Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young”

Starting Later & Starting Over: Launching a Writing Career When You’re No Longer “Young”

Judging from the many organizations that offer awards and financial support to writers under 35 or 40 (The New York Public Library, The National Book Foundation, Granta), and the seven-figure deals that seem to be given to more 20-something debut writers than debut writers in any other age group, it would be tough to deny that book publishing is youth-focused. But if this is the case, what explains the success of Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx, who at last fall’s National Book Awards ceremony shared that she started writing at 58? Or that of Frank McCourt, who didn’t begin writing until he was in his 60s? Were these writers more talented than younger writers trying to break in at the same time? Or has the industry started gravitating more toward younger writers in recent years?

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Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

Ethics & the Literary Agent: What Rights Do Authors Have?

By definition, literary agents are writers’ representatives. They work for writers, negotiating offers from publishers until their client deems them acceptable. But in today’s complex agent-author relationship, many writers feel that they aren’t in the position to negotiate with their agent, partly because they don’t understand the publishing landscape as well as their agent does, but also because they are wary of coming across as difficult or demanding.

Although it’s becoming more common for writers to change agents several times during the course of their careers, most would prefer to stay with one agent. But are writers really in the position to speak up if they feel that an agent isn’t honoring their obligations, contractual or otherwise? If they do speak up, what are the consequences? I asked Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates and DongWon Song of Morhaim Literary.

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How Do Literary Agents Approach Diversity?

How Do Literary Agents Approach Diversity?

Most people working in the book world would agree that, although strides have been made to increase diversity, there’s still a long road ahead. Some publishing companies have imprints devoted to multicultural books (HarperCollins’ Amistad, Simon & Schuster’s Salaam Reads, Kensington’s Dafina), and others make diversity their primary mission (Lee & Low). Nearly every established publisher, from the Big Five to independent presses, has launched some sort of initiative or committee or program dedicated to diversity.

But are these efforts enough? How do agents—generally considered the gatekeepers to publishing companies—approach this highly subjective issue? Are they in a position to increase diversity and equity in publishing? I asked Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services and Eric Smith of P.S. Literary. 

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Today's Publishing Landscape: Two Generations of Literary Agents Speak Out

Today's Publishing Landscape: Two Generations of Literary Agents Speak Out

How do agenting styles vary within the same family? Are there generational differences when agents approach opportunities such as self- and hybrid publishing, which didn’t exist until a few years ago? Or in how they define their role, which in some ways is continually evolving, and in other ways hasn’t changed at all?

I asked legendary publishing veteran Robert Gottlieb, who founded Trident Media Group, and his son Mark Gottlieb, who is growing his list and has been groomed to work in his family’s business from the start. 

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Literary Agents and the Hybrid Author: A Conversation with Bob Mecoy and Kirstin Nelson

Literary Agents and the Hybrid Author: A Conversation with Bob Mecoy and Kirstin Nelson

How is it advantageous—financially or otherwise—for self-published authors to enlist the services of a literary agent, especially if they are making a sizable profit independently? Can authors successfully straddle the traditional and indie publishing worlds without creating any conflicts of interest?

At the Romance Writers of America (RWA) annual conference, I attended a panel called “Agents and the Self-Published/Hybrid Author: A Winning Combination” in which agent Bob Mecoy at Creative Book Services answered these and many related questions, and I followed up with him after the panel. I also sat down with agent Kristin Nelson at Nelson Literary Agency to ask her opinion about the indie author–literary agent partnership.

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