SPOTLIGHT FEATURE – Shannon Snow from Creative Media Agency

SPOTLIGHT FEATURE – Shannon Snow from Creative Media Agency

Good morning, everyone! 

Following our feature on Paige Wheeler last month, we also have an exciting Spotlight On interview with Shannon Snow, also from Creative Media Agency. 

Shannon joined CMA in 2018 as an intern before becoming an Associate Agent in 2020. She also manages audio rights for the agency. Shannon represents adult and YA fiction, with a particular love for romance, women’s fiction and thrillers, especially those with strong characterisation and a powerful emotional core. She’s also searching for boundary-pushing stories from underrepresented writers.  

You can find Shannon on Twitter @ssnow_lit_agent

Shannon Snow

“I hate to see writers give up on being writers because they submitted before they were truly ready.” 

Hi Shannon, thanks for speaking with us today! 

What brought you to agenting?  

I think everyone who works in publishing probably began with a love of books. I’m no different. I’ve been in love with books since I was 6 years old and used to run a free book review blog just for fun because I loved talking about books. I even earned a BA in English with the intent to work in publishing in some form or fashion. When I first began my career, out of necessity and circumstance at the time, though, I had to go another direction and ended up working 18 years in Finance and Marketing in Fortune 500 companies and even ended up at the Executive level. At that point, though, I still felt that pull to publishing, even more strongly after so many years spent doing something I didn’t necessarily love but just happened to be good at. So, at that point, I made a career pivot and signed up at CMA to be an intern. I interned for a little over a year at CMA before finally moving up to be an Associate Agent. My journey into agenting was a circuitous route, but I think it’s made me love what I do as a literary agent even more because it was a sort of late gift that I now get to enjoy.  

What’s your favourite thing about being an agent?  

I love the connections I get to make with my clients, that partnership I can cultivate. I love the reading…sifting through manuscripts, and it’s extremely rewarding to find that sparkling new voice that I get to contact and hopefully sign. Then, it’s just a gift to be able to hear their enthusiasm and follow along in their excitement at various levels of our journey together. It’s highly rewarding for me to be there for, have a hand in, and experience their success along with them.  

What is a day in the life of an agent like for you?  

A lot of reading! I must break my day up into increments to keep myself and the work organized because there are so many pieces to this job. A certain amount of time is set aside for reviewing and responding to query letters, some time for reading partial submissions and completed manuscripts, etc. But the majority of that is done after hours or on weekends. Day hours are reserved for client work and managing the Audio arm for CMA. I’m preparing pitches for potential audiobook sales, and I’m reading clients’ books and creating editorial letters for their revisions. If something is revised and ready, I’m writing pitch letters that will go to the publishers and I’m picking out the most appropriate editors at the various houses whom I think would be the best fit for my clients’ projects. Between all that, I also squeeze in conferences, speaking at workshops, providing my time for author pitches, participating in contents where the authors can receive a critique of their query, ten pages, or partial, and participating in various Twitter pitch events. And then there’s more!  

What makes for a successful author-agent relationship? How can both parties get the most out of the relationship?  

Excellent communication is at the top of my list. Clear communication avoids misunderstandings and puts both parties on the same page, with the same understanding of the author’s career path, and it clarifies expectations for both parties. Having a good rapport with a client is also key. I want my authors to feel like they can call me up, text me or email me at any time with questions, concerns, thoughts, or even if they just want to brainstorm titles or bounce story ideas with me. With that communication and rapport, trust develops. For an author to trust that I have their best interests in mind and that any advice or career suggestions I make are for their career’s greater good is important. They should, however, also feel comfortable that they can discuss it with me if they disagree with a revision, an idea, etc. I don’t want my authors to feel like I’m Oz who just dictates ideas and they’re too nervous to talk with me about it. I want them to see me as that partner they can call up and talk to me about their reservations, discuss alternatives and solutions and then reach a good compromise.   

What’s at the top of your fiction wish-list?  

I’m really into contemporary romance right now, romcoms or serious stories. I do adore a slow burn romance or an enemies-to-lovers type romance. It can be sweet or steamy. I love it all. I’m also interested in Women’s Fiction, although I do like to have a bit of romance in those as well, but it’s not completely necessary. I love a good Women’s Fiction story centering around sisters or family issues.   

I’m definitely looking for thrillers, psychological thrillers, maybe even with a hint of eerie/creepy horror, although that last part isn’t necessary. In YA particularly, I’d love to find a strong, dark boarding school story with a diverse cast of characters.  

I’d also love to find any of the above written by under-represented authors and with diverse characters. Other than that, I’m also always looking at the other items on my wishlist posted on our website. The above are just the items I’m really hungry for at the moment.  

What do you want to see in a query letter? And what do you hate?  

I am most drawn to the summary of a query and making sure that it provides me the who, what, why, when, and how of their story. I need to have a concept of setting, and I need to understand the character(s)’ goals, motivations, and conflict. Basically, when I read the summary, I need to understand the type of setting, who the characters are, what are they trying to achieve, and what’s standing in the way. What bad things might happen if they can’t achieve their goal? And leave me wanting to read more.  

Additionally, since we request that the first five pages be pasted below the query, those pages should be great. I need to see that if the query was good, the actual writing lives up to it.   

I don’t think there’s anything that I really hate about a query, although I do have pet peeves. For example, I know you’re probably querying other agents besides me, but don’t send your query to all of us at once where we’re all listed in the TO field of your email. 

Also, make sure you’ve read our submission guidelines and follow them. Make sure to address your query to an actual agent’s name rather than Dear Agent, or worse, no salutation at all. Avoid spending the bulk of your query telling me why you wrote the story. Just tell me about the story. If there is a reason that makes you uniquely qualified to write this particular story, include that below your query with a sentence or two.  

Same question when it comes to the synopsis. What should writers do? What should they avoid?  

Synopses should be concise, laying out all the details of the story from start to finish, including the ending. If you can accomplish that in 1 page, 3, pages, or need 10, that’s fine, as long as it’s all there. That said, I would avoid synopses greater than 10 pages… 3 to 5 is optimal. As with the query, your synopsis should clearly show your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts woven throughout the story.  

Another thing to avoid is a rambling synopsis where you don’t stay on track. Those confuse the reader, in this case, the agent. If your story seems to ramble in the synopsis, an agent may assume your story does too. Lastly, be careful of overwhelming the agent with character names in your synopsis. Not every character requires naming in your synopsis. If you have characters that don’t play a significant role in the story, refer to them as “the housekeeper” or “the manager,” etc…  

What are you looking for in the opening pages of a novel? What really excites you?  

For the story to draw me in immediately, I need to be captured by either the narrative voice, a character, opening dialogue, or the inciting incident being presented immediately. I love it when an author is able to get what backstory they need into the story without me feeling as if I’m reading backstory. Info dumps hurt the pacing, and I know an author has a certain skill level when they can weave necessary backstory in very carefully where it doesn’t disrupt the flow of reading. I love a good opening hook line, but also love for the first page to hook me, and so on. Keep me wanting to read more because your story, its characters, or your prose are so engrossing that I don’t want to put it down. That excites me.  

What are some of your favourite authors and books?  

I’m a huge Dean Koontz fan from the time I was a teenager. My favorites of his are Strangers, Lightning, and Watchers. However, he hasn’t written many books I didn’t love. I also love David Eddings The Belgariad series, and The Mallorean series. They represent the type of epic quest fantasy stories I love to read. I’m a huge fan of Richelle Mead and her Vampire Academy series. Some of the best YA books I’ve read and favorites of mine. I also adore anything written by Jennifer Armentrout, adult or YA. This is just a few.  

What interests or passions do you have beyond the world of books? What do you love?  

I write poetry of my own. This is something I’ve done since I was old enough to hold a pen. Writing poetry is cathartic for me, as I tend to write my feelings, but I love playing with imagery in poetry to paint pictures with words. This has made me love prose in books that utilizes a lot of imagery. Although that’s not the only type of prose I enjoy.  

I also have to admit to being a big movie and tv show streamer and I love to binge watch shows.   

Any final words of advice for authors in the writing or querying process?  

Make sure you hone your craft prior to submitting to agents. I say this for several reasons. First, if you haven’t honed your craft and your work is not the best it could be when you begin submitting, you’ll probably receive a lot of rejections that may or may not break your enthusiasm for being a writer. I hate to see writers give up on being writers because they submitted before they were truly ready and received rejections that made them quit. Second, if you’ve honed your craft, there’s a certain level of confidence that comes with that which helps you take those rejections a bit better and still persevere. Not that receiving rejections is easy. It definitely isn’t easy. But if you have the confidence of knowing you’ve honed your craft and that your work is good, you’re much better able and more equipped to take those rejections in stride, take whatever feedback you might receive, utilize it, then shake it off and keep going. To hone your craft, attend writing conferences, writing workshops, join a critique group, read writing books on technique, etc. If you have a dream, believe in your talent, and have honed your craft, then don’t give up! Everyone will receive rejections. Take what you can from them, then shake them off and keep going.  

Make sure you research agents ahead of time. Check out their submission guidelines on their website and most particularly, their list of things they acquire. Don’t send a science fiction query, for example, to an agent who doesn’t handle science fiction. You could be giving yourself unnecessary rejections by not researching and targeting the correct agents who accept your genre.  

Don’t forget to take joy in what you do! 

The full interview can be found on Shannon’s AgentMatch profile. 

In the meantime, 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

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