Agent Advice: Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents) 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 Elizabeth Pomada of Larsen-Pomada Literary Agents in San Francisco. Michael Larsen and Laurie McLean round out the agency, which was established in 1972. A member of the Association of Authors Representatives, Elizabeth Pomada cofounded the San Francisco Writers Conference and Writing for Change. She and Michael Larsen are frequently welcomed as presenters at writers’ conferences and literary events across the country.



GLA: Michael Larsen has written three guidebooks for writers, which give his professional advice and views on the publishing industry. You’ve written a travel book, and the two of you collaborated on a series about architecture. You’re in the public eye. You were “transparent” before the term was coined to describe revealing an insider’s perspective of a business.

EP: I’m afraid that we are just too transparent. If you read our Web site and also our listings in Writer’s Digest Books and even Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents, strangers would pretty much know who we are and what we like. I’m pretty out there about wanting to do nothing more than read good books on the beach or in the pool. And now that we’ve started the San Francisco Writing for Change Conference—dedicated to nonfiction writers who want to change the world, one book at a time—the world knows that Michael really does want to save the world.

GLA: Is the Internet changing the way you operate?

EP: The Internet is certainly changing the way we do business. The phone doesn’t always ring off the hook all day—and we sometimes worry about that. But then we open e-mail and see about 150 messages on our main address,; about 20 on our personal address; one on our “Painted Ladies” address; and 15 on the conference address, so we know people are reaching out. Also, we use e-mail to send manuscripts, so UPS and postage costs are down (amazing) and things are faster and easier to send, although it’s still difficult to get answers. I still don’t like to read queries online and end up printing out and reading and then answering, which takes up more time than it did before, but Michael does like to edit proposals online.

GLA: How do you prefer to be contacted by writers seeking representation?

EP: Writers may contact us by writing a three-paragraph e-mail letter: the hook, the book, and the cook. Hook us to the idea; tell a bit about the book and a bit about the author.

GLA: Do you want to receive queries from writers who reside in countries other than the U.S.?

EP: We regularly receive queries from all over the world and don’t mind, but they still have to be well written.

GLA: Are you currently seeking any specific kinds of manuscripts? Would you consider a graphic novel?

EP: We don’t plan to accept or sell graphic novels. That’s another world, and we don’t wish to delve into it now. Our associate, Laurie McLean, did try for six months and found that it was simply too difficult, since it was another language, another set of editors and methods, and she has stopped. I’m still looking for wonderful historical novels, and Michael is still looking for books that can change the world.

GLA: If a writer sends you a promising query outside your specific areas of interest, will you pass it along to another agent?

EP: Michael and I do share promising queries with each other, if the initial reader isn’t up to handling the project. But we do not pass queries on to other agents. We may suggest names to the writers, however.


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GLA: What kinds of writing credentials or professional affiliations do you look for when you receive a query?

EP: For fiction, credentials really don’t matter. But once a writer wants to enter the publishing business, then she should be a member of as many affiliations as possible for networking purposes. For example, Romance Writers of America, if she’s doing romance. Mystery Writers of America, if mysteries. International Thriller Writers, if thrillers. For nonfiction, the author’s platform is crucial.

GLA: Can you tell us about your latest deal?

EP: The most recent thing I’ve sold is Katharine Kerr’s unexpected fifteenth book—and the promised last book—in the Deverry Series, The Silver Wyrm. Both it and number fourteen were unplanned, as the thirteenth was to be the last.

GLA: At which upcoming writers’ conferences will you be found?

EP: We’ll be attending the San Francisco Writing for Change conference in August 2008; East of Eden Writers Conference in Salinas, Calif., in September 2008; the San Francisco Writers Conference in February 2009; the Emerald Coast Writers Conference in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., in March 2009; the Writer’s Digest Books Writers Conference in May 2009; BEA in New York City in May 2009; the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in June 2009; and the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. So far.

GLA: Michael Connelly and Dean Koontz drew a large audience when they spoke and signed books at BookExpo America (BEA) in Los Angeles. Can you pinpoint the qualities in these two bestselling authors that make their books so incredibly popular?

EP: Michael and I both enjoyed hearing Dean Koontz and Michael Connelly. I think the qualities that they both have are, first of all, polishing their craft. Both have written many, many books and they’ve worked their way up to where they are. They didn’t start in the number one slot as some new writers expect to. And both have created characters that people care about, book after book.

GLA: To a writer looking for an agent, can you offer any advice about something we haven’t discussed?

EP: As always, my advice to writers is to do your homework. Treat writing as a career, not a hobby. If you were going to be a lawyer or a firefighter, who would do your homework on the subject? Publishing should be treated seriously.


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