Random stuff overheard from New York literary agents

Hi Writers,
Sorry for the lame headline. I’m putting the October issue of Writer’s Digest to bed and my clever headline writing capacity is shot.

But I wanted to share some of the notes I kept during my recent trip to New York to accompany our annual competitions winners to meet agents (see posts below).

Many thanks to the agents who guided us including:
• Annelise Robey
• Mollie Glick
• Peter Rubie
• Stephany Evans
• Jennie Dunham
• Michelle Brower
• Donald Maass

So here, in no particular order of importance is random stuff overheard from New York agents:

• The term “book club novel” is hot; consider using in lieu of “literary” fiction; “crossover appeal” is another good catchphrase.

• Make sure your synopsis is concise; stick to the main plotline and characters.

• Know what the core conflict/ turning point of your story is.

• Practice your “elevator pitch.” Be able to verbally sum up your novel in less than two minutes.

•  It takes a long time and a lot of effort to find the right agent because you want to find an agent who shares your vision for your writing career. This is one of the most important relationships of your life.

• Many newer/ younger agents are coming into the field with strong editing background and expect to do a lot of editing.

• Never mass e-mail agents; take the time to get to know the other authors they represent and if you’re a good fit.

• Get some publishing credits however you can before you pitch a novel, this sends a signal to everyone that you are a publishable writer.

For everything else you always wanted to know about literary agents but were afraid to ask, go seek the keeper of literary agent wisdom Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents

Keep Writing,

Let me know if you have any questions, comments or clarifications and I will attempt to once again decipher my own handwriting. 

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8 thoughts on “Random stuff overheard from New York literary agents

  1. Lisa Abeyta

    Interesting post. I, too, was intrigued by the term "book club novel" and wonder exactly what that means.

    And the editing – that’s a real benefit for writers, but I wonder if this means that these new young agents will be taking on fewer writers to provide this additional attention to their clients.

  2. Seth Herman

    Hey, thanks for sharing the info, Maria. You wrote that new agents are coming into the field expecting to do a lot of editing – is that because the job description for agenting is changing, or because they’re not expecting to find writing that’s up to par? Maybe a little of both?

  3. Kurt L Hanson

    Maria, thanks, but "book club" and "crossover appeal" appear improvised. Faux literary? I was thinking of placing my book under the category of something such as, "prophetic instrument of the Creator God." The idea is to grab the attention of a potential customer for as long as possible, and with a catch phrase to have it at some later date be recognized to my book.

    A prophetic instrument of the Creator God. Probably better if others say this though. It doesn’t matter what I think my book is or is about.

  4. Olivia Schneider

    Maria, Thanks for having blogs three days in a row! Keep up the good work! (i said maria thanks because the last two comments did as well!) heheh

  5. Linda aka drwasy

    Maria, Thanks for these hot little tidbits. Back from the Washington Independent Writers annual conference and the buzz phrase I heard was ‘faux literary’. Yep. I’ve heard that this ‘genre’ is hot, and so that’s how I’m marketing my novel.

    Cheryl, one agent I spoke with said ‘cross-over’ YA/adult is gaining ground.

    Peace, Linda


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