Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advice from Agents

I'm planning on interviewing a friend who has an agent and is looking for a publisher. She's bound to get one because her book is timely, and it's a memoir. I had my questions for her mapped out and suddenly I thought why not look through old issues of The Writer, for better questions. So I scanned issues for interviews.

But I continually got distracted. A good article here and there and then I stumbled across one titled: "Timely Advice from Agents" in an issue from 2009. It's about grabbing an agent's attention and every agent mentioned the crappy economy. Is it a little off track from book marketing? You be the judge; check out these five tips about selling your book in a down economy:

1. Develop durability, market sense. "Have a solid platform, marketing savvy and basic durability," says Rita Rosenkranz of the Rita Rosenkranz Literary Agency in New York. Her best advice is to stay in touch with your audience. Connect with them in a consistent way. (Possibly giving things away as in number 3.)

2. Now is the time to be writing. "It's harder to sell a book to a publisher," says Peter Rubie the CEO of FinePrint Literary Management in New York City. (Got to love this kind of optimism.) "Authors have to go that extra mile in polishing their manuscripts and coming up with a truly compelling idea or concept as well as establishing strong platforms." His best recession advice is it's better to be writing the book rather than trying to sell it in this economy. (I'll second that. Selling a book takes persistence and consistent marketing.)

3. Build a Web following. "Give your work away for free. Use every chance that comes your way to expand your audience," says Ellen Geiger, a senior agent with the Frances Golden Literary Agency in New York. (Not sure what you live on while giving it all away--maybe just put in lots of extra hours. She should have added: skip the sleep, it's highly overrated these days.) Her best advice is to live modestly even if you received a big book advance. These are uncertain times for writers.

4. Develop your own brand. "Writers need to develop their own brands rather than identifying too closely with a particular publisher or medium," says Robin Mizel, a literary agent in the Midwest. Relying too much on one medium or one form of publicity to generate income is too risky at a time when publishing companies are downsizing and losing jobs. Do consider posting a video for your book on YouTube and proposing a column for a magazine or newspaper.
Her most encouraging words were "It's a great time for writers who are willing to take risks and try new things." (I was just wondering who would loan me a kitchen to make a video.)

5. Platform is crucial. "Platform is more important than ever, especially for nonfiction writers," says Janet Rosen an agent for Sheree Bykofsky Associates in New Yourd City. Her best advice is timeless: "Write well, meet deadlines, give people something they really need and want to read." Give the reader a reason to care deeply about your book. Take time, build community, and deliver the book your readers have been waiting for. (More giveaways--it's that economy story again.)

Maybe I didn't pick up more ideas for questions for my friend's upcoming interview, but it's an eye opener when they can't get any more depressing about writing a book today. Every agent mentioned giving things away in various way for marketing. Who's on board to write that book now? Only the truly passionate writers as it has been in all times. It adds up to working more for less and budgeting wisely when marketing a book for most writers.

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