Agent Panel Recap

I did a panel last night at Romance Academy with Kevan Lyon, Rebecca Friedman, and Dan Mandel. Here are some of the big questions and how I responded.

1. What makes for a strong communication between agent and author? What can authors do to have the best possible working relationships? What should they expect from their agents?
The agent-author relationship is like a long distance romance. There has to be communication and checking in, even if there's not necessarily new news. I definitely send a lot of "I'm thinking about you and your book" emails with quick updates. As a result I think honesty is essential. In the sense that as soon as there's a problem or even the inkling of a problem, both the author and agent have to be open and bring it up. I also always ask my clients to cc me on everything. I might not respond if it's an editorial conversation with their editor but it's important I know what's going on.
2. Do you have any advice for authors making the transition from self-publishing to traditional publishing? What are common hurdles and how can authors get over them?
Self-publishing and traditional publishing are two totally different beasts. There are really good things--and not so good things--about both and they're different. One of the biggest differences is control. When you're self-publishing, you have all the control and as a result, all the responsibility. When you're publishing traditionally, you have a team of people helping you, but at the same time, there's a lot that isn't in your control anymore. You need to have a realistic strategy and you need to be able to talk to your agent about what you want to be a part of so you don't feel a little lost suddenly.
3. How involved are you in revisions?
I usually read the early draft of all my client's manuscripts and offer some notes. If they don't have an editor, there's going to be more notes. If they do, there will probably be a little less. Occasionally when we're on a time crunch, a client might send the manuscript directly to their editor, but I always try to read every version of the manuscript as it goes through the editing process. That way I'm intimately familiar with the book in case the author needs my opinion.
4. Is there any genre you wish you saw more of?
Magical realism. I'm not sure why, but I've been really interested in magical realism in NA and Women's Fiction and even YA or middle grade.
5. What do you look for in a potential new client? What makes you fall in love with a project?
I want a talented writer who's going to roll with the punches and be proactive when it comes to promotion of course. :) I'd much rather work with someone who asks a lot of questions and puts themselves out there than someone I never hear from.
Characters make me fall in love with projects. I will follow an unforgettable character anywhere.
6. What advice would you give to an author who just revised and polished her first novel?
Get a critique partner who reads and writes your genre and have them read and give notes. Then revise and polish again. I see a lot of manuscripts that are decent and good. I see a lot of manuscripts that have potential to be great. But I don't see a lot that's unforgettable. It's when writers revise a little more and really dig deep to reach the potential, that's when I read it and think WOW I HAVE TO WORK ON THIS.
7. How has the book industry changed from your perspective over the past five years? How do you imagine it changing further?
Digitally we've seen the most changes. Everything from new publishing ventures to an explosion of the success an author can have when self-publishing. There are just a lot more options now. And that's great, but it also can create a whole new host of potential problems.
8. Where do you stand on the traditional publishing vs. self-publishing debate? Do you firmly throw your hat in one category or do you think there's a time and place for each?
There's definitely a time and place for each. Who the author is and what their strengths are and the market for the particular project are important factors. I firmly throw my hat into HAVING A PLAN no matter which route you're going.
9. Warning: this may be controversial: coffee or tea?
Tea. I actually can't stand coffee. Like I don't even like tiramisu or coffee ice cream.
10. If you could spend a day with any character from a book, who would you choose and why?
Elizabeth Bennet once she's married, because who wouldn't want to spend a day at Pemberly as a guest (not a servant) and then come back to life with wifi and electricity and sensodyne.

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Rebekkah Niles said...

Thank goodness--there's another person alive who doesn't like tiramisu! Coffee, nature's biggest lie: smells amazing, tastes like death.

Thanks for sharing your answers to these questions! Very interesting to hear.

Emma said...

Thanks for your insightful answers! I'm right there with you on following unforgettable characters. I can forgive a book for a lot of things if the main character speaks to me on every level.

jennifermhartsock said...

I love that you encourage communication, even if it's not ground-breaking news. It's a professional relationship, of course, but I imagine it should also be one of trust and mutual investment.

Thank you!

Erin Kane Spock said...

Thank you for sharing. You're answers are to the point and really helpful.
I totally agree about character driven work. The hardest part of every project I work on is the ending because I don't want to be done with my characters. Perhaps I should start writing series. :)