“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.
This installment features Elisabeth Weed of Weed Literary. She previously worked at Curtis Brown and Trident before starting her own agency.
She is seeking: She handles “upmarket women’s fiction as well as an eclectic mix of nonfiction, with an emphasis on narrative, investigative and women’s issues from the humor driven to the thought provoking.”
GLA: How did you become an agent?
EW: Much to my dismay, I learned in my college fiction writing class that I was a much better editor than a writer. I wanted to work with books in some capacity and loved the idea of agenting. The (eventual) autonomy you have to pick and chose what you want to work on was really appealing. I sent resumes out to every agency in the Jeff Herman Guide (this was pre Chuck Sambuchino!) and Curtis Brown called me back.
(Interested in the agency Curtis Brown. Ltd.? Check out an interview with literary agent Laura Blake Peterson.)
GLA: What is the most recent thing you’ve sold?
EW: I just sold a fabulous hybrid memoir/how-to by Sister Madonna Buder, an 80-year-old nun and Iron Man competitor to Marysue Rucci at Simon & Schuster. The title is still up in the air, but Running on Faith, God Speed, Iron Nun are all in the “running.”
GLA: We know you’re seeking upmarket women’s fiction, but not most genre fiction. That said, what about other categories? Literary fiction? Romance? Any children’s?
EW: I would love to do more literary fiction. I’ve just signed up a two new novels that I think fall into that grey (but very appealing!) area between literary and commercial. I guess you could say, I am looking for terrific writing that isn’t quiet. A great high concept always helps. (How original of an answer is that?)
GLA: You’ve sold plenty of upmarket women’s fiction. What draws you to this specific category?
EW: In part I can relate to it, but also, it sells! Specifically, I am drawn to fiction that with a touch of magic. Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life is about a woman who gets a chance to go back in time and live her life over again and Therese Walsh’s upcoming debut, The Last Will of Moira Leahy involves an ancient dagger with supernatural powers that takes the protagonist on an incredible journey of sorts. I guess one of the things I love about my job is that I am continuously and pleasantly surprised by what I find. I wouldn’t have thought I’d fall in love with a book about a magical dagger but I requested it when my son was three weeks old and read it in two days. It was so good! All to say, these categories can shift a lot.
GLA: Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not finding?
EW: I would love to find a great new voice in women’s self help. For example, I sold a book to Crown last year on Impostor Syndrome which is something smart and ambitious women seem to suffer from. In a nut shell, they think they aren’t smart or qualified enough, despite their amazing resumes and in turn suffer by over-preparing to an unhealthy degree. Sound familiar, anyone? The author has been studying the phenomenon for years and speaking at companies and business schools across the country about it and on how to get a handle on it – aka the author really knew her subject and had also built up a potential audience for when her book is published. I’d love to work with someone doing something similar.
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GLA: When I attend writers’ conferences, I run into a lot of women writers who are writing similar stories – about a middle-aged woman who is stifled in her home life and leaves to get in some kind of adventure. As someone who seems to specialize in women’s fiction/nonfiction, do you see a lot of these submissions? If so, what separates the good from the bad?
EW: I do. And it’s tough because a lot of the stories are good. Some are really good. But at the end of the day, that’s not always enough, especially in today’s climate. So, rather than separating good from bad, I find myself separating the fresh from the familiar. Even if it’s been done before it needs a new setting or twist. I imagine that’s a vague and annoying answer but it’s also a tough question. The truth is, I know it when I see it.
GLA: Book proposals: Besides lack of author platform, where are writers going wrong?
EW: A lot of memoir comes across my desk and it’s really hard to tell an author that their personal narrative just isn’t that interesting. What they need to do is ask themselves who is going to pay $25 to read my story? Same is true for all nonfiction, which is why the platform is essential. If you are an expert in a field then people will come to you. It also helps a publisher see where they will find an audience should they decide to buy that book.
GLA: Do you put a lot of weight into a synopsis? Some agents do and some do not.
EW: I don’t read synopses. For fiction, a great cover letter that gets to the essence of what the book is about (think jacket copy) is really helpful.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where people can meet/pitch you?
EW: I will continue to go to Grub Street in Boston as long as they will have me. It’s the best conference I’ve been to.
GLA: What’s something about you writers would be surprised to know?
EW: That I don’t usually do these sort of interviews because I hate talking about myself. I hope it’s a quality that makes me a good agent because I love talking about my authors.
GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?
EW: Read! It makes such a difference to me when a query letter cites a comparison book (and it actually lives up to it) as it shows me that the author knows her audience and has done her homework. And buy books. Our industry isn’t in a great place at the moment and needs all the help it can get. And, if you want to be published and have others buy your book you really should be doing the same.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- 11 Questions About Money, Book Royalties, Advances and More.
- Who Is Your Target Reader?
- Literary Agent Interview: Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.
- How to Start Your Novel.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.
Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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