Tricia Lawrence, Associate Agent and Social Media Strategist for Erin Murphy Literary to my table.
Tricia, welcome and thank you for agreeing to this interview.
1. A question I’m sure many beginning and fledgling authors have is what can a literary agent do for an author? And why would it be good to work with an agent instead of going it alone?
A literary agent is not an absolute necessity, especially in this publishing environment. If an author plans to self-publish, plans to go with a small press first, wants to publish digital only (either with a press, or self-pub), those situations usually do not require an agent’s assistance.
But if I can press the pro-agent side for those who are interested in the trade market, want to submit their work to publishers that utilize agent relationships, and want a partner in this publishing game, please do consider finding an agent.
An agent can rescue an already published author who finds his/her career has stalled midlist, an agent can take a prepublished author and set them on a path with a book a year, two books a year, a mix of small press and large trade publishers. With an agent, an author finds more exposure, introductions to people and publishers, which can work for them. I often sign clients who want to have an agent so they can focus on the writing and let me focus on the selling and strategizing.
2. With all the changes in publishing in the past 5 to 10 years, from mega-mergers to the growth of E-books and Indie E-publishers, how has that changed an agent’s role?
It’s definitely changed a lot. We see a lot of contract terms being altered, evolving, and some of it’s good and some of it is not so good. I also see power returning to authors in so many ways. There are growing opportunities to be seen and to prove your writing skill and what used to not ever mix now mixes. Traditionally published authors self-pub and then find a publisher for their next book. Authors do both self-pub and trade pub at the same time. Authors start with digital only and then get a print-only deal.
We also see a lot of not-quite-ready-for-primetime manuscripts. Just because there is a fast way to get pubbed does not mean a manuscript doesn’t need critique partners and beta readers and editors. ;)
3. How has social media changed the way an author interacts with an audience?
Everything you say and do online is held up as you. I caution all writers to be careful about responding to rejections or bad reviews without first taking a deep breath and thinking about what those mean in the long term. A bad review or rejection is quickly forgotten (once we’ve all had chocolate!), but responding in an emotional state publicly keeps it alive and keeps you focused on the negative.
I find social media to be good in small doses. A little bit in the morning and a little bit in the afternoon and then get off the social media and go write.
I also advocate for authors to find out who they are and who their audience is and to actively work to talk to that audience with their authentic message, otherwise, social media can get overwhelming very quickly.
4. What gets you excited as an agent?
A wonderful manuscript that won’t let me put it down and a professional author who is open to revision and can handle waiting (and waiting and waiting) and oftentimes rejection after rejection after rejection. Because I know that the author and oftentimes that manuscript will succeed. Eventually. Reminder: This is not an industry for those who are in a hurry.
5. E-books vs traditional publishing?
Both. I buy both. I read both. I encourage my clients to do both, as long as we’re balancing it so that their career is enhanced, not inhibited. ;) I think we’ve seen that traditional publishing is still there and e-books are growing. We’ll see what it looks like in six months to a year. So much changes every single week!
6. What is the most important thing an author can do, aside from write well, to further their career?
To be aware of the realities of the industry they are in. Publishing does not owe you, an agent does not have to respond, an editor does not have to buy your book, readers don’t have to give you starred reviews, book buyers don’t have to stock your book . . . To write and to be agented and edited and published and reviewed is part of a great and wonderful tradition. It’s an honor.
And it’s also a business. Pay attention to what’s going on in the industry, read piles of books in your chosen genre, find out who edits your favorites, make this work your passion, the love of your life. If writing is (channeling Heather Sellers, author of PAGE AFTER PAGE) the love of your life, it will be the center of your life and you will adore it and cherish it and find no fault with it. Those authors inspire me. As an author myself, this is what I aspire to. Love is patient, love is kind . . . as the old saying goes.
7. What secret talent do you have, which everyone reading this blog will keep secret, and does it help in your work as an agent? Or, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done to get an author published?
My secret talent is attention to detail. My curse is that I was raised to be a perfectionist, which I am learning to live with, but with that comes an incredible noticing of every significant or not significant detail. Perhaps because I was born on Martha Stewart’s birthday? But no, alas, I do not have drawers of organized trinkets neatly labeled. I wish! My office is a disaster.
Tricia, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview, you've given some wonderful advice that I, for one, will take to heart!