An Agent’s take on Dream Authors… and so much more

Today, I listened to the Beautiful Writer’s Podcast interview with Laura Yorke, Agent at Carol Mann Agency.

Pro Tip: “Getting published isn’t the be all and end all. It may seem like it… It can be the start of all sorts of incredible things… but if you don’t enjoy the writing in the moment while your’e doing it, then you’re wasting your time.”

I can only touch on what’s discussed because this interview is overflowing with information.

If this post intrigues you, listen to the full interview.

Some of the topics discussed:

  • What an editor needs from the author to take on their book
  • For an agent, what makes a dream/nightmare client
  • At least 50% of non-fiction books are ghost written, maybe more; likely 30% of memoirs are too.
  • If you want a job writing, be a ghost writer.
  • How often agents have to say no, and how they decide
  • How publishing has changed — it’s more like the music industry
  • The advantages of signing with a small publisher
  • What makes a best seller
  • General advice for success in the publishing industry industry

So these are the bits that either grabbed me or blew my mind.

What an editor needs to take a book

Editors need to really believe in the book that they are publishing. Not just the message. The writing too.

Even if it is an incredible and gripping story, if the writing doesn’t pull the editor in, they will pass on it. If the editor isn’t fully in love with the work, then it won’t make it past the editorial board.

An agent’s dream client

A dream client is aware of the industry. The author knows what it’s like today, not how it used to be because it’s changed a lot. The author is aware of other people’s time limits — because both agents and editors have so much material in front of them all the time, it’s insane.

And if they don’t already understand what that kind of overload is like, then they listen to the agent and they accept it.

For instance, with fiction, it can take months for an agent to let you know if they are going to represent you or not. And it can take months for editors to come back to you with a response. A nightmare client is one who is bitching about that.

When you get rejections, a nightmare client refuses to think that maybe it has something to do with their writing, or maybe it has something to do with other books that are out there on the market right now. 

An angel client says, “Well, thank you so much for trying. I know that it doesn’t always fly. It’s the way that it goes.”

A dream client is someone the agent can dialog with. It doesn’t have to all be pleasant. Just open and honest. Hear the agent out and believe them when they say they are doing their best. A dream author listens.

Some interesting facts about the publishing industry

An author is the person’s whose name is on the book. The writer is the person who wrote the words. Often the author has the market, platform, and experience, and the writer has the writing skills.

At the time of the interview, Laura estimated there were only 5,000 ghost writers in the US. She said it’s a great career. Ghost writers are always needed.

Laura estimated 50% of nonfiction books are ghostwritten.

Laura’s take on an agent’s job

Laura sees herself as a matchmaker. She puts a good author and writer together. The same is true for an author and an editor. It’s a critical part of the job. Being able to match people correctly. She does this by really listening to what her clients have to say. 

How Laura chooses clients

She said 95% of her clients are referrals. It is extremely rare for Laura to take something cold (blind).

Laura’s advice to writers without connections

Laura said, if somehow a non-referred pitch were to come her way, To even look at it, your pitch has to be well written, short, to the point, and so strong in its writing that I go, ‘Huh,’ this is (a) a really interesting subject and (b) this person can write. Those are the only two things that are going to make me pick something up cold.”

Nothing reaches Laura’s desk unless its vetted

Her agency has a stable of interns who go through all the mail that is submitted. Nothing gets to an agent unless it would be of interest to them.

Laura can’t even explain how that system works. She can’t say how many things come in a day, but about 40 pitches are sent to her from that team daily.

Authors have to sell their work

One of the first things she’s asks a client is, “What are you willing to do? Are you willing to get freelance publicity?.. .Do you have a company that’s willing to buy that book, at 10,000 or so?” She needs that info to pitch to publishers.  

The industry has changed

Publishing has become somewhat like the music industry because of digital publishing and blogging. People don’t buy books as much as they used to, and they want shorter books than they used to.

Passion used to drive this industry. Now, if an author doesn’t have a platform, it’s going to be a hard sell. “I’m sorry to say that so bluntly, but it’s just the fact of the matter. If you can’t give me ammunition to sell, then it’s hard.”

Smaller publishers, like Skyhorse, can offer partnership in building a platform, as long as you come to the table with something beautiful. 

Identifying best sellers

Sometimes amazing books that are really great aren’t best sellers. And it’s not your fault. It’s not anyone’s fault.

There are so many variables in this industry that you can not control, whether you’re the author, the editor, or the agent. All you can do is keep trying and do your best. Put all your effort into it and believing in the book.

This comes back to being that dream client. A dream client will say to her agent, “Whatever happens, I know I’m in the best hands that I could possibly be in.”

Even in the face of rejection, a dream client would say, “This sucks, but it’s nobody’s fault. I’m frustrated by it, but I know everybody’s trying.” A horrible author is one that blames the publisher, editor, or agent.

Laura says she’s still surprised by books that don’t work that she was positive would hit the best seller list. Sometimes it’s because another similar book hit the list just before it. 

Laura’s secret to success

Laura says her success comes her ability to remain present. She offers the following advice to authors.

“As much as you can, stay in the moment, and do not let anticipatory anxiety take over your work. Writing is such a wonderful and fun thing. Enjoy writing. Just enjoy it.”

“This isn’t the business you go into because you want to become famous or to do for money.”

“People say, ‘I can’t quit my job. I thought you were going to get me that kind of advance.’ What century are you living in?”

“Stay present in your work and love writing. Love it. And you will get rewards.”

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