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Author & Agent Interview: Manuia Heinrich and Marin Takikawa

Today, we are thrilled to be interviewing Manuia Heinrich, a Mā'ohi writer, and her literary agent, Marin Takikawa. You can learn more about Manuia on her Twitter and Instagram, and more about Marin on her agency's website.

We started this Author & Agent blog series to spotlight Pacific Islander creators and their agents for Asian and Pacific Islander month. Our hope is that this series will inspire other Pacific Islanders interested in pursuing traditional publishing as creators or as agents. As we learned in the creation of our website, there is not a single Pacific Islander agent, and we hope to see that change.

Thank you for joining us!

Manuia's interview

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and the project for which you’ve found representation? What inspired you to write it? 

I write non-fiction, children’s fiction (mostly Young Adult), and short stories. The manuscript that got me my agent is a YA speculative thriller set in an alternate Polynesian island. It’s about a girl who hears the sea’s prophetic thoughts—a gift she’s shunned for years. But when her brother is wrongfully accused of murdering a white girl, reconciling with the ocean’s voice may be the only way to save her brother, herself, and her community. While the plot is a murder mystery, the story highlights the impacts of France’s nuclear tests (1966-1996) on the people and environment of my homeland, and this book interrogates communal responsibility. 

What resources did you use to compile your list of agents to query? What criteria did you use to build your list?

I used Query Tracker to search for agents who represent YA fiction. Then, I checked each agent’s wish list on their agency website. I read whatever information I could find about the agents (such as interviews) and reviewed their social media profiles to assess if we’d be a good fit. Some criteria I had were their preferences in books, their current interests, their client list and sales, and the reputation of their agency. 

Did you tailor your query to each agent?

I personalized a dozen queries (out of 29). Sometimes, agents mention that they want to know why you’re querying them, so it’s important to do your research. Whenever something specific prompted me to query an agent (like one of my comparative titles being on their MSWL), I noted that in the query. 

What about Marin made you query her?

Marin’s MSWL fit my book well and even included one of my comp titles. I’d read an interview with her and liked her determination to advocate for BIPOC authors. As a PI author, it was crucial for me to feel that my future agent would support me in a predominantly white industry. I also felt like her agency would be an excellent fit for me.

What advice would you give to Pacific Islander creators looking for agents?

Make sure your manuscript is polished and has been read by people other than your family to catch any inconsistencies and pacing issues. You’ll feel more confident knowing you’re sending out your best work. And don’t forget to do your research. Check out the agents you’re querying and be wary of any red flags. You want an agent who really gets your story, respects your background and culture, and believes in you and what you’re saying. Lastly, find your community and remember to celebrate each step along the way.

When Marin offered, what made you decide to sign with her? What criteria did you consider?

My query list was small but selective, so all the offers I got were from excellent agents. Ironically, that made choosing really hard! In the end, it just came down to a gut feeling. Marin was super enthusiastic about my book, and her editorial vision resonated with me. She came prepared with a submission strategy, had agency support, and again, so much enthusiasm! I just felt really comfortable working with her. And the best part was she really “got” my book and what I was trying to say. I had faith that she’d help me make it even better.

Marin's interview


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