it. I think I came up with too many reasons in my head not to!

Anyways, I'm currently working on a synopsis. It's actually my first. While at the conference I received requests for my MS and a synopsis and have been working on it ever since. It's been a dreadful process. Writing the book was so much easier. My questions are how much stock do you put in the synopsis when you read it? What would make you not go on to read the manuscript? I'm so nervous to send this out! Any advice would be great. Thank you!

Kellie

 
On September 24, 2009 at 7:42 PM , Laura Bradford said...

Hi Kellie,

To me, a synopsis is a tool and nothing more. I don't consider it to be art and I don't require it to function as such. If I am sent a synopsis and a partial, I read the sample first and the synopsis second. The only reason I care about the synopsis at all is because I am curious to know where the story goes after the partial cuts off. The only way a synopsis fails, in my opinion, is if it fails to do its intended job: telling me the gist of the remaining story. I am more critical when it comes to the synopses for my current clients I intend to use in pitches. I understand that other people condemn ineffectual synopses more readily than I do, so I would never send out anything anyone might deem ineffectual. But I do think you can "get the job done" with a synopsis more easily than authors seem to think they can. I don't speak for everyone and opinions seems to vary greatly about how to write a synopsis but these are my criteria: 1) Does the synopsis tell the story about what happens in the ms in reasonable detail (more than say a paragraph or a blurb)? 2) Does the synopsis clarify plot twists and motivations and not leave me totally confused? As long as the answer to those questions are yes, I consider the job done.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 8:05 PM , Likari said...

Ms. Bradford,

Thank you for your answer to my question. I had to go to work shortly after I posted it, so it was nice to come home to find one of my issues resolved.

And thanks for all your other generous answers too.

 
On September 24, 2009 at 10:28 PM , Anonymous said...

Just in case it's not too late to get a question in...

Dear Laura,

About your current timeline, can you tell us how long it takes to hear back on a requested proposal?

And how long do you usually take to respond to a full ms?

Thanks for coming out!

 
On September 25, 2009 at 3:34 PM , Nancy Kay Bowden said...

Laura, thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions on Nikki's blog. You were very helpful. Have a wonderful weekend!