About Alexander [from Writer's Digest]: Alexander Slater graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2007. He began his career in publishing that year with the Maria Carvainis Agency, first as an intern, and then as an assistant. He has been with Trident Media Group since 2010, where he started as the assistant to both agents Kimberly Whalen and Scott Miller. Moving on from there, he spent two years representing the entire agency’s children’s, middle grade, and Young Adult titles in the Foreign Market, attendingthe books fairs in Bologna, London, and Frankfurt. He is now building his list domestically at Trident, while keeping his focus on these areas. As a Foreign Rights Agent, he sold international rights for authors such as R.J. Palacio, Louis Sachar, Jessica Sorensen, L.J. Smith, Rebecca Donovan, and many others.
This interview originally published on February, 2015.
JK: What grabs your attention in a query letter? Any pet peeves that make you pass right away?
AS: What grabs my attention is a strong opening sentence that immediately displays a conspicuous voice. I like language that is used originally, poetically, surprisingly, and if there is anything close to a cliché in a query I will pass. Almost more important to me than the story being described is the way the author tells it, even in just a few lines, because every editor will tell you they’re looking for, “voice,” which in my mind means an author needs to be convincing, unique and authentic. One pet peeve of mine would be queries that begin, “Dear Ms. Slater,” which is not insulting, just disappointing, because it instantly shows how much research was done on me.
JK: What types of stories would you love to receive in your inbox right now? Are there any subjects/genres that are near and dear to your heart, or anything you're tired of seeing at the moment?
AS: I am a bit tired of seeing high fantasy – it’s just not an area I’m interested in at the moment. What I would love to see are smart stories that blend genres, from writers who read passionately. I tend towards dark humor and dark themes, usually in contemporary settings. I love non sequiturs in dialogue, deadpan humor, stories of chaos, and I would love to see all of this wrapped up in some diverse characters. [JODI'S NOTE: Check out his current #MSLW here and his most recent sales announcements on Publisher's Weekly].
JK: When reading the first 50 pages of a manuscript, what elements must it have to capture your attention?
AS: In my mind, these opening pages should be as economical, compelling, and satisfying as a short story. Every word should matter. Needless words, descriptions, and language that “tells,” will make me put the work down. It needs to really insist that the reader keep turning the pages.
JK: What are the qualities of your ideal client? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?
AS: An ideal client is a talented author with the ambition and drive to build their career with me, and one who would work that hard whether they had representation or not. Love of reading is a must. Qualities like patience, understanding, empathy, trust and respect are essential. Especially in regards to each other’s time.
JK: Do you help your clients revise his/her manuscript prior to submission? If so, do you have any revision tips for aspiring authors?
AS: I definitely see myself as an editorial type of agent. I have hope that if the manuscript is not in the right condition to share with publishers yet, I’ll spot the promise in either the story or in the writing itself, and I love working with my clients to polish that work into its best possible condition. My tips for aspiring authors would be to form a community if you do not yet have one, share your work, and be willing to revise until you collapse in your soup.
JK: What's an "average work day" for you like?
AS: An average day would be answering and directing morning emails, checking up on client’s work with publishers and also looking at a few query letters, which is important to check on while my mind is still fresh. Usually I’ll have lunch planned with an editor to discuss each other’s interests, and the afternoon consists of preparing submissions and researching the marketplace, contract negotiating and vetting, and then usually, ever more emails. Submission days are the most exciting.
JK: What are some of your all-time favorite books, and what do you love about them?
AS: Like most people, when I first read The Catcher in the Rye, I suddenly felt less alone in the world. That power still shakes me with every great book I read. I love Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, Project X by Jim Shepard, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and of course Holes, The Giver, and most of Ray Bradbury.
JK: What are some things you like to do when you’re not working?
I’m in a bowling league! Try to get better every season. My wife and I love to check out new Brooklyn restaurants, pretend we have a cat, and go to the movies.
JK: Any wisdom you can offer aspiring writers?
Junot Díaz says, “A writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” I agree with that.
JK: What's the best way to query you?
Please feel free to query me directly at email@example.com. Thanks!