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Literary Agent Interview: Shawna Morey of Folio Literary

This installment features Shawna Morey of Folio Literary. She spent the first part of her professional career working in the music industry in New York and Los Angeles and has a background in business and personal management, public relations, new media marketing and promotions. (Editor's note: Although Shawna is currently closed to submissions, she told me she is making exceptions for those who cite this interview in their query.) She is seeking: nonfiction with a pop culture and music concentration. I’m also interested in fine arts, cooking, health & fitness, self help, comedy, design, advice & relationships, as well as controversial and alternative subjects. She is not looking for politics, religion, romance or screenplays.

“Agent Advice” (this installment featuring agent Shawna Morey) 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 Shawna Morey of Folio Literary. She spent the first part of her professional career working in the music industry in New York and Los Angeles and has a background in business and personal management, public relations, new media marketing and promotions. (Editor's note: Although Shawna is currently closed to submissions, she told me she is making exceptions for those who cite this interview in their query.)

She is seeking: nonfiction with a pop culture and music concentration. I’m also interested in fine arts, cooking, health & fitness, self help, comedy, design, advice & relationships, as well as controversial and alternative subjects. She is not looking for politics, religion, romance or screenplays.

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GLA
: Briefly, how did you become an agent?

SM: I’ve always had a passion for literary arts and was introduced to the agency side of publishing by working at Vigliano Associates.

GLA: How does your background—form working in business to working in the music industry—affect your agenting style?

SM: Having a business background and management experience in the music industry has made me a better agent. All the necessary skills to be successful in those industries have directly applied to publishing. After all, the process is strikingly similar! It’s helped me develop a keen eye for talent, be smarter about marketing and promotion and help authors build platforms for long lasting careers.

GLA: You look for books about music. Anything more specific than that? A memoir of life on the rock-and-roll road? A look at today’s pop music? Is this wide open?

SM: I’m a fan of music in general and try not to limit myself to one specific genre or time period. While I am interested in your traditional rock-and-roll memoir, or photo book, I’m always up for something more off-the-wall. Everyone in the music industry has a story to be told, but for me, it’s about finding the stories that are going to be the most memorable and make the most impact on the reader. And for that reason, my dream book was the memoir of Ronnie James Dio. Extremely talented, yet humble, Dio’s voice on and off stage was genuine and respectable. Because he wrote 90% of his story prior to his untimely death, that voice will carry over to his posthumously released memoir, A Rainbow in the Dark, which is scheduled for Spring 2012 release via MTV Books.

GLA: Just to be clear, you look for no fiction at all, correct? Where does your love for good nonfiction come from?

SM: In the fiction vein, it has to be something I’m extremely passionate about. My love for good nonfiction comes from the need to satisfy simple curiosity. Sometimes a well written book will contain more information than what is available via radio, tabloid or televised news outlets. And besides, it’s fun to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

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GLA: If you were speaking with someone who wanted to turn their blog into a book, what would you tell them concerning the realities of making this happen?

SM: I would tell them that platform is everything.

GLA: You were recently taking pitches at our 2011 WD Conference in NYC (thank you) and even signed a client from it (thanks again). What advice do you have for those pitching nonfiction (or even just pitching in general) at an in-person event?

SM: Definitely brush your teeth! But also try to relax and streamline your pitch.

GLA: Most common three problems you see in a query letter for a nonfiction project?

SM: The most common problems I find in query letters are that they are generally too long, not direct to the point, and don’t hold my attention. In some cases, this is your first point of contact with an agent and it needs to be concise.

GLA: Best way to pitch/contact you?

SM: The best way to pitch/contact me is via e-mail: shawna(at)foliolit.com. (Editor's note: Although Shawna is currently closed to submissions at the time of this interview, she told me she is making exceptions for those who cite this interview in their query.)

GLA: Something else personal about you writers may be surprised to know?

SM: Writers might be surprised to know that I love outdoor recreation. Hiking, fishing, snowmobiling, and four-wheeling are my ideal forms of meditation.

GLA: Best piece(s) of advice we haven’t discussed?

SM: Andy Warhol said it best when he said, “Don’t pay attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”

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