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OKAY. ON WITH THE SHOW! The Business of Writing, Getting a Literary Agent, and Getting Published with special guest Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary Services.
Lots of writers write for just themselves, for the pure joy of it. That’s awesome.
For many of us, though, the writer’s dream extends beyond that. We write stories and books for ourselves, yeah, but c’mon…we really want to see them get published.
We have visions of hotshot literary agents calling us. We plan out snappy lines we’ll say in our meetings at tony publishing houses. We forsee fan mail and royalty checks choking our mailboxes.
OK, maybe not all that. But admit it. Those visions drive lots of writers. And that’s awesome, too. (Also perhaps delusional, but all writers kind of are anyway…)
Why’s it awesome? Because:
The moment you start thinking about publishing your work, you become a writer in the business of writing.
On today’s show, we get all kinds of publishing scoop from one of the best in the biz: Adriann Ranta, literary agent with Wolf Literary Services. Representing bestsellers like William Shakespeare Star Wars and Anna Dressed in Blood, Adriann knows her stuff. She gives us some great insights into the writer-agent relationship, tips for querying an agent, what’s in and what’s out in publishing at the moment, how the publishing industry is changing, and what kind of fiction grabs an agent’s attention these days.
At the end of the show, Adriann gives us lots of contact information. Here’s a lot of those links for y’all:
- We kick things off with a breakdown of the relationship between writers and agents. It’s sort of a marriage, sort of like counseling, sort of a guide, and lots of work pitching and working the business side of the writing that the agent takes on in representing a writer.
- Agenting is still fundamentally a sales position; it helps when agents really love what they represent.
- Publishing is a very interactive industry, based on person-to person relationships; agents don’t like to work with crappy people. That personal relationship, and being pleasant to work with, really matters (along with writing a really great book).
- Some interesting trends from the agent’s perspective: there are lots of trends that seem to be endling (boy wizards, vampires), and others that are picking up, like narrative nonfiction and young adult fiction.
- But you can’t follow trends as a writer. Don’t write a book for the current market because by the time you write that book, the market will have moved on.
- How do agents work with a writer’s manuscript? Sometimes agents do a lot of editing and revising roles, depending on the project, but not often; usually for fiction and narrative nonfiction, the project has to be basically ready–maybe one round of revisions with the agent before submissions to publishers.
- Jody says she loves this editorial process with agents. They don’t really have lots of time to do in-depth editorial work, though, so most writers seek out that feedback elsewhere before showing work to their agents.
- How’s publishing changing? Editors are looking for very polished manuscripts, too; editors are very concerned with their company’s bottom line; Editors might really connect with a project but it gets shot down by the rest of the group because it didn’t feel viable financially.
- Adriann talks about the sea change in publishing in 2008 and all the mergers and conglomerations of big publishing houses since then. Before, an editor could’ve taken on a less-polished project they were in love with; in the current market, each project has to be exciting to editorial teams, sales teams, and marketing teams. It takes the enthusiasm of a whole collective of people for a book to get published, which makes it hard for groundbreaking, interesting, fresh writing to get past a board of people like that.
- Literary fiction is really hard to get published these days by a big publishing house. Agents, editors, publishing houses: all of them are leery of literary works (because of that bottom line thing–see above). BUT…
- …the smaller independent publishing houses are doing amazing things with talented new authors, being given a chance to show they can find an audience.
- Working with small independent publishing houses don’t always require an agent for manuscript submissions.
- What kind of fiction do agents perk up about these days? Young adult fiction seems to be the biggest boom right now.
- There are different kinds of literary agencies–some are big, corporate agencies like William Morris, and others are smaller, boutique agencies. Adriann discusses the differences between them and what a writer might look for in each.
- Adriann talks about some projects she’s worked on lately that have had some amazing success, including William Shakespeare Star Wars, and some projects in the pipeline like contemporary YA books and photography/lifestyle book profiling women living in spaces they’ve built themselves.
- What mistakes do writers make when querying an agent? Don’t try to do something crazy or amazing to catch an agent’s attention (gigantic scroll, origami pot-of-gold, story inside a giant fortune cookie). Research the basics of formatting your manuscript correctly and the proper format of a cover letter.
- If you’re interested in being an agent, it helps to LOVE books. And conversely, just wanting to be a writer does not mean you should work in publishing
That’ll do it for the show this week! Hope you learned lots–we sure did. Until next week, happy writing, y’all.
And here again are a bunch of links for Adriann Ranta and Wolf Literary Services: