The Class of 2K7 is still working on what this blog is all about. Who will read it? Booksellers? Librarians? Other writers? Reviewers? Friends? Family members? Wait—aren’t all those people potential readers of our books? Hopefully? Yes, hopefully. And hopefully we can provide a wide range of posts that are informative, entertaining, and interesting enough to get you all to come back, get to know and love us, (add us to your Friends list *hint hint*) and then, when our books come out, you’ll see our names on the shelves and say Hey! I know her/him! And buy our books. :-)
For your reading enjoyment, my friend and classmate Sarah Aronson and I (Jo Knowles) thought it might be fun to ask our Agent, Barry Goldblatt some questions about the business and just what we’re all getting into. Please feel free to make your own comments in the section below. We want to talk to you.
Sarah: What is your favorite part about being an agent?
Barry: There's so much I like about agenting, but I think really nothing tops that call to an author telling him/her that a manuscript has been sold, especially that first sale. That joy alone can make up for even a bad day.
Jo: Yay! Those calls are the best, I agree. :-) Next question: Who is your favorite client? Just kidding! But could you tell us what you look for in a potential client?
Barry: My favorite client is Libba, of course! ;^) I look for two things, primarily, in a new client: tremendous writing ability, and a compatible personality. If a writer has those two things, odds are I'm going to sign him/her, or at least try to.
Sarah: Do you see any new upcoming trends in children's lit?
Barry: If I could see trends coming, I'd be rich. ;^) In general, children's publishing, especially YA, is quite healthy at the moment, which bodes well. I am hearing more editors ask for middle grade and chapter books. It's nothing terribly new, but the explosion of YA lately has overshadowed those areas.
Jo: Is there anything you wish there was more of? In other words, do you see any holes that need to be filled?
Barry: Well, I'd love to see more American fantasy writers get published, and more different kinds of fantasy: Eastern and/or Indian themed fantasy (heck, any cultural fantasy that offers more than traditional Western settings and archetypes). I'd be thrilled to see science fiction make a comeback, at all age levels. I'd also like to see more recent historical fiction, set in the 60s, 70s and even 80s.
Sarah: What are some of your favorite books today?
Barry: Oh man, that's just so hard. OK, I'm going to blanket exclude clients' work, just to keep this a bit impartial. My recent favorites are THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak, WHITE TIME by Margo Lanagan, OCTAVIAN NOTHING by M.T. Anderson, LIFE AS WE KNEW IT by Susan Beth Pfeffer, and THE RULES OF SURVIVAL, by Nancy Werlin.
Jo: Ooh, I've only read one of those so far! *makes list* OK, every year you have a weekend-long retreat for your clients. What do you think the biggest benefits of this have been? (Besides all the great junk food, of course.)
Barry: From a business standpoint, the biggest benefit has been the books that have actually been born as a result, and which I've then gone on to sell. From a personal standpoint, I love that so many of my clients have become close friends. Writing can be such a lonely business, and knowing there's a community that's safe and nurturing and full of sage advice readily at hand is a wonderful thing. And I feel that I have grown to be a better agent because of that community, because my clients are comfortable enough to tell me what they like and don't like about what I'm doing.
Sarah: What are the three best things a new writer can do?
1. Read. Read everything.
2. Write constantly.
3. Ignore all the naysayers, the gossipers, etc. Then go back to #1 and #2.
Jo: On that note, what are some of the big mistakes you see lots of new writers make?
Barry: Many writers make basic mistakes (bad grammar, misspellings, etc), but the big mistakes I see are the failure to do proper business research (i.e. sending submissions incorrectly or to the wrong person), the failure to behave professionally, and the failure to put the real blood, sweat and tears time into a manuscript.
Jo: What is the absolute worst thing someone could do when subbing to you? What's the best thing?
Barry: The worst thing? Well, I guess sending me a nonfiction work of 250,000+ words promoting anti-Semitism...and no SASE for the return to boot! ;^) The best thing is to be professional, follow my guidelines, and send me something that just plain knocks my socks off.
Jo: Good advice! :-) Since this blog was started by first-time authors, could you tell us what you think is the most important thing (or one important thing) a new author can do to help promote his or her book?
Barry: Not sure there's a quick soundbite answer for this one, Jo. But I guess I'll go with create a website; it's simple, inexpensive and absolutely necessary.
Jo: Where do you hope to see your agency in 5 years?
Barry: I hope it's as thriving and healthy as it is right now, with every one of my clients published or waiting for a soon-to-arrive publication date. I think I'll also go ahead and say that I hope by then I've learned to let go enough that I will have hired an assistant.
Jo and Sarah: Here’s to future success! And assistants! Thanks Barry!!
You can learn more about Barry at his Web site: www.bgliterary.com; or visit his blog: bgliterary
Sarah Aronson (saraharonson) is the author of HEAD CASE (Roaring Brook, Fall 2007)
Jo Knowles (jbknowles; www.joknowles.com) is the author of LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL (Candlewick Press, Fall 2007)