I’m pleased to have Beth Phelan on the blog! Beth joined The Bent Agency in the fall of 2013 and is actively building her list. In addition to the below interview, Beth is active on Twitter and has tweeted about her #MSWL, and also participated in several pitch contests.
The Bent Agency
What’s your background and what brought you to agenting?
BP: I’m a graduate of New York University, where I definitely read more than I studied. I hadn’t even declared a major until the end of my sophomore year, when my father suggested I look into book publishing. We were sitting in a Barnes & Noble parking lot where I was sorting through the stack of books I’d just bought. After graduating, I took up an internship with the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency and the rest is history.
What kinds of protagonists are you looking for? Any particular kinds of voices you’d like to see?
BP: In YA, I’ll always relate to the snarky, sarcastic protagonist – after all, she is me. But I really want to see more layered, mature voices – maybe a MC who is absolutely the nicest person ever on the outside, but really dark on the inside, or someone with a huge level of self-awareness.
What are your manuscript pet peeves and/or the thing you might see in a manuscript that makes you stop reading?
BP: Well, the beginning is really important. Starting out with a cliché is a huge turn-off. I also want to see that the author knows the ins and outs of their characters, so unrealistic reactions and cliché phrases will make me want to stop reading. For example, pressing your finger onto your lover’s lips and saying “Shh.”
Your profile notes you are looking for LGBTQ content. Are there any specific kinds of LGBTQ stories you are hankering for? And are you seeking it across genres, or in one specific arena (YA, non-fiction, etc.)
BP: I’d love to see LGBTQ stories, particularly in YA, with some suspense thrown in, but not really looking for it in nonfiction.
What are you looking for/hoping for that you DON’T see coming into your query box?
BP: For YA – I’m still looking for a great, totally fresh take on witches and ghosts (though not in the same story necessarily). I don’t definitely don’t want to see anything cheesy or stories that feel recycled. I’m also desperate for a literary YA doomsday prepper novel, post-Rapture.
What are some of your favorite movies and TV shows?
BP: I absolutely loved BREAKING BAD, because obviously. I’m also really invested in THE WALKING DEAD right now, and my guilty pleasure is this soap-y drama on ABC called REVENGE.
If I saw a book based on the concept of X, I’d pee my pants with excitement! (fill in the blank!)
BP: Like I said above – DOOMSDAY PREPPERS! I also want to see more stories about focused natural disasters and anything with cults.
Are you an editorial agent?
BP: Absolutely. I get very involved in the whole process.
Beth Phelan represents fiction for young adults and middle-grade readers, select commercial and literary adult fiction, and nonfiction by way of lifestyle, cooking/food writing, humor, pop culture, LGBT and pets/animals.
From the Bent Agency website: After graduating from New York University, I found my footing as an intern with the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. Since then, I’ve held positions at Waxman Leavell Literary and Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. As a literary agent with the Bent Agency, I am looking for complex fiction that pulls you in immediately, characters that you wish were your real friends and plot lines that drag you away from reality to a world you never want to leave. My favorite stories are told with humor and sprinkled with surprises.
When I was a kid, my father told me: “You’re not going to have any friends left if you keep reading instead of returning their phone calls.” That’s when I knew I wanted to work with books (although I like to think that I’ve managed to strike a better balance in my life now). I live in Brooklyn with a neurotic chihuahua, goofy beagle and always some form of cheese in the fridge.
Find Beth’s submission guidelines on The Bent Agency website
Beth’s intro post on the Bent Agency blog
Follow Beth on Twitter