2013 UPDATE: Gordon left Andrea Hurst Literary and
moved to the new agency Fuse Literary.
“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Gordon Warnock of Fuse Literary, formerly of Andrea Hurst Literary) 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 Gordon Warnock of Fuse Literary. With a B.A. in Creative and Professional Writing, Gordon helps his clients polish their manuscripts and book proposals by using a combination of industry knowledge, a sharp editorial eye, and his experience as a college-level tutor.
He is seeking: When it comes to nonfiction, Gordon is looking for memoir, pet-related projects, cookbooks, self-help, true crime, current events, humor, how-to, and health and dieting. In fiction, his interests lie in commercial narrative, character-driven literary, monster and disaster, pets, and humor. He is not interested in religious fiction, women’s fiction, new age, or children’s and young adult.
GLA: How did you become an agent?
GW: I came into it as a writer looking for more hands-on knowledge of the business. It stuck immediately because of how much I enjoy helping other writers find the success they deserve. I also like being able to do my small part to change the face of publishing in such a pivotal time.
GLA: Tell us about a recent project you’ve sold.
GW: I actually had one just come out a few days ago. I found Gail Margolies Reid in the slush pile, of all places. She had great credentials and could really write, but her proposed manuscript was lacking. Fortunately, Andrea and I were kicking around ideas for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Low-Cost Startups, and Gail fit in perfectly. Alpha/Penguin signed her on, and you can now find her work in bookstores.
GLA: Are there any books coming out now that you’re excited about?
GW: Oh, yes. I’ll be at the release party for Visions of Joanna Newsom on 3/13. Head in Flames by Lance Olsen is another. I have also been waiting for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Paul is Undead since they sold. Tim Burton just signed on to film Lincoln, which I am a bit excited about, though there is still no word on Paul. I imagine that is for the best, as it would essentially end up being like A Hard Day’s Night with less screaming and more moaning.
GLA: What are you looking for when tackling the slush pile?
GW: Originality. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and invent new characters. If one more person tries to pitch me Holden Caulfield, I may scream.
GLA: One of the areas you seek is “monster and disaster.” When I think of these things, Godzilla immediately come to mind. What exactly are you looking for here? How can writers break out of "beast terrorizes city and breaks a lot of stuff" mode and deliver something fresh?
GW: Again, I’m looking for something new. It can be clever or frightening or just plain ridiculous. One recent submission included a kosher vampire who only bites fish. Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself. Humor is another area I actively seek out.
GLA: Speaking of kosher vampires, any thoughts on the next big monster movement?
GW: We’re in it right now. Taking important cultural moments or historical situations and interposing a bit of paranormal escapism is really taking off. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, starring Natalie Portman will soon be a reality. From Jane Austen to Star Trek to the Beatles, nothing previously sacred is exempt from the movement. It’s only a matter of time before we’re reading The Sun Also Rises from the Dead.
GLA: One of the nonfiction categories you represent is true crime. How healthy is this area at the moment?
GW: There have been a lot fewer deals thus far in 2010, but there are a few I am excited about, most notably one covering Al Capone’s youth in New York. It is a fascinating category, but one that is becoming increasingly selective.
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GLA: Name two things in a book proposal that will elicit an automatic rejection from you.
GW: Demanding a seven-figure deal because you look like Bon Jovi and including pictures to try and prove that point. I am quick to send the loonies to the bin. On a more serious note, I will not work with a piece that isn’t socially responsible. I have come across several that may have had a pretty good chance of selling, but I refuse to aid in unfounded scaremongering and helping people cheat on their spouses, to name a few.
GLA: What must the publishing industry do in order to thrive in the coming year?
GW: Actively adapt to the growing digital market. The economic recession and advancements in technology have led to the highest-ever sales in the cheap, convenient e-book format. There is a precedent in the music industry that publishers could and should study for their own applications. Publishers need to create a workable business model and a way to regulate the new medium in conjunction with the old. Do not replace the old altogether. Just like LPs, a real book is warmer and smells better.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming writers conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
GW: Of course. I love to get out and talk to writers. In addition to the online Nonfiction Writers Conference (April 28-30, 2010), I’ll be at the Wyoming Writers Conference (June 4-6, 2010) in Cody, the American Independent Writers Conference (June 12, 2010) in DC, the Willamette Writers Conference (August 6-8, 2010) in Portland and East of Eden (September 24-26, 2010) in Salinas, CA.
GLA: What is something about you writers would be surprised to hear?
GW: I play a mean ukulele.
GLA: Best piece of advice we haven’t talked about yet?
GW: Write. Just write.
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)
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