Update: Verna left the Andrea Hurst
Literary Agency in 2008 and started
her own agency: Dreisbach Literary
“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Verna Dreisbach of Dreisbach Literary Management) 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 associate agent Verna Dreisbach of Dreisbach Literary, a boutique agency in California. Award-winning author Verna Dreisbach’s writing has appeared in literary journals, magazines, books and newspapers, and she has served as a ghostwriter for a New York Times bestseller. She develops ideas for The Idiot’s Guides and The Everything Guides and is always seeking topic experts and co-authors to write additional books in these series.
She is seeking: literary and commercial fiction, with a particular fondness for mystery and thriller. Nonfiction areas of interest include: Biography/Memoir, True Crime, Business/Economics, Social History/Culture, Spirituality/Religion, Native American Indian, Parenting, Women’s Issues, Health, Travel, Cookbooks, Science.
GLA: You’re a new agent, which can be an advantage to authors seeking representation. Tell us a little about your background and how you got started in the business.
VD: My start in the literary world was quite coincidental. After working in law enforcement for 13 years, I returned to school to finish my economics/mathematics degree. A professor in an advanced writing class suggested that I enter my creative nonfiction in a literary contest, and I won. This began a series of excellent writing opportunities, an internship, and eventually a position as an associate agent with Andrea Hurst. I fell in love with writing, majored in English with an emphasis on language study and am now in the process of applying to the MA program in creative writing and composition. I feel I can best represent writers being a writer myself. If I ever have the time, I would love to finish my degree in economics.
GLA: The Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management website indicates you’re seeking literary and commercial fiction, including mysteries, suspense, thrillers and women’s fiction, as well as nonfiction in the areas of travel, self-help, parenting, business, pets, health, true crime, spirituality and the environment. You also have a particular interest in Native American authors and subjects. Would you consider any other submissions?
VD: I have taken a particular interest in books that have a political, economic and social focus. I want to represent books that cause the readers to stop and think about things in a way that they never have before, books that get to the core of who we are, our place in the world and what we are doing with our lives.
GLA: What kinds of writing credentials do you look for when you receive a query?
VD: Credentials are most important when writing nonfiction, and I look for professional degrees and experience in the field in which the author is writing. Nonfiction authors are more successful when they have already published in their field—whether it is magazines, journals etc.—and are in the process of building a platform prior to attempting to sell their books. Fiction writers do not necessarily need to have won writing contests or have a degree in English, although I do appreciate the efforts of writers who have taken the time to improve their writing. Having said that, writing is still an art form that begins with the talent to write and tell a story well.
GLA: Do you identify and acquire new clients from among contest winners? Whose work is published in periodicals? Through online networking sites for emerging writers?
VD: I am open to finding writers in any new or creative manner. I do review my query letters, but I prefer not to sit and wait for writers to come to me. This might be the police officer coming out in me, the pursuit of new talent. I did just sign a new fiction writer, Lillian Hamrick, whose book The Secret War was a finalist for the Fabri Literary Prize, which was sponsored by Boaz Publishing in Albany, Calif.
GLA: How do you prefer to be contacted by writers seeking representation?
VD: I ask to be queried via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. A good query letter is essential. Research the most effective and professional way to query an agent. In addition to the technical side of writing a fiction query, don’t forget the appeal of the story. I want to read a query letter that compels a need in me to read the book. The agency Web site provides resources for writers.
The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.
GLA: If a writer submits a promising query that happens to be outside your specific areas of interest, would you pass it along to one of your colleagues at Andrea Hurst & Associates?
VD: This system is already in place within the agency. We will forward mail to each other if we feel that a particular query would be of interest to the other agent. Also, during a conference, I will provide a writer the business card of either Andrea or Judy if I know that they would be a good match. We work as a team.
GLA: What’s your defining personality trait?
VD: I am not one for singular defining words. I believe in a balance. On one hand, I have strength and fortitude, in whatever I set my mind to. I am not deterred by a challenge and don’t hesitate going for what I want, which is probably what made me successful as a police officer. Yet, those characteristics are balanced with a patient and understanding side, which expresses itself in raising my children or training horses. Surprisingly, training horses becomes more of a lesson about oneself, and a true test of patience.
GLA: Will you be attending any conferences or events in the future where writers can meet you?
VD: I enjoy attending writers’ conferences and have several scheduled for this year (2008). Right now, I am scheduled to attend the following conferences:
- Writer’s Digest Books Writers’ Conference (BEA)
- Willamette Writers’ Conference
- East of Eden Writers’ Conference
- Wrangling with Writing
- Surrey International Writers’ Conference
- Sacramento State (CSUS) writers’ conference (not taking pitches at this one)
GLA: To a writer looking for an agent, can you offer any advice about something we haven’t discussed?
VD: Professionalism is just as important as being a good writer. When agents decide to represent writers’ work, they are also representing the writers. Also, don’t lose focus on the purpose of writing. The purpose needs to be the love of writing, the expression and the art, so that the best writing can come forth. Keep this in mind, and then think about the goal of publishing. When submitting work to an agent, make sure that you are sending a finished product that has been edited and proofread.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 24, 2017: The Alabama Writers Conference (Birmingham, AL)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- April 22, 2017: Get Published in Kentucky Conference (Louisville, KY)
- April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writers Conference (New Orleans, LA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- May 19-21, 2017: PennWriters Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
- June 24, 2017: The Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:
- 5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves.
- What if Multiple Agents Want Your Work?
- NEW Literary Agent Seeking Writers: Stephen Barr of Writers House.
- 18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- How Many Agents Should You Query At One Time?
- 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.
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