Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Is Often More Than The Book

The publishing industry, and especially the acquisition aspect of it is a pretty bizarre world. We are making decisions about the success of a book simply by reviewing these random submissions that cross our desk. We evaluate the quality of the writing, the marketability of the story, whether we like the characters or not, and certainly the plot lines. And yet, when it comes down to making a decision on whether we want to offer representation, or whether an editor wants to publish a book, there are certainly more factors that come into play that I do believe, many authors forget.

As an agent, when I look at a project, obviously the first thing that I work with is whether or not I like the story. We start here since this is the "product" we will be marketing. So, let's assume the project really does work for me. I love it and now it is time to start thinking about whether or not I want to offer representation. This is where we have to bring the author into the picture.

We have to remember that working with an author is much more than simply selling that manuscript. It is about the person. Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks once commented that they "sign authors and not simply sign books." I think this says a lot. Sure, the book is the vehicle we will be working with and hopefully using as a foundation to build a career, but the author is that central driving force.

Along the same lines, Tracy Sherrod of Harper Collins told me one day as we were talking about one of the Greyhaus authors, that she wanted a chance to really chat with the author, get to know her and really make sure they were on the same page. She continued by noting that hopefully they would be working together for a long time and she wanted this to work out.

This is a marriage. Whether it is with an agent or an editor, this is a long term commitment and no one wants to jump into the whole thing blind.

Along with the interpersonal aspect, as an agent, I also look at what else the person has to offer. Again, I am currently looking at potentially signing a couple of authors and I want to see if the author really has a vision of his or her career. We aren't looking to sign a "one hit wonder." We want to see if the author is a complete package and has that sense of a future.

I think it is very important to remember that you as an author have to think about what the "package" is that you are selling to the agents and editors. What do you have to offer? Do you have a sense of the future? Are you ready to make that long term commitment? 

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