Interview With Literary Agent Jill Corcoran

SCBWI SpringMingle 2013 Blog Tour: Agent Jill Corcoran

SCBWI SpringMingle 2013 Blog Tour: Agent Jill Corcoran

by Donny Seagraves | Jan 24, 2013 | authorsBlog Book TourConferences | 4 comments

Today I have the pleasure of hosting Jill Corcoran, a literary agent with the Herman Agency and a speaker at the SCBWI Southern Breeze Region’s SpringMingle conference in Atlanta Feb. 22-24, 2013.

Jill Corcoran primarily represents children’s books. She has sold over 60 books and recently signed her first movie deal. Her clients include Robin Mellom, Janet Gurtler, Martha Brokenbrough, Kelly Milner Halls, Ralph Fletcher and Jen Arena. Jill also is the editor of DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD (KANE MILLER, 2012), a poetry anthology which includes Ellen Hopkins, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Recently, I talked to Jill about her work and her upcoming sessions at SpringMingle. Below are highlights of our conversation.

Q. Jill, you were an author before you were
an agent and (correct me if I’m wrong) you presently wear both hats. How
do you balance these two careers?

A. I
mostly agent. I have slowed down on my writing quite a bit. It is hard
to do it all as I also have 3 children. What I do love is creating
poetry anthologies like DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane Miller,
Fall 2012). I hope to come up with another great theme and create that
anthology some time in the future.

Q. I read online that you are a member of SCBWI. How has SCBWI helped you as a writer and an agent? 

A. I
love SCBWI. I have met all of my writer friends though SCBWI and many
of my clients through SCBWI conferences. I have learned so much, and
continue to learn from every conference I go to.

Q. Tell me a little about what to expect in your Spring Mingle general session, “Great Expections.” 

A. Beck
McDowell and I will be talking about what expectations are on both
sides of the author/agent relationship. What expectations are
reasonable? What are unreasonable? How do you work out those
differences? Plus all the ways an agent and author work together to grow
an author’s career.

Q. Your split session is “What
Makes a Manuscript Sale-able.” Is there one thing above everything else
that makes a manuscript salable? If so, what is that one thing? Can you tell us a little more about this session? 

A. I have a blog post called WHAT MAKES A BOOK SELL and I will quote some of it here:

“What makes a book sell to a publisher, and sell-through to readers?

is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many
facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you
forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not
how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse
will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!”

Q. I see you take email queries only. What triggers a “yes, send me the rest of the manuscript,” response from you?

A. When I can’t put those first 10 pages down and I have to find out what happens next. That = a YES!

Q. On the agency website, you say you’re interested in high
concept Young Adult Middle Grade Thrillers, Mystery, Romance, Romantic
Comedies, and Adventure manuscripts. Do you have a favorite from this
list? Is there a particular kind of manuscript that you’d really like to

A. I am
looking for original voices and concepts. There is no favorite. Simply, I
am looking for a book I cannot put down. A character I want to carry in
my head. Writing that blows me away.

Q. What are you absolutely not
looking for at this time? Is there a particular type of manuscript (or
first 10 pages) that you see over and over and wish you never had to see

A. I am not looking for poetry, plays,
screenplays, dystopia, vampires, devils and angels (I represent Martha
Brockenbrough’s DEVINE INTERVENTION, Arthur Levine/Scholastic 2012 and
the SWEET EVIL TRILOGY, HarperCollins, 2012, 21013, 2014), and
historical fiction for which the author has not done a great deal of research
for setting/dialog/plot/etc.

Q. You are the editor of DARE TO
DREAM. . . CHANGE THE WORLD (Kane Miller, 2012), a poetry anthology
which includes Ellen Hopkins, Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, & Lee
Bennett Hopkins. Tell me about this book.

A. My
inspiration for DARE TO DREAM…CHANGE THE WORLD came during a car
ride, listening to NPR cover the uprising of the Egyptian people against
their oppressive government. I have been to Egypt twice and remember
the extreme riches, and poverty, as well as needing to be escorted by
gunman with assault rifles to keep safe. I was overcome by the courage
of the Egyptian people and amazed by the role of social networking to
bring their dreams and actions instantly to the rest of the world.
To me, the tweets were like poetry, capturing the essence of
the people’s hopes, fears, strength and determination.

The title
of this collection sprung into being during that car ride as well as
the dream of a collection of poems by the best children’s poets living
today to share the spirit of dreaming + action = change and that each
one of us can make the world just a little better.

Dare to Dream
… Change the World pairs biographical and inspirational poems focusing
on people who invented something, stood for something, said something,
who defied the naysayers and not only changed their own lives, but the
lives of people all over the world.

The poets included were
chosen because they too have informed, inspired and engaged young
people throughout their careers with both their actions and their words.

My hope is that the Dare to Dream…Change the World can spark a paradigm shift from resigned to inspired.

Please see my website for
a free 30 page Common Core State Standards Curriculum Guide, bios of
the contributing poets, and information about the Annual Dare to
Dream Poetry Contest for Kids with prizes of donation of $1,500 worth of
Kane Miller and Usborne books to the winner’s school library or a
library of their choice plus an ebook to be published by Kane Miller of
the top 30 poems.

Q. There are many changes going
on in publishing. What are your feelings and predictions on the future
of writing, publishing, children’s book publishing, in 2013 and beyond?
Do you see e-books taking over? Do you see the rolls of agent, editor,
author changing? How do you feel about authors who self-publish?

A. Kids
need to read good books, plain and simple. An unedited, poorly
illustrated home-spun book is not going to cut it. BUT, for me
DISCOVERABILITY is the key to publishers survival. Publishers already
know how to publish great books. They do it better than most
self-published books. But, they need to hone their marketing and
publicity skills and develop new ways of reaching readers.

do not believe e-books will take over as much as they are another means
to share intellectual property with readers. The story, the words, the
characters, setting, plot, etc=the book. How we read it does not
determine the quality of that book.

Q.  On the same note, tell me about new books on the horizon for your current clients. 

A. I
can’t discuss all of them because some of them are hush,
hush….strange, right? But some ideas we keep under wraps to make a big
splash when they hit bookshelves and e-readers. Here are some books
coming in 2013:

Gurtler’s HOW I LOST YOU about two girls who have been best fiends
forever coming to terms with a change in their relationship and learning
when it’s best to hold on and when it’s best to let go, Sourcebooks
Fire, Spring 2013. This is Janet’s 5 YA book of 7 that she is writing
for Sourcebooks.

Mellom’s THE CLASSROOM, book 2, Hyperion-Disney. This is book 2 of a 4
book deal, and Robin also has her YA DITCHED plus a new YA coming out
from Hyperion soon.

Higgins’s SWEET PERIL and SWEET RECKONING, books 2 and 3 of the SWEET
EVIL trilogy, in which a half-angel/half-demon is our last hope to rid
the earth of demons and must choose between her love for Kaidan (son of
the demon of Lust) and her angelic destiny, HarperCollins 2013 &

Wendy Higgins’s
FLIRTING WITH MAYBE, in which a tenth-grade baseball star falls hard
for a senior girl but finds himself benched in the friend zone until one
drunken night changes everything, Harper Teen Impulse (this is a YA

Denise Lewis
twisted with the Southern African-American experience unearthing the raw
reality of prejudice, courage, perseverance and love, Carolrhoda Lab.

Urey’s debut SUPER SCHNOZ AND THE GATES OF SMELL, when a corporation
pollutes his school, a boy with a massive nose transforms into Super
Schnoz, a nostril-flaring, booger-blasting, crime-fighting superhero and
works with his friends to defeat evil, and save their summer vacation,
Albert Whitman.

Milner Halls’ COURAGEOUS CANINE, featuring a pitbull who lost her leg
when she saved her owner from an oncoming train; a pod of dolphins who
saved a surfer from a great white shark, and a gorilla who saved a
three-year old boy after he fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo,
National Geographic Children’s

Kenn Nesbitt’s KISS, KISS, GOOD NIGHT in which baby animals snuggle in tight with their mothers to say good night, Scholastic.

Reid’s LITTLE GREY, in which a baby elephant dreams of growing big
while spending a playful day in the forest with his mother, Random House
Children’s Books

And of course Beck
McDowell has more books coming!  IMMORTELLE, in which mysterious
mementoes in a New Orleans cemetery lure a girl into a terrifying
journey that leaves her wrapped in the arms of one boy and longing for
another, Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin will be coming to you in 2014.

There are so many more but the above is a sampling of what I rep.

Q. Have you ever been to Georgia? 

A. Nope and I am so looking forward to it.

Q. Anything else on the horizon that you can tell us about?

A. I
am starting a new educational venture to give writers the opportunity
to learn more about traditional publishing, publishers and agents. I am
just now creating these workshops so the topics and dates are still up
in the air. Workshops will be live, 9pm EST.

workshop will consist of 3 presenters plus a moderator. I will either
be on screen as facilitator…and in some workshops I will participate
as a presenter too.

Thanks, Jill. We’re looking forward to your SpringMingle visit and sessions. Here is more information on Jill’s sessions.

General Session: Great Expectations: what are the expectations on both sides of the author/agent relationship? What expectations are reasonable? What are unreasonable, and how do you work out those differences? This session will feature Jill with her author Beck McDowell.

Split Session: What Makes a Manuscript Sale-able? Providing examples of books from many genres, Jill will talk about what has sold as well as some which, while well written, were not contracted.

“It is NOT how fabulous your website or blog is. It is NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have, how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter. It is not how much editors and agents like you, though being a pain in the arse will NOT help you in any way, shape or form.

What sells a book is THE WRITING coupled with an ORIGINAL, COMPELLING CONCEPT!””

— Jill Corcoran

Want to know more about Jill Corcoran? Visit her blog or go to the Herman Agency, Inc. website here.

This blog post was originally published January 24, 2013

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