Note from Chuck: Greg stopped agenting in 2008. However, enjoy his interview and tips nonetheless.
“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Greg Parasmo of Linn Prentis 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 Greg Parasmo, agent with Linn Prentis Literary in New York City and all-around humor specialist.
GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?
GP: J.K. (Rowling) forgot to mention me in her acknowledgements page again? Hell hath no fury, I tell you. So we were whispering sweet nothings and watching some "Late Late Show" together. All of a sudden, the gal got one heck of a hankering for a "cookie dough blast." I was like, "Baby, I gotta go into Jersey to pick that up. One hell of a trek from NYC and I ain’t got no E-ZPass."
Apparently Brits don’t fancy E-ZPass and she had no clue what I was talking about. Quarrelling ensued. Next thing I knew, I was pleading on bended knee for her not to leave. "Jo, honey bun," I whimpered. "Don’t go! I thought I was your agent in shining armor! Your muse!" But she stormed off anyway. I heard "wanker" in the distance. A shame.
I was so broken-up that I decided to halt being an agent for a bit; i.e., abstaining from all selfish acts of selling. Instead, I’m making sure that (Linn Prentis Literary) runs smoothly—swimming through slush and assisting with newer titles by our most established authors. I’m making sure our bread and butter remains ... buttery. Speaking of our established authors, Patricia Briggs’ third installment of her bestselling Mercy Thompson series (horror/fantasy) will be released in January 2008 and is titled Iron Kissed. Also, the final book of Kage Baker’s series, "Sons of Heaven," was just released early July. Kirkus digs it.
GLA: When you are taking submissions, you actively seek humor. What sets a successful humor book proposal apart?
GP: Two things:
A fresh ‘n crispy Benjamin paper-clipped discreetly to the second page of the proposal.
Let's change the question from "successful" to "great," because success is a weird thing. People forget not all humor is nonfiction, so I review just as many manuscripts as proposals (and wish fiction was more salable). Like "shows about nothing," humor written purely for entertainment is fine as long as it’s damn funny. God knows how many hilarious yet hollow and gimmicky books crowd my shelves at home. But I’m such a sucker for humor with substance, with some weight. Instead of raunchy fratire and chick-lit and 69 Ways to ________ (just fill in the blank with the dumbest thing possible), I look for Buckley novels—comedy with purpose—to get me going. How could a comedic writer not itch to be a social satirist during times of such corruption, such calamity (times of splendor if you’re a psychotic optimist)?
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GLA: When submitting a humor book, does platform (outside of being a celebrity) factor in?
GP: Absolutely. If I had a penny for every time I said this: It seems as if publishers/agencies nowadays care more about the marketing scheme behind a book than the actual content of the book. It’s a shame. I’ll stop here because I could rant about how "art is dead, it’s all a business" for another 724 pages until my manifesto is complete. Colleagues tell me I’ve been listening to a little too much punk rock lately.
GLA: What can writers do to craft better book proposals?
GP: Check out some web samples or simply ask an agent. Wow agents with your words; otherwise, your proposal will, in time, become a coaster. Get a knowing and reliable comrade to read through your proposal, even if your ego’s convinced you that you’re a genius.
When it comes to humor, I see writers trying way too hard to be funny. They blather on, not knowing when to stop and don't know how to cut their work. (The way I answered the first question of this interview is a perfect example of going a tad overboard.) Pretend you’re paying for each word that goes into your proposal and samples. Be as concise as possible. Most importantly, hone your own style! And don't use so many exclamation marks assuming they’ll make your punch line more hilarious!!!!!!!!!!
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Other writing/publishing articles and links for you:
- How to Research a Novel: 7 Tips.
- Agent Interview: Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary Seeks Fiction for Kids and Adults.
- Why "Keep Moving Forward" Is Important Advice For Writers.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Consider a Word Count Goal Every Time You Sit to Write.
- 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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