Good morning, everyone!
This week, we’re joined by Lane Clarke from ArtHouse Lit. Lane is an author, attorney and literary agent based in Washington, D.C. Her debut YA novel Loves Times Infinity was published in July 2022, with a second novel Even If The Sky Is Falling published in May 2023. Lane also co-founded #PitBLK, a pitch event aiming to recognise and celebrate Black authors.
As an agent, Lane represents children’s, young adult and adult fiction. For Middle Grade readers, she is looking for adventures, fantasy, historical horror and contemporary stories that ask big questions. In YA, she would love to see speculative and historical fiction as well as more grounded contemporary stories about college, coming of age and cultural issues. She is also looking for literary fiction for adults as well as romance novels (particularly those with underrepresented heroines), epic fantasy and smart horror. Across all ages and all genres, she is especially keen to hear from marginalised creators.
Hi Lane, thanks for speaking with us today!
What brought you to agenting?
I’ve always wanted to be an agent! When I was in college, I couldn’t afford to do any of the internships on offer so I got started a little bit later in my career. But I loved reading and I really wanted to find the next book that would become a comfort book for someone; the kind of book that makes readers.
As a writer yourself, do you think this has influenced your approach to agenting?
My own experiences as a writer have definitely influenced my agenting style. I think that I have a very keen insight into how writers feel about the process. I understand exactly what they’re going through because I’ve been through it myself – I know exactly where things get confusing or kind of scary. And so, I try to support authors the same way that my agent supported me.
What makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of the relationship?
It’s about trust and honesty! I think that when agents lead with transparency, that really helps build a trusting relationship in both directions. I always hope that my clients can come to me with anything that they’re concerned about and that they aren’t scared to ask me questions.
What’s your favourite thing about being an agent?
I love reading my clients’ manuscripts. From picture books to novels, each one is so unique and fresh. It’s always really exciting to see what they’re working on and how they put their stories together. It’s a privilege, really, to feel like I’m the first person to read such amazing work.
What’s at the top of your fiction wish list?
In fiction, I’m looking for literary work similar to Wahala or Such a Fun Age – something that tracks the millennial experience. I really enjoy strong writing so even if the plot isn’t 100%, if the writing is pristine I’ll be willing to take a chance on it.
What about non-fiction?
My non-fiction list is pretty full right now, actually. I’m just starting to get into non-fiction and don’t want to overextend myself, so for now, I’m going to keep focusing on the few non-fiction authors I already represent.
Is there anything you would rather not receive?
I like horror but I can’t read body horror – I’m too much of a chicken! I don’t represent erotica either, and then I’ve already mentioned non-fiction. Other than that, I’m pretty open! As long as the writing is good, I’ll consider it.
What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you dislike?
I think strong query letters are the ones with a bit of the author’s voice in them. They have a really good handle on what the book is about so you know almost immediately what you’ll be getting into when you start reading the extract.
Query letters that need more work include the ones that rely a lot on the author’s biography and only have a sentence or two about the book. I love to learn about the author, that’s great, but you need to make sure the focus is on the book itself!
How do you feel about synopses? Any tips?
I don’t tend to read synopses, actually; I like to be surprised by the texts. If I’m reading the first few pages of a manuscript and I feel like it’s started in the wrong place and I’m not hooked, I might read a bit of the synopsis to get an idea of when the action is going to start and whether I want to read that far. But for the most part, I don’t really care about them too much.
Is there anything that would grab you in the opening pages?
Voice is really important, right from the first paragraph. I don’t mind too much if there are typos or things like that, but I really need to hear your voice in those opening pages so I can get a good idea of your writing style.
I don’t love seeing a lot of world-building in the opening pages. I know this can be difficult in the SFF space because you need to communicate a lot of information about your world as fast as possible, but too much exposition just leads to me not feeling super excited about the opening pages.
What are some of your favourite authors and books?
Recently I’ve enjoyed Briarcliff Prep by Brianna Peppins and We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds, both YA contemporaries. And I’m currently re-reading the Red Rising saga by Pierce Brown in preparation for the new book coming out this month.
Any final words of advice for authors in the querying process?
Find a group of people who are in the same stage of the querying process as you. It can be really helpful to have other writers who you’re reminiscing with and venting with, because I know it can be a very frustrating process. Finding people who understand what you’re going through and have your back through everything will make the ride a lot less treacherous.
Check out Lane’s AgentMatch profile for the full interview.
If you’re struggling with your query letter and synopsis, do check out our free resources on our website. We have lots of info to help you on your way. Or, better still, if you’re a member with us, our lovely Writers Support team will be happy to offer you a free query letter review!