Agents are advocates for their writers. But what does that mean? What do agents do? Sara Megibow with the Nelson Literary Agency (NLA) in Denver, Colorado demystifies the life of a literary agent and offers insights into the tasks that fill her working day.
I spoke with Sara during the RT Convention in Kansas City the day after a freak May 2nd snowstorm. I had heard her speak at conferences before and was delighted to meet her.
Sara represents twenty-six clients. She spends 90% of her work time on contract negotiations, publicity and promotions, subsidiary rights, and author career planning.
“I have artist discussions,” Sara said. “I need to know what each wants. Are they looking to write a dozen books a year or just one?”
She is constantly on the hunt for subsidiary rights for her writers’ work, which means she is searching for inroads into other markets, such as audio, foreign publication, film and TV, along with graphic novels, comic books and merchandising.
What about those writers trying to grab her attention with a well-written query letter?
“About ten percent of my time is spent looking for new authors, query letters and manuscripts,” Sara explained.
About 150-200 emails fill her inbox each day. The explosion of indie-publishers and indie-authors hasn’t resulted in a decrease of submissions coming to her. “Many writers tell me they want a traditional book deal,” Sara shared.
The quality of the submissions she receives is “fabulous.” She believes that Romance Writers of America educates their membership and it shows in the work that writers send her way.
I wanted to know one thing that surprises Sara about being an agent. She pondered the question for moment, then said, “Pop culture feels like it’s being molded based on books, more now than when I was a child.” She spoke of the significant impact of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games on our culture.
Sara also pointed out how books are more accessible today. Independent bookstores and libraries used to be the primary place to get books. Now there are many options with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, kobo, and eBook retailers.
When asked for her best advice to aspiring authors, Sara smiled and said, “Don’t quit!”
From the NLA website:
Sara is currently looking for superior writing and a great concept. Whether a book has vampires or butterflies, spaceships or school buses, it doesn’t matter. Sara wants to be carried away by the story. If your book is fantasy, paranormal, science fiction, steampunk, contemporary, historical, short, long or a mashup of all the above, send it along! Boiled down to a list, here it is:
•Young-adult and middle-grade novels in all subgenres
•Super sexy romance with a solid dose of humor
•Complex fantasy of all types: epic fantasy, urban fantasy, quirky fantasy, historical fantasy
•All science fiction from very science-y to action-packed and commercial
•New Adult manuscripts that feature early 20-something protagonists and conflicts about identity and independence
You can find out more about Sara at Publishers Marketplace