Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Small Press 411: Agent Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

Bio: Pam joined Larsen Pomada as an Associate Literary Agent in 2012 to represent young adult and middle grade children’s book authors, and adult romance authors. Over the past four years Pam has become one of the top YA book bloggers in the country at She also partners her blog with Hicklebee’s, a children’s bookstore in San Jose, CA. Pam writes supernatural YA and MG fiction and is represented by Laurie McLean, also of Larsen Pomada Literary Agents. She lives in the Bay Area of California with her Dutch husband, two children–a boy and a girl the perfect set–a Jack Russell terrier, a bull dog puppy, and a small guinea pig. It is her greatest dream to own a menagerie.

Wishlist: Pam has a very extensive wishlist. To view the kinds of projects she'd like to see and her querying guidelines go here:

What do you think is the biggest misconception among writers today in regards to small presses? To bigger houses? To agents? What would you say to correct these thoughts?

I read a post by Victoria Scott who has The Collector coming out from Entangled on April 2nd. She sold another book way later to Scholastic and people began to congratulate her on finally getting REALLY published. She was REALLY published when she signed with Entangled. They have authors on the book lists all the time.

Is publishing your book with a small press a valid option for writers?

It absolutely is. And a lot of times you don't need an agent to do that. I do suggest if you do not have representation that you have a an entertainment lawyer look over your contract. Not all small presses are created equal and even though the contract check costs money it may save you some heartache down the road. There have been books I wanted to take but couldn't sign the author because they signed a contract that prevents an agent from taking work elsewhere. So be careful, but also be hopeful. There are amazing small presses out there. My favorites are Entangled and Spencer Hill Press.

How do you decide when to submit to a small press? Is it usually a last resort situation?

Because of money and marketing power I generally go to the big six first. There are times though when I have a book that is a genre mashup or something that I think the market is still in want of (dystopian for example) and small presses are a more viable option. They don't turn away from an entire genre as quickly as the bigger publishers.

What’s your process with submitting to a small press?

The same as submitting to anyone else. A great pitch letter and asking if they want to see the MS.

What do you think is the difference (if there is any) about what bigger houses are /aren’t looking for vs. what smaller houses are/aren’t looking for?

Ah, I ruined this question earlier didn't I? I am a ruiner of things. But yes. Smaller houses aren't bound by the OHMYGODWEBOUGHTTOOMUCHPARANORMAL hype. Their bosses don't tell them to stop buying that. So small presses become a viable option for placing books that NY has given up on.

Would you encourage a writer to self publish vs. signing with a small press? Why or why not?

I think that depends on the content of the book.

Are you more or less likely to consider a project that has an offer attached from a small press vs. one that doesn’t?

I no longer take queries from people who submit to me and small houses at the same time. Because the small houses have staff they can read a lot faster than me and when I get that email a week later 'I HAVE AN OFFER!' I used to try to read the book fast. But then I would also have to give it a very quick submission. There isn't time for me to evaluate the manuscript and plan a careful submission.

Does it matter to you when potential clients sub to small presses before/while they submit to agents?

Dang. I just keep doing this don't I? See above for I am psychic.

Have you ever experienced a client taking an offer from a small press over a larger house?

Yes actually. The editor wooed her.

Does signing with a small press inhibit an author from signing with a bigger house later? What about an agent? Does it help with either?

It doesn't harm, and it CAN help if all the variables are in the right place. If you didn't find representation for a book and you are confident in the press I say go for it. (after the lawyer check of the contract)

Have you noticed any differences in royalties/advances between a small press and a larger house? If so, what do you think are the advantages/disadvantages?

Smaller houses are paying bigger royalties, but most of the time they aren't pushing the same amount of books. There are breakout books of course, and distribution is a major issue. But small presses give escalators of royalties easier.

Do you notice a difference in the success of a book with a small press and a book with a bigger house?

That all depends on so many variables. How much marketing the book gets from the big six, how much publicity the small press can get together, whether the secret ritual was performed correctly...

As writers, the common view (especially to people entering the writing world in the current market) is: write a book, get an agent, get a big book deal. What are your thoughts on this kind of thinking?

I think that is still a great way to go. But this business is subjective and after 400 agent rejections maybe you should try a different route.

What’s the most important thing an author should consider before deciding to submit to a small press? Before he/she signs a contract?

That the 'come to the agent with a contract' doesn't mean a contract from an agent. Not because we don't love them, but because we lose time. They like to move fast. So if you are hunting an agent wait before submitting to houses.

Read every part of the contract. I know how exciting it is just to get one!

Anything else you would like to add?

I believe you covered it all!

Thanks, Pam, for your feedback! 

Don't forget to chime in and tell us what your thoughts are on Pam's answers, and everything you've heard this week! You can leave comments and find us on twitter at #SmallPress411. We really want to know what's going on in your head. 

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