Mar 14, 2016
Have you ever worked with a literary agent? What benefits can an
agent offer to authors navigating their options: self-publish, sign
a traditional deal, or take a hybrid approach? We delve into these
questions and more in this interview, our first on the podcast
focusing on literary agents. Amy Tannenbaum from the Jane Rotrosen
Agency offers the agent's perspective, chatting with KWL Manager
Christine Munroe about:
- Amy's background as an editor at Simon & Schuster for many
years. She had begun to acquire self-published authors, but they
always asked her if they should work with an agent. When she
replied yes, they always asked for a recommendation. Eventually,
she decided that she wanted to fill that role.
- As part of a bigger full-service literary agency, Amy is able
to offer her clients support in pursuing opportunities in foreign,
audio, and film and TV rights.
- The majority of new clients she takes on are self-published
authors looking for a traditional deal. That's how she started out
building a client list as an agent, and she takes on most of her
new authors through recommendations from her existing clients. That
being said, the industry changes constantly so the picture may look
different a year from now!
- Does she approach working with authors different based on their
publishing path? No - it's all about career management, and what
the right option is for each book. "Most readers don't care about
whether a book is self-published or traditionally published. They
just want to read a great story."
- A few years ago, publishers were hungrily acquiring
self-published titles, and you could more easily sell a book based
on sales track record. Now, publishers are more selective, and the
emphasis has shifted back more to the quality of the voice and
writing. Sales numbers and social media presence certainly help,
but they're not enough.
- That being said, if your ultimate goal is to be traditionally
published and you're having difficulty getting the attention of an
agent or publisher directly, then trying to build your own
successful sales track through self-publishing will definitely help
build your case to make it happen.
- With every author looking to switch from indie to traditional,
Amy extensively discusses the pros and cons of that decision.
Authors won't be able to use their cover designer, choose their
editor, set their prices, set a release schedule, etc. On the plus
side, though, they're gaining a support team taking the business
side (and the pre-publication costs) off their plate.
- The major thing traditional publishers still offer is print
distribution - this is the typical tipping point for indie authors
wanting a publishing contract.
- In the reverse direction, traditional authors often go indie
when they have a book that their traditional publisher isn't
interested in publishing.
- Christine's experience working as an agent before
self-publishing became a viable option for writers, when a
publisher saying "no" was potentially the end of a writing career.
We're in an exciting time now, when authors have many options.
- When Amy is looking at a potential new client, she looks
primarily at the writing. Then, she looks at social media - and not
necessarily just reach, but engagement level with fans.
- Most common error to avoid: submitting to an agent who doesn't
represent the genre you write in.
- Most successful way to get an agent: get a recommendation from
one of their current clients. So make friends with other authors,
engage with them, check the acknowledgements of similar books where
authors will thank their agents.