Jennifer Azantian assists Sandra Dijkstra and Elise Capron, and manages incoming submissions for SDLA. At the University of California, San Diego, she studied clinical and developmental child psychology, and graduated cum laude in 2010. After graduation, she spent a wonderful summer interning at the Dijkstra agency before joining full-time in fall of 2011.
Beyond university, Azantian is a published author of several short stories and brings to the agency her passion for literature born of a writer’s heart. Her personal tastes run toward all flavors of the fantastic. She believes that it is against the backdrop of fantasy and science fiction that basic human truths can be best examined, magnified, and delighted in. She has just begun to acquire projects and welcomes all submissions that match her interests.
Now on to the FIVE QUESTIONS
1. How important is a platform for new and established authors in the 21st century?
For me, having a platform before publishing a first novel is a bonus but definitely not a necessity. Especially for the science fiction and fantasy genres, I think platform is something that can be built over time. For that reason, I’d say that it would be great if an author had a pre-established audience, but if they didn’t, there is nothing wrong with just focusing on their work. It’s too easy to get lost in how many twitter and facebook friends you have and how many re-pins your boards get and forget to be writing!
2. On your agency’s website, it states you are only looking for “young-adult science-fiction and fantasy (including all of their sub-genres).” What does the novel have to have to draw you in?
For a novel to draw me in, I have to be excited about the ideas presented and moved by the voice. I’m looking for stories with concepts that make me perk up from my stack of reading and go, “Whoa, that’s different.” Really thinking about why each plot point must occur and trying to set the story apart through creativity is a great place to start. Beyond that, I also have to want to spend time with the characters. They need to be individuals and not devices, have specific qualities, and behave in a manner that is consistent with those qualities. Finding a new project is about as easy to find as true love, but the great thing for authors is that, just as in love, what moves us is different for every agent.
3. What is the most common mistake most authors make when pitching an agent at a conference?
The most common mistake I see authors make when pitching an agent at a conference is not doing their research (or in some cases disregarding guidelines because there is no agent at the conference that quite fits their project). Writers spend months and years on their work. It’s equally important to spend time on finding the right agent for them, one that represents their type of work and whose style fits well with the author’s needs. It’s easy to get excited about any agent because they signify that next step to the publishing goal, but if I’m approached with a piece of writing in a genre or age-group that I don’t represent, there isn’t much a can do. I simply won’t have the right insight and connects to bring that project to light.
4. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
As cliché as it sounds: Write Every Day and Keep Moving Forward. With rare exception, it takes time to develop the craft of writing, to figure out what works and what doesn’t for you. The only way to get better at anything is to practice. Make writing a priority in your life, and be consistent with it. Don’t put down your work publicly, and try your very best not to do it privately, either. Editing is imperative; self-deprecation is not. I truly believe what separates those who are successful from those who are not is that the successful ones never quit.
5. Finally, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Star Wars. Wait, what was the question, again?