“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Jita Fumich) 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 agencies.
This installment features Jita Fumich of Folio Literary Management. Jita first began working with Folio in 2006. She holds a B.A. from New York University and has taken classes at NYU’s Center for Publishing. As an agent, Jita seeks to work with her authors on all aspects of their career—understanding that being an author today involves more than just writing a great book. In addition to traditional agenting, Jita is the Digital Liaison at Folio. In this capacity, she assists all Folio authors seeking to self-publish both backlist and original titles in electronic format. You can find Jita on Twitter here.
She is seeking: Urban fantasy, lighter traditional fantasy, edgy paranormal romance, edgy contemporary romance, historical romance, romantic suspense, women’s fiction, commercial fiction, YA of all sorts, and select narrative nonfiction.
GLA: Briefly, how did you become an agent?
JF: I was lucky enough, as a freshman at NYU, to get an internship working for a literary agency—working, actually, with Folio. I had no idea what an agent does, but quickly discovered that I really loved how involved an agent is in every aspect of the publishing process: from finding the author to helping them market themselves and their finished product–an agent does it all. I’ve done a few other things in the publishing world, but agenting is my real love and I was so happy to find a position at Folio.
GLA: Besides “good writing,” what are you looking for right now and not getting? What do you pray for when tackling the slush pile?
JF: I haven’t been finding enough edgy paranormal or contemporary romances in my inbox and I am always searching for steampunk or other non-traditional (not sword-and-dagger) fantasy. I have a fondness for really quirky characters and novels about families that aren’t ‘normal.’ Essentially, I’m looking for characters that I can fall in love with in situations that attract and hold my interest—anything that can get me to almost miss my stop on the subway, I want more of!
GLA: You actively encourage your clients to begin promotion before and after they get published. How important is this and do you have any tips for writers out there?
JF: As much as I’m looking for writers who tell amazing stories, I think it’s also important for them to think about how they can get people interested in and reading their work. I’d definitely encourage authors to do a lot of research about the genre that they’re writing in, to learn the books, the authors, and the blogs or anywhere that fans can be found—and then to try to get involved. That could be by joining groups, by posting on or creating their own blog, or by using social media—whatever works best for the author and shows them to be an active part of the community for which they’re writing.
GLA: Tell us a little bit more about your love for romance. Do you accept both category and single titles? As well, are there specific subgenres you prefer over others?
JF: While I love to read a good category romance, I’m just not looking to represent them. However, I am looking for single title romances in almost all genres: paranormal, historical, contemporary, suspense. The only subgenres I don’t find myself drawn to would be sweet, inspirational, or small-town romance.
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GLA: That being said, what is the biggest mistake you see romance fiction writers making?
JF: For me, the biggest mistake is not having any plot other than the relationship between the male and female protagonists. I think it’s really a struggle to keep the reader’s interest when the story’s only conflict is that the woman or man is struggling internally against the relationship—I often find that those turn into 200+ pages of back-and-forth that makes the characters seem wishy-washy rather than interesting.
GLA: You’re also the Digital Liaison at Folio. Tell us more about that.
JF: A few years ago, Folio realized that many of our authors were looking for guidance in more than just traditional publishing. So, we created what we are calling, “FolioUnbound” to help address this need. The digital world is evolving fast and new opportunities arise every month. Being secretary of the AAR’s Digital Rights Committee definitely helps me keep abreast of digital publishing news. As an agency, we wanted to make sure that we could inform our clients about what was new, what was good, and what was bad.
So, whether a client is looking for a publisher who can work fast and get their project out digitally, or wants to self-publish their work, I help them do it. We’ve definitely learned that there is no one-size-fits-all in the digital publishing world, which can actually be quite fun.
GLA: You actually help clients self-publish. What do you think of self-publishing?
JF: I feel strongly that there is a way to self-publish that really presents the author as the professional that he or she is, and it’s very important to Folio to assist our authors in that process. I think that it can really be a great thing—certainly for any author with a backlist, but also for authors of new projects with really tight timeframes or niche genres that a traditional publisher can’t take a chance on, but whose readers are hungry for great material and looking for it online.
GLA: Are there 3 tips you’d suggest to writers out there considering self-publishing?
JF: 1. Plan: You can’t just throw up that manuscript in your drawer on KDP; decide what your goal is in self-publishing. Think strategically about whether you can put out more than one title, and work with either retailers or aggregators (SmashWords, BookBaby, etc.) that suit your goals.
2. Be a Professional: Remember when self-publishing that you are fulfilling all roles. No longer just the writer, you need to make sure your story is copyedited, proofread, perfectly formatted, has a great cover, and that your metadata is correct. Typos, misspellings, poor categorization—these will all prevent your book from selling.
3. Promote: The biggest thing that will prevent your book from selling is that no one knows it’s out there. Whether you have a budget and can buy some ads, or can spend a lot of time contacting book reviewers, posting in forums, etc., you need to figure out how to make sure your book gets attention.
GLA: What is something personal about you writers would be surprised to hear?
JF: I’m not sure how surprising this is if you’ve met me, but I used to be a speech and debate nerd in high school—nearly every Saturday morning found me at some high school dressed in a suit and debating or giving a speech (I did both). I like to think that convincing judges to vote for me was a little like convincing someone to buy a book.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
JF: The next conference at which I will be taking pitches is at the New Jersey Romance Writers’ Conference [October 2012].
GLA: Best piece of advice we haven’t talked about yet?
JF: I mentioned earlier about doing research about your genre, but please remember to also do your research on the whole writing process. Make sure that I’m representing the sort of project you’re querying me about; make sure that your query letter gives me the basic information about you as a writer and about your project; and please do send me the first few pages in the body of the email—I love to get a sense of the material before I request more. And repeat all of these steps for every agent that you’re querying—don’t give them any superficial reason to turn you down.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How $1 Could Make You a Best-Selling Author.
- Literary Agent Interview: Gordon Warnock of Andrea Hurst & Associates.
- 8 Badass Books That Were Rejected by Publishers.
- NEW Literary Agent Seeking Clients: Molly Jaffa of Folio Literary.
- 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.