Agent Advice: Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency

This is a “Blast From the
Past” post.  To celebrate the
GLA Blog’s 2nd birthday, I am
re-posting some of the best
“older” content that writers
likely missed.
“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency) 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 literary agent Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency, who specializes in romance. She has 13 years of professional experience as a literary agent, editor, writer and bookseller. Laura began her career as a literary agent at Manus and Associates Literary Agency and is a member of the Romance Writers of America. As an editorial-focused agent Laura works closely with her clients developing proposals and manuscripts for the most appropriate markets.
Seeking: “The agency specializes in all types of romance (including category), romantica/erotica, women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers and young adult. We also represent nonfiction and other fiction genres. All queries sent to us will be considered with the exception of poetry, children’s books, screenplays and short stories.”

: What’s a recent thing you’ve sold?
LB: I recently sold the first three books in a new urban fantasy series by Ann Aguirre to Ace. They feature a woman cursed with the gift of psychometry who, after struggling to sever all ties with her past, is reluctantly drawn into the search for a missing woman along with her former lover (who would rather not be “former” any longer) and an empathic cop with similar romantic designs on her. The series has tons of danger and action, a little romance and bad guys who are are just as likely to hire a warlock as a hitman to even the score. And zombies.
Plus, I just received an offer on an erotic romance novel today, so by the time this interview posts, Out of the Ashes by Beth Kery will be my most recent sale. This one has heat and heart in equal measures, I’d say. Scorching. With a hero who is so Alpha, it hurts.
GLA: You specialize in romance. Aside from writing, what should beginning romance novelists be doing to help their careers?
LB: I think that the most important thing a beginning writer of any genre needs to do is educate him or herself about the market and how they should go about selling their work. This can be done lots of different ways, but romance writers are lucky that there is such a large and extensive group, RWA, where they can easily tap into the collective knowledge base. There is a wealth of information to be shared within that group.  There are other online writing groups and loops that can be mined for information as well.
GLA: How exactly do you define “romantica”?
LB: It tends to get defined one of two ways depending on the person doing the defining. 1) It is a romance, with all the characteristics of being a romance, like the “happily ever after” ending and relationship-focused center of the plot, but with extra, extra spicy sexual content.  More extensive sex scenes, more frequency, more kink, harder language (no sexual euphemisms here!), etc. If the sex was taken out, you would still be left with a complete, whole romance story. Or some people define romantica or erotic romance as being 2) a sex-centered romance with all the extra spicy elements I mentioned before: frequency, kink, language, etc. In this definition, the sex and the sexiness are fundamental to the plot and if the sex was removed, it would be clear that core of the book was missing. Some publishers consider the first definition to cover what they call simply a very hot (but not erotic) romance.

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GLA: Romance can also be tied in with other genres—a romantic mystery, paranormal romance, etc. Is there a line where the writing ceases to be “romance” any longer and has shifted into another genre? 

LB: A romance is a pretty specific type of book. At its core, a romance is story about people falling in love and it always ends on an optimistic, emotionally satisfying note. A book can absolutely be romantic though, and not be a romance, per se.  I think that there is room for romantic elements in almost every genre of commerial fiction and as someone who loves a good romance, I find those elements add an additional layer of depth to a novel.  I think a novel ceases to be a romance whenever the focus of the book shifts away from the romantic relationship and starts to be more about the other plot elements (finding the serial killer, stopping the alien invation, making peace with the death of the character’s father). If a book strays too far from traditional romance rules, it just isn’t a romance anymore and that is fine. I think that genre-straddling books are fun and fresh and I love to read them.  mixing genres, whether that mix involves romance or not, keeps publishing dynamic and continually evolving.
GLA: Romance has several sub-genres, such as historical romance. Is the genre continuing to fragment?  or is it fairly set?
LB: I don’t really think of romance as a genre that is fragmenting with all of its myriad sub-genres. The labeling of the sub-genres is really just a way to help romance readers find the books they most want to read by preference for setting and style.  As long as the book has that romantic relationship core and heat, romance is romance whether it takes place in medieval times, present day, the Scottish Highlands, a church or the surface of Neptune. I think the fact that both the markets for erotic romance and inspirational romance are blooming is fabulous. I think that there are a few romance sub-genre classics that will be around forever, like historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, but I love the idea that there will always be room in romance for a new and fresh angle on a type of book that is so beloved.
GLA: If a man were to query you with a romance novel, will he likely be published under a pseudonym?  If so, should he query you under that pseudonym?  How does this work?
LB: Male romance authors traditionally sell more books when they are published under female pseudonyms … or so we seem to think. Yes, the standard seems to be to publish male authors under the female pseudonym, but since I have no personal experience in that particular area, I’m not certain if it was the author’s choice or the publisher’s.  An author can query me using their real name or a pseudonym, it makes no difference to me. I review the manuscript and make my decision based on the writing.

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