“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Mary Sue Seymour of The Seymour Agency) 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 Mary Sue Seymour, of The Seymour Agency.
She is seeking: Mary is looking for new clients who write any type of romance including historical, contemporary category, contemporary mainstream, suspense, paranormal, regency or inspirational. She wants nonfiction about real life heroes, prescriptive books, cookbooks, and basically any type of nonfiction by credentialed authors. She is looking for Christian books of any type. She does not handle magazine articles, e-published or self-published books, general novels, children's books, poetry, short stories, New Age and books contradictory to fundamental Christian beliefs. E-mail her at email@example.com. See her website before submitting material.
Mary Sue Seymour (left) pictured with
client Vannetta Chapman.
GLA: How did you become an agent?
MSS: When I was teaching elementary school, I wrote and had three different agents. One of them wasn't very good, so I talked to a girlfriend who was a business teacher. She convinced me to start my own literary agency as a hobby back in 1992. The first book I sent out sold a four-book deal to Bantam. God had given me a gift. I could look at a book that was flawed and write a prescription to fix it, like I had to fix the book that sold the four-book deal.
GLA: What’s the most recent thing you’ve sold?
MSS: Today, I sold Shelly Galloway's two-book untitled deal to Johanna Raisenan at Harlequin Canada for their Harlequin America line, which I know is weird because its primary offices are in Canada. Yesterday, I sold Shelley Shepherd Gray's three-book deal to Avon Inspire.
GLA: You ask for the first 50 pages of text with a fiction submission. I’m guessing you usually don’t get through all 50 before you stop. What types of things will turn you off in those crucial first chapters?
MSS: The first line and first paragraph should demonstrate great writing ability and the knowledge that the author knows how to write a hook. If it's a romance, it would be nice if the hero/heroine meet on the first page or close to it.
GLA: If you were speaking to someone who was sitting down to write a romance book but had never done so before (they wrote either literary fiction or plain nonfiction), what would you tell them about the necessities of how to write?
MSS: The word count would range from 50K to about 100K. There is a formula to write a good romance. The hero must be a man the reader would like to date and the heroine should be the type of girl that is bigger than life that the reader would like to be like. They should meet, overcome obstacles and in the end get together. There are dozens of different kind of romances - the author could join the Romance Writers of America for support and and get into critique groups. All my published authors have critique groups.
GLA: If someone pitches a romance series to you rather than just one book, does that raise a red flag in your mind?
MSS: No, it's better. Most romance publishers would rather buy a series. Americans are collectors and like series. Publishers would rather pay to publicize one author for three books than pay to publicize three separate authors.
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GLA: Concerning Christian fiction, what are you looking for and not getting?
MSS: I would like to see more historical romance that has Christian elements.
GLA: You’ve said before that you are big into the general information books, such as the “Everything” series and the “Idiot’s Guide to” series. What qualifies someone to contact you with an idea for a book in the series? Can you give us an example of when someone pitched one of these books cold to you and it came to fruition?
MSS: Editors from Adams Media e-mail me lists of titles they are seeking authors for. I forward the lists on to my clients who e-mail the editor via me a bio. If the editor likes the bio, she requests a table of contents and then they take it from there.
GLA: In addition to the literary agency, you also have a film agency. Can you tell us more about that? What are you looking for? Are you a script manager?
MSS: Ellen, my film agent, recently retired due to health issues and a poor market. I am looking for a new film agent.
GLA: Will you be at any upcoming conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?
MSS: In January, I will be at Space Coast Writers Guild Annual Conference in Cocoa Beach. The beginning of February will be in San Diego, and then at the end of February Naples, Fla, with the Southwest Florida Romance Writers. In March, I'll be in Charlotte for the
Carolina Romance Writers Conference.
GLA: Best piece(s) of advice concerning something we haven’t discussed?
MSS: Writing is a process. People don't usually write books unless they have talent. You dont' take piano lessons if you have no talent. Join an organization for support; for example, if you write mysteries, join the MWA. Enter contests if you can afford the fees - especially ones judged by editors.
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:
- 8 Things Every Blogging Writer Should Know.
- TWO New Agents at Booker Albert Literary Seek Clients/Writers.
- Keys to Being a Successful Writer? Keep Your Butt in the Chair and Tune Out the Negative.
- Advice on How to Promote and Publicize Your Book.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Writer Platform.
- Looking for Beta Readers and Peer Reviews for Your Work? Seek *Quality,* Not Quantity.
- 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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