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Chelsea Gilmore, Literary Agent with Maria Carvainis Agency Inc.

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales welcomes literary agent, Chelsea Gilmore as our guest chef today.

Chelsea started out at Oxford University Press, in the higher education group. After spending three years immersed in textbooks, Chelsea was given a wonderful opportunity to work with fiction novels at Avalon Books. At Avalon, she specialized in family-friendly romances, mysteries, and westerns for the library market. After spending some time at Avalon, Chelsea decided to try her hand on the other side of the desk, and accepted a fabulous offer from Maria Carvainis to be a literary agent with Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc., where she started in January of 2010.

Chelsea, tell us what has been the biggest change for you in going from a position as an acquiring editor to being a literary agent.

I think the biggest change is trying to figure out what will be successful in this ever-changing and highly competitive marketplace. Going from acquisitions to sales requires me to wear a more critical cap, so to speak, and really try to find manuscripts that I not only really like and admire, but also that I think are saleable in a tricky and cautious market.

What has been the most fun thing about your new job?  The most surprising?

I think the most fun thing is getting to read a wide variety of manuscripts. Since I’m no longer acquiring for a specific list, or worried about guidelines, the sky is the limit! It’s been fun reading the kinds of novels that I never would have been able to consider at previous jobs (and not having to edit out the sex scenes—yay!). I’ve also really been enjoying having Maria as a mentor, and learning about this side of the business. Having a new set of challenges is very fun for me. I guess the most surprising part would be how much work goes in to each manuscript, even at this level. It’s very important to send out the most polished work possible, and much like with authors submitting to houses or agents, it’s crucial to do your homework and know that you’re submitting to the right people.

Tell us about the Maria Carvainis Agency and your role there.

The agency has been around since the late 70s, and has an excellent reputation for working closely with clients, and helping them grow throughout their career. Maria is an incredible agent, and is very well-respected by her clients as well as others in the industry. She has an impressive list of New York Times bestselling clients, and works extremely diligently to make sure everyone is happy, growing, and feeling great about their career. She is truly a dynamo!


My role as a selling agent is essentially that of “talent scout.” I’m in the process of growing a list of clients, so I spend a lot of time trying to find new writers and reading as much as I possibly can. My goal is to find promising writers with unique voices, and to help get their work out to the masses.

Can you spell out the agency’s general requirements for a submission?

We kick it kind of ‘old school’ here, and generally prefer to receive a query letter by mail. Your query letter should be anywhere from one to three pages, and should give a general synopsis and maybe even a small writing sample. I am happy to accept emailed submissions in most cases, so please do feel free to email me.

What do you personally want to see in a submission?

I will often ask for a partial (the first three chapters) in addition to the query letter. This just helps me gauge the style, voice, and strength of the writing.

What genres are you currently looking to represent?

I am most interested in literary and women’s fiction, young adult, pop culture, and mystery/suspense/thriller. I do enjoy non-fiction if the right project comes along, but don’t have specific areas of non-fiction that I’m looking for at the moment.

More importantly, what are you looking for in a client and what should they expect from you?  (What, besides the writing attracts you to accept a new author?)

I am looking for clients with a can-do attitude. Folks with a real goal of succeeding, and who have ideas for multiple stories. A true passion for writing, and a dream of “making it” as a writer. I want clients who are as eager and hard-working as I am, and who understand that sometimes the process can take a while. I hope that I provide each of my clients with a sense of stability and enthusiasm. Close personal attention is a ‘must’ in my book, so I find it very important to get to know my clients well, and understand exactly what their goals and aspirations are. I promise to work as diligently as possible to make their writing a success.

If you could sit on their shoulders while they compose a submission, what would you be whispering in the writer’s ear?

One of the most important things I think every writer needs to keep in mind is the careful balance of revealing too much personal information, and making it personal enough to draw in the reader. The most crucial element of your submission letter is the story itself—that should be your main focus. Hook me in with something riveting that makes me really want to read your story.

I also think it’s very important that not only your query letter, but your actual manuscript be in as polished a state as possible. Naturally some errors and typos will slip in, but try to do as much editing beforehand as possible. It shows that you’re a professional and take your work very seriously.

Okay, I’ve got to ask.  In your opinion, what does it take to break into Romantic Suspense these days and is there a new trend that keeps crossing your transom?

Romantic Suspense is tricky! It’s such a popular genre, which means it’s a pretty saturated market. I think you really need to have a unique voice and have something pretty original in your story line. It’s crucial to have really strong and well-developed characters, and to have a plotline that’s incredibly engaging. It can be difficult finding that happy medium between the sexy and the suspenseful, so it’s important to not give either aspect short shrift. Read as much as you can in the genre, particularly with more popular and bestselling authors, so you know what’s out there and what readers expect from the genre. I also think that with any form of fiction writing, it’s absolutely necessary to join writing and critique groups, and bounce your ideas off of other writers.

I see that you’re going to be at Nationals in July.  Are you attending any other conferences in 2010?

I am so excited for Nashville! Not only have I never been, but my big brother also lives there, so I’m thrilled to be able to spend some time with him while I’m there. I also think that Nashville will be such a fun spot for this conference, which is always full of fabulous people and loads of activities. This year I will be attending a conference in New Mexico, as part of the Southwest Writers Association in conjunction with the University of New Mexico, which takes place later this month. I’ll also be going to Arizona in September, and attending NJRWA in October. I’m sure some other opportunities will arise, and I plan on attending as many conferences as possible.

If we were your best friend what might we know about you that most interviews don’t cover?

Hmmm…I’m not sure what’s interesting or worthy of note about me! I really love to cook (and eat!), and spend a lot of time in the kitchen. I also enjoy trying out new restaurants, and in New York, there’s never a dearth of fun new food! I’m also pretty in to the music scene, and try to see as much live music as possible, especially during nice weather.

What do you like to do in your downtime?

Surprisingly, reading is still at the top of my list! I actually have a book club with a group of friends that meets once a month, which is a lot of fun. I also like to cook, as I mentioned, and eating is a favorite hobby of mine. :c)  I also enjoy spending time outside in the various parks in and around the city. I like hanging out with friends, people watching, and checking out all of the different things the city has to offer.

Favorite junk food?

I don’t think I can pick just one! I loooove junk food of all kinds—ridiculously cheesy mac & cheese, pizza, chips, Tasty Kake treats, anything chocolate, and ice cream.

I-Pod on or I-Pod off when reading submissions?  What’s on your playlist?

I very rarely listen to music when reading submissions. I like to have all of my attention focused on what I’m reading, and sometimes find it too difficult to tune out the music. I do, however, listen to my iPod a lot when reading for fun. I have quite a mish-mash on my playlist right now, but my most recent obsession is this collaborative album by David Byrne and Fat Boy Slim, with a whole host of other artists contributing. It’s essentially a musical about the life of Imelda Marcos, growing up poor in the Philippines. It’s called “Here Lies Love.” Typing this makes me realize how random and weird this probably sounds, but I promise it’s really good!

Okay, readers.  Here’s where we open it up to your questions.

Tamara DeStefano - April 21, 2010 - 7:17 am

Wow, what a great post. I’m so glad we got to not only hear about your professional life as far as the agency goes, but also got a glimpse into the private world you live.
I love eating too by the way…junk food, is anything better?
And also, your Ipod selection doesn’t sound weird at all. The music speaks to you and that’s why we all have different taste. The words and rythm says something different to everyone who listens. It would be a pretty boring world if we all listened to the same song over and over.
Good luck to you in the future. Hope you find that best seller!
Have a wonderful day.
Tamara DeStefano

Jennifer McQuiston - April 21, 2010 - 7:24 am

Hi Chelsea, thanks so much for blogging here! Do you have any recommendations for how an emerging author can connect with brand new agents looking for fresh talent? Is it simply word of mouth, or are there any good websites/blogs that track them? So many of the agents out there have full client lists already.
Thanks so much!

Maxine Davis - April 21, 2010 - 7:43 am


I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for stopping by PF&HT.

You must have the most fun job– reading everyone’s “best attempt!”

My question: IF a book is accepted for publishing, about how long does it take for it to appear in print?

Thank you in advance for taking time from your schedule. I hope I get to say “Hello” at Nashville.

Linsey Lanier - April 21, 2010 - 7:49 am

Chelsea, congratulations on a terrific career move! And thanks so much for being with us today. Your comments about romantic suspense are interesting. Is it just competitive, or not really selling right now? I’m working on one, but I have an idea for a paranormal (urban fantasy) and wonder which one I should give priority. (By the way, I love junk food, too. I’m married to a Foodie. The Food Network is our favorite.)

Sally Kilpatrick - April 21, 2010 - 8:06 am


Thanks for dropping by–it’s so good to say ‘hello’ again!

You mentioned women’s fiction, is there anything in particular that you are or are NOT looking for in women’s fiction?


Sandra Elzie - April 21, 2010 - 8:11 am

Good morning Chelsea,
Thank you so much for joining us today. Also, congrats on your move from editor to agent.

Alas, like you and Tamara, I love to cook …and eat…too much. Seems every time I stand up to stretch my back after writing for an hour or so, I seem to gravitate toward the kitchen. Ugh!

My question: Are there any subjects or themes that you’ve seen so many times that you hope you never see another submission along those lines?

Also, book series seem to be popular right now…Harry Potter, etc. Does it appear that this will continue? Is it harder to find a publishing home for a series versus a single title?

Thanks again for joining us today.


Marilyn Baron - April 21, 2010 - 8:43 am

Thank you so much for blogging with us today. I enjoyed meeting you at the GRW conference in October and I’m so glad you are enjoying your new job on the agency side.Thanks for all your wonderful advice. All your talk of food in New York reminds me of the trip I just took to visit my daughter there a couple of weeks ago. It was one big eating fest. Since you’re such a good cook I wonder if you would be willing to share some of your favorite recipes with us. The Petit Fours are putting together a cookbook and we’d love to feature your recipes. If so one of us will be in touch. Thanks again for taking the time to blog with us. We really appreciate it.

Marilyn Baron

Elaine - April 21, 2010 - 8:54 am

Hi Chelsea,

Thanks so much for taking time out to do the Q&A. I met you at M&M last October and enjoyed your enthusiastic spirit.

My question is an extension of Sally’s above. Women’s Fiction is so broad, do you like or dislike any genre combining? For example, wfiction w/some paranormal, such as The House on Tradd St by Karen White? Or do you think the genre sells better without blending other genres into it?

Again, thanks for your time!

Elaine Burroughs

Miss Learning A Lesson - April 21, 2010 - 9:04 am

Morning, Chelsea,

Thanks for being here.

Lately I’ve been feeling like a pregnant teenager – ALONE, scared, regretful, sleepless nights, sick to my stomach, and oh, yeah, did I mention ALONE?

Q: Is it unprofessional to email an agent and beg, I mean ask, for advice regarding a contract? :roll:

Thanks again.

Nancy Naigle - April 21, 2010 - 9:17 am

Congratulations on your new role. I’m sure it will be a year of exciting moments with this new lens.

You can plunk my answer in with #4 — Women’s Fiction — if there’s a thread of suspense, but the story is still about the character’s journey — A-OK?

Thanks for the info!
Nancy Naigle
Love stories from the crossroad of small town and suspense.

Nicki Salcedo - April 21, 2010 - 9:19 am

Hi Chelsea, thanks as always for your honest and encouragement. We are lucky to know you. It goes without saying that you will have fun at Nationals, but don’t forget to find time to sleep! Hope to see you soon.

Tracey Devlyn - April 21, 2010 - 9:19 am

Hi Chelsea,

Great post! You mentioned you’re looking for women’s fiction. Do you have a specific interest in historical romance? If so, what have you recently read that you adored?

Also, if we wanted to email our submission to you, what’s the best way to do so. I was unable to locate a web site for your agency, so I couldn’t find your email address.


Johnny (Sir John) Ray - April 21, 2010 - 9:21 am

Hello Chelsea and thanks for the insights. I’ve heard many good things about you.
I have several completed manuscripts and trying to decide which one is the best for you. From romantic comedy to thrillers is a wide range. What do you consider the hottest area for you to pitch to editors now? Can you describe the novel you would love to see on your desk today?

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:22 am

Thank you so much for your kind comments, Tamara! I’m always delighted to hear from a fellow music and junk food lover!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:25 am


You pose an excellent question. I think any author’s best bet is to look at guides like Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Agents; Literary Marketplace; and the Guide to Literary Agents. Word of mouth is also incredibly valuable. Another excellent website to do some detective work on is Publisher’s Lunch, which lists tons of deals and conveniently tells you not only the editor and house who bought the book, but also the agent and agency who brokered the deal! And of course a quick Google search for literary agents can also be helpful.

Jessica - April 21, 2010 - 9:28 am

What an interesting interview! Chocolate and mac n cheese are my favorite foods! *grin*
Thanks for sharing.
Do you rep inspirational romances at all?

Monica McCabe - April 21, 2010 - 9:28 am

Hi Chelsea,

Nothing like a career change to keep things fresh and interesting! Congrats on making the move.

I have a question about romantic adventure. I love to read it & watch it in the movies. Stories like ‘Fools Gold’ or ‘Six Days Seven Nights’. Do you see much market for adventure at the publishers?

Thanks so much!
Monica McCabe

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:29 am


The turnaround time for publication varies from house to house. Most houses do their best to get books out as quickly as possible. Many have “seasons” or cycles that guide publication dates. What it often comes down to is the format (i.e. paperback or hard cover), the amount of work that needs to be done on the story, etc. There’s no real hard and fast rule in terms of a time line, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that you will see your book in print within a year or so after it has been accepted for publication.

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:35 am


I think pretty much every sub-genre of romance is selling like hotcakes these days. In general, I’d say the two most popular genres are definitely romance and mystery/thrillers right now. People are really looking to escape when they’re reading, especially during these difficult economic times. I definitely do not think that the interest in romantic suspense is waning, it just happens to be a very saturated area of the market, so publishers are being a lot more choosy about whose work they buy. I will also say that many of the larger houses in particular are a lot more cautious about taking a chance on a new author. They seem much more comfortable working with a known quantity. That’s certainly not to say that if you’ve never been published you should give up hope! Just keep in mind that the industry is being more cautious and selective than ever, so it’s even more important to get yourself out there as much as possible, and try to roll with the punches (oftentimes it is a lengthy process). In terms of paranormal/fantasy versus romantic suspense, I always think it’s best to write whichever is grabbing you more at the moment. Both genres are flourishing, so I don’t think you can really go wrong in terms of which story you finish first. Good luck!

Susan - April 21, 2010 - 9:37 am

Thanks for being here with us today. Congrats on the move to being an agent. It was a pleasure to meet you last year at M&M. My question is: Do you already have a slush pile of manuscripts?

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:38 am


It’s so nice to hear from you! I read pretty much every variety of women’s fiction–there’s no one topic that I like more than others, and there aren’t really any that I dislike. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that inspirational stories are not really my bag…I don’t know enough about them to feel confident in evaluating their saleability. Aside from that, bring it on–I’ll read about vamps, werewolves, single moms–whatever you can throw my way!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:46 am


It’s always a pleasure to hear from you! Series are so insanely popular right now, and I don’t think that we’ll see a decline in their popularity any time soon. I honestly think that it’s easier to sell a series than single title right now. It shows publishers (and agents) that you are not a “one hit wonder,” so to speak, and that you have taken the time to put together a long-term writing plan. It is almost always in the best interest of the publisher (and naturally of the agent as well) to work with authors who have a lot of growth potential, who can be “groomed” and expand with each novel.

In terms of themes or subjects that I’m burnt out on…hmmm…it really depends. I think a lot of writers who have been at it for a while and haven’t had much success in getting published often try to write for the market, rather than writing what they’re passionate about. Paranormal is what really comes to mind in this instance. If you are not in to paranormal stories, don’t try to write one. It’s not an easy genre to pull off, especially if you’re not burning to do it. I think that as long as you are confident in your writing, have a strong voice, a compelling plot, and well-developed characters, the subject and theme will never feel stale or boring. I say this all the time, but I think it bears repeating, “Write what you know.”

Kristan Higgins - April 21, 2010 - 9:47 am

Hi, Chelsea! Heard you were blogging here and just wanted to say hello. Looking forward to meeting you in person soon!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:48 am


Very nice to hear from you! I actually was approached by Debbie and Maxine to contribute to your fabulous cookbook, and sent them 3 recipes. I hope everyone enjoys them! I was so honored to participate, and cannot wait to see the finished product!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:54 am

Miss Learning a Lesson,

Hang in there–you’re not alone, I promise! I think it is probably OK to ask for some advice, but I would recommend trying to find a lawyer who can walk you through the finer points of the contract. I suspect most agents might be a little hesitant to assist someone who is not a client. Other writers, particularly those who have been published and have some familiarity with contracts could also be extremely helpful. The legalese used in contracts can often be intimidating, but underneath all those $5 words, most of the clauses are fairly straight forward. There is also a book called “Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract,” which might be very useful. Best of luck!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:58 am

Nancy and Elaine,

I don’t think that there is really such a thing as a “bad combination” in terms of themes in women’s fiction, or really in fiction in general. I mean, look at the bestselling “Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies”–if that book can make it to the NYT’s bestsellers list, I feel like just about anything can!

I think it’s important to not let yourself get too wrapped up in worrying about what precise genre your story fits in. If it’s a bit of a mish-mash of a few different genres, that’s perfectly OK. Just get those stories on paper!

Marilyn Baron - April 21, 2010 - 9:58 am

Thanks. I’m looking forward to seeing the recipes.

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:59 am


It’s so nice to hear from you! I hope you’re doing well, and I look forward to seeing you at Nationals. Maybe I can get another dance lesson!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 9:59 am


Thank you so much for stopping by! I am so excited to meet you in person, and I know Lyndsay is as well. Take care!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 10:04 am


While historical romance is not a genre that I am actively pursuing, it is one I enjoy and I am happy to accept queries. One of MCA’s clients is Mary Balogh, whose historical romances are absolutely fantastic. I am a big fan of Regencies (a term I use rather broadly, to include the Tudor, Edwardian, etc. eras). I also like historical fiction with some romantic elements.

My email address is:

The agency does not have a website, but our mailing address for queries, etc. is:

Maria Carvainis Agency, Inc.
Rockefeller Center
1270 Avenue of the Americas
Suite 2320
New York, NY 10020

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 10:08 am

Sir John,

Great name! There is not really a particular hot genre that I think is better than others to pitch to editors at the moment. I think the most important thing, regardless of what’s popular, is that the writing is really strong and the story is compelling. Whether it’s a political thriller or a paranormal romance, good writing is always what’s going to sell.

Start sending me those queries, and I’ll get back to you ASAP with the ones that grab my interest the most–can’t wait!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 10:10 am


I am glad to hear that two of my favorites made your “best hits in junk food” list! Unfortunately, I do not represent inspirational romance. I am afraid I simply do not know enough about the genre to effectively evaluate what’s saleable for that market. There are quite a few agencies who work with a lot of inspirational clients, so I’m sure you’ll find someone who is perfect for you.

Also, a little tip–check the front and back matter of some of your favorite inspirational authors and see who they acknowledge and thank…chances are their agent’s name is in there!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 10:12 am


I think adventure stories are a bit of a tough sell. It’s not a genre that has been super popular lately in terms of novels. Have you considered writing a screenplay? I feel like there’s much greater demand for action/adventure films, especially if they have some strong romantic elements.

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 10:14 am

Hi Susan,

Thanks so much! I do have a decent pile of manuscripts (all of which have been solicited, almost exclusively through queries). However, I am always, always, always looking for more! I am a fast reader, so I get through my stacks relatively quickly, so please keep me busy and send me queries!

Toni - April 21, 2010 - 10:27 am

Hey, Chelsea,

Thanks for the Q&A session today.

My question: Are you interested in contemporary single title romances? If so,do you want the first three chapters as an attachment or in the body of an email along with the query letter?

Thanks so much!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:06 pm


It’s been my pleasure! While I am not actively pursuing romances, I am of course always accepting queries and partials, and looking for something great. Please feel free to send the query in the body of the email with the partial attached (preferably in a Word document). Thanks!

Pat Brown - April 21, 2010 - 12:10 pm

My question is at what point in someone’s writing career can they send in a query about a nearly finished manuscript? I believe I’m a proven writer, I have several popular books in print, I’ve won a couple of awards and I get very good reviews. I am currently finishing up a noir historical set in 1929 L.A. and I’m very excited about it. I compare it to James Ellroy’s historical noir. I have the first part of the novel very polished and I’d like to start querying. I hear of authors getting deals when they only have an outline. I have a lot more than that. Should I still wait for it to be completely finished and polished from beginning to end as I did my others?

Walt Mussell - April 21, 2010 - 12:24 pm


Just dropping in to say hello as I heard you were the guest today. I enjoyed meeting you last year at M&M. Congratulations on your new role.

I researched your agency and I couldn’t see a “yes” or “no” with regards to anything inspirational. Is that an area for which you’re accepting queries?


Tami Brothers - April 21, 2010 - 12:29 pm

Thanks a ton for blogging with us today, Chelsea! This is all great stuff and your comments back to the readers are ever so valuable. I plan to print everything when we’re done.

I’m a HUGE Tasty Kake treat person. So I’m with ya on the snakin’ thing…

You’ve already answered the questions I had, along with a few I hadn’t thought to ask. So I’ll keep coming back today to see what others are asked.

Have a great day!


Dianna Love - April 21, 2010 - 12:33 pm

Chelsea –
I’ve heard wonderful things about you and your agency. It’s so nice of you to take the time to blog and share your insights with PFHT.

See you in Nashville and know you will enjoy the trip. I think you’ll find the hotel itself entertaining.

Nancy - April 21, 2010 - 12:41 pm

Hi Chelsea,

Thanks so much for taking the time to blog today. As a soon-to-be-querying writer, it’s wonderful to have all this great info. I’m glad to see that mysteries are one of your interests, and wonder whether you’re interested in queries for historical mysteries?

Looking forward to reading more Q&A. Very generous of you to give us so much of your time today.


Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:44 pm


That’s a very good question, and not one that’s got a really straight forward answer. If you are someone whose novels have been published mainly at the same house or are a bestseller, it’s much easier to sell an incomplete novel. However, most houses and agencies (especially now that the market is struggling) really want to see a full, complete story. Because you are established, and you say your story is nearly finished, I think you probably stand a good chance of being able to query on something incomplete. That said, if you’re really close to the end, it might make more sense to just wrap things up and then start sending it out. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you toot your horn about your reviews, etc. in your query letter!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:48 pm

Hi Walt,

Nice to hear from you! I’m sorry to say that we do not handle inspirational stories at the agency at this time. Best of luck!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:48 pm

Hi Tami,

The peanut butter candy cakes are my absolute favorite! Very nice to hear from you, and I wish you all the best!

Carol Kilgore - April 21, 2010 - 12:48 pm

Hi Chelsea,

Thanks for blogging here today and sharing your knowledge. And thanks to Debbie for bringing her onboard.

You said series are easier to sell. If you’ve written a stand-alone but have ideas for turning it into a series, how is the best way to communicate that to an agent?

All your answers have been wonderful. I’ve learned a lot.


Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:49 pm

Thanks so much, Dianna! I look forward to bumping in to you at the conference–I think it’s going to be a blast!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:51 pm


I am absolutely interested in hearing about historical mysteries! Please send me your query at your convenience. Thanks!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 12:52 pm


I think you can just come right on out and say it. First and foremost, plug the book that’s complete, but definitely inform any and all agents you’re querying that you have ideas to turn it into a series. If you can provide a short paragraph that summarizes the general plot points of the other books in the series, all the better. Also, if you have a general timeline of when you expect to complete the other stories, that’s great information to share as well. Good luck!

Marilyn Estes - April 21, 2010 - 12:53 pm

Hi Chelsea

I just wanted to say thanks for joining the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales today – it’s been a fun and very informative read. I enjoyed meeting you at M&M last fall (I’m the outcast who likes to write family-friendly paranormal comedies), and I’m happy to hear you’re doing well in your move into agency life.

The question for you that dominates anything else in my head, have you ever had mac-and-cheese pizza? When done well, you’re already thinking about the next slice while you’re still working on the one in your hand.

Renee Pace - April 21, 2010 - 1:02 pm

Very interesting post. I am wondering about your YA interest? I have three YA mss I’ve been tweaking. One is a paranormal, the other edgy YA paranormal and finally a coming of age, nitty gritty story with a boy’s 1st person voice and a dog – lol. What do you recommend if an author has more than one mss ready to go? Thanks.

Carol Burnside - April 21, 2010 - 1:19 pm

It’s great to have you with us today, Chelsea. Congratulations on your new role in publishing.

You’ve said that you’re “not actively pursuing romance”, are you interested in seeing series/category romance at all? How about sci-fi erotic romance?

Debbie Kaufman - April 21, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Hey Chelsea: What do you think of contest wins on a query? How much or little do they influence you to ask for more?

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 1:53 pm

Hi Marilyn,

Lovely to hear from you! Is it terrible that I started salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs just reading about mac n’ cheese pizza?! The closest thing I’ve had is pasta pizza, which is good, but would give Dr. Atkin’s coronary arrest! I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for a mac n’ cheese slice. Thanks for the tip!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 1:55 pm


I would be delighted to read queries on all of your YA novels. YA is a HUGE passion of mine, and an area that I’m really looking to sign in.

In terms of submitting to other agents who are interested in YA, I think that you should try to find out who some of their clients are and what they’re looking for, so you can pitch the story you think will be most appealing to them. If their interests in YA are broad (like mine)–send them all!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 1:57 pm

Thanks so much, Carol! At this time, I am not really looking at category, and I’m afraid I have little to no familiarity with sci-fi erotica. Have you tried Ellora’s Cave? I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you, but I can assure you there are plenty of agents and houses who are looking at both genres. Good luck!

Sally Kilpatrick - April 21, 2010 - 1:57 pm

Thanks for all of this GREAT information, Chelsea! When I finish my latest, I’ll query you–it’s a women’s fiction novel about vampire soccer moms and their feud with zombie working moms. (No, it’s not. I’m SO kidding.)

I’ll happily join you for dance lessons at Nationals–you’ll have to find DeeDee,too, though. Just ask her about the stanky leg.

J Perry Stone - April 21, 2010 - 2:00 pm

This line right here–“It’s essentially a musical about the life of Imelda Marcos, growing up poor in the Philippines”–should encourage all us writers that there are people out there who think/acquire/listen outside the box.

That makes me very happy.

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 2:03 pm


I always think it’s a good idea to mention any contests you’ve placed in, been nominated for, etc. in a query. For me personally, it doesn’t carry a ton of weight–the writing and the story are more important to me than winning a contest, but it certainly doesn’t hurt! I think the thing to keep in mind is that unless the editor or agent you’re querying was involved in judging the contest, they have no way of really knowing how your work compares to the other participants, so it’s hard to say if someone’s entry won because it was truly spectacular, or if it was just the best based on the competition. I do think that being involved in contests, whether you’ve won or not, shows editors and agents that you are really putting yourself and your work out there, and that will always be a positive thing!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 2:05 pm

I’ve got tears running down my cheeks, Sally! I can’t wait to read whatever it is you’re going to send me!

That DeeDee was such a trooper, trying to show this pathetic and awkward girl how to do that Soulja Boy dance…I’m petrified of what the stanky leg must involve, but with you by my side I’ll be ready and willing to humiliate myself yet again!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 2:07 pm

J Perry,

Thank you! My musical tastes are certainly eclectic, and I appreciate anyone’s effort to think outside the box, be it with writing, music, food, or whatever! If you go to NPR you can listen to “Here Lies Love” for free, I think. It’s truly fabulous!

And in case anyone is curious, yes, I am THAT GIRL on the subway mouthing words and bopping around obliviously…I’m sure people think I’m crazy, but that’s fine with me!

Tammy Schubert - April 21, 2010 - 3:09 pm

Thank you so much for joining us today!

Congratulations on your career move. I can feel your excitement and passion for books coming through in your posts.

I’m one of those readers who have made the move to the Kindle and never plan to go back to printed books, except reference material. There is a lot of controversy over pricing right now. Many readers are in an uproar over the fact Amazon was forced to go with the new industry model, which increased the price of e-books. How do you see all this shaking out over the next few months? Do you feel the price of e-books may drop a bit in response to the arguments supporting the lower costs?

How are published authors reacting/responding to this new media option?

Not too long ago, I found an article written by an unknown who said big name published authors can cut out the publisher and start publishing on their own. Personally, I don’t see why they would do this because there is so much that goes into creating the final product. They need people to help them get the product pulled together. So is this a viable threat to publishing houses that is looming on the horizon or do you think it’s nonsense?

Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found this article; otherwies, I would post a link. Sorry about that.

Have a great day!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 3:53 pm

Thanks, Tammy!

E-books, electronic self-publishing, and Amazon are all super hot topics right now. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know that anyone can say with any certainty exactly what all of these changes will mean for the industry as a whole, or for authors. (But rest assured, printed books are not going anywhere!) I have been to several panel discussions on the topic recently, and the general response seems pretty much be, “We’ll have to wait and see.” Agents in particular are wary of locking anything down in writing at the moment, because no one knows what the fairest and best deal is; while the publishers are scrambling to get good deals with companies like Amazon and Apple. It is hard to say whether or not the prices of e-books will drop. For certain, the prices will have to have price parity across all the various platforms–the Nook, Kindle, Sony e-reader, iPad, etc. in order to keep customers happy.

The publishers’ argument has been that setting up their production departments to produce digital files has cost quite a bit of money. But on the other hand, it’s a one-time cost to generate an e-book–you don’t have to worry about printing and binding costs, remainders, storage, etc.

I think authors are having a pretty positive reaction to having their books available electronically. The biggest issue is are they getting the best royalty rate, and this is also a big concern for agents, who are looking out for their clients’ best interests. The truly fabulous thing about e-books, especially from an established author’s perspective, is that an author’s reverted backlist can now be a goldmine of previously unforeseen opportunity. Selling electronic versions of backlist titles not only keeps the author earning on books that are no longer in print (and therefore not earning royalties), but also helps to advertise their newer books.

I have to say that I disagree about big name authors cutting out the publisher to do their own publishing. There’s a lot more to publishing than simply printing out pages and slapping on a cover. Publishing houses are great support systems, with everything from dedicated editors, promotions and marketing depts., sales teams, etc. In other words, I don’t think any publishers are shaking in their boots, worried that their best selling authors are going to go it alone.

I’m sorry my response isn’t exactly a wealth of new information, but I’m trying to navigate what all this means along with the authors and publishers! :c) I am hopeful that by the end of the year, we’ll have more concrete answers for everyone.

Darcy Crowder - April 21, 2010 - 3:59 pm

Hi Chelsea! Thank you so much for being with us today and taking the time to give us so much wonderful information. I really enjoyed having lunch with you at M&M last year and look foward to bumping into you at nationals. I hear the hotel is absolutely HUGE. :)

I’m also working on a women’s fiction and would love to query you when it’s finished.

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 4:14 pm

This has been a fantastic day for me, chatting and answering questions, so thank YOU, Darcy! I also look forward to seeing you in Nashville…let’s hope I don’t get lost in the hotel (my navigational skills are severely lacking)!

Can’t wait to read that query when you’re ready! Take care!

Tammy Schubert - April 21, 2010 - 4:15 pm

Chelsea, your answers were great. Thank you for taking the time to go through it all.

Don’t tell my husband, but I spend a ton of money on books. It’s become an addiction. Anyway, once I find an author I like, I go searching for everything on their backlist. This is one of the reasons I love e-books. Hopefully, more and more authors will be putting up their backlists.

Thank you for your time today!

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 4:42 pm

It’s absolutely my pleasure, Tammy! Book buying is an addiction of mine, as well. I’m lucky enough to have some great friends in publishing who help feed my addiction with wonderful free books, which leaves me more money for the important things like shoes and purses! :c)

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 4:48 pm

Just a heads up that my day in the office is winding down, so please try to get in any last questions by about 5:15. I’ll check in tomorrow morning to see if there is anything I missed. If I have inadvertently not responded to anyone, please give me a shout!

Thank you all so very much for asking me to guest blog today. I have had a wonderful time, and hope that this has been helpful. I look forward to seeing you all in Nashville!

Chris - April 21, 2010 - 5:04 pm

Chelsea, thanks for the information. It was an interesting read. But I am wondering do you work with only women writers, or are you willing to work male mystery writers as well?

Chelsea - April 21, 2010 - 5:30 pm

OK folks–I’m off like a prom dress!

Thank you so much for making this such a fun experience. I look forward to hearing from you, and hope to be invited back soon! Until then, I wish you all the best and happy writing!

Marilyn Estes - April 21, 2010 - 5:40 pm

I’d like to add that I’d read Sally’s vampire soccer moms and their feud with zombie working moms novel – so NOT kidding, Sally -but I think it might make more sense if they were zombie soccer moms (daylight, driving mini-vans with their eyes closed) and vampire working moms (“I’ve got a breakfast meeting that’s going to be murder – Billy, put down that milk.”).

Carol Kilgore - April 21, 2010 - 6:25 pm

Thanks, Chelsea, for the series information. And all the other, too.

Jenni Holbrook - April 21, 2010 - 8:25 pm

Hi Chelsea!

What a wonderful interview. Thanks so much for sharing with us all. Great information for all writers!

Dijana Harker - April 22, 2010 - 12:29 am

That was a great interview!!! Thank you for posting it. I had a quick question. What is Chelsea’s email address? She kept telling people to query her that way, and I’m not having luck looking online. Thank you!

Debbie Kaufman - April 22, 2010 - 7:36 am

Dijana: Look back in the comments. Chelsea left it there along with a snail mail address.

Industry News: 4/24/10 | RWA-WF - April 24, 2010 - 12:57 pm

[…] an interview on Petit Four and Hot Tamale, Chelsea Gilmore with the Maria Carvainis Agency, a former Avalon […]

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