An Interview with Literary Agent Leticia Gomez
Leticia Gomez, CEO and founder of Savvy Literary Services, will be a featured agents at the upcoming Writers’ League 2014 Agents and Editors Conference. Leticia also serves as Ascendant Publishing‘s in-house publishing consultant and literary agent, and is excited to have recently joined Koehler Books as one of its Acquisition Editors. To learn more about Leticia, visit our Featured Agents page.
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Leticia Gomez: Based on my past experiences, the main gripe that most authors seem to have about their literary agents is that they don’t always feel comfortable approaching them. Another common complaint I’ve heard over the years is that some literary agents do not practice good etiquette when it comes to answering e-mails and phone calls in a timely manner. Whether they realize it or not, other literary agents focus their efforts on representing their favorite authors and give minimal attention to the ones who don’t quite measure up.
I pride myself in being an Equal Opportunity literary agent, meaning that I treat everyone of my clients as if they are one of my own children, my flesh and blood. Let’s say you are a concerned parent whose child has been away from home for a considerable amount of time. Your phone rings and you see that it is your child calling you. Of course you are going to take their call immediately. There is no way you are going to ignore the call and go about your business. Good communication is the key to a healthy author/agent relationship. Without it, chances are this kind of working relationship isn’t going to amount to much. An author should feel as though he or she can speak freely to their agent and vice versa.
Of course I can’t speak for other literary agents out there, but I operate on an open door policy. When my clients wish to speak with me, all they have to do is pick up the phone and chances are I will answer it live. They don’t even have to make an appointment to call me beforehand. If I don’t happen to be available when they call, I will normally return their call within 24 to 48 hours. I sometimes joke with them by saying that if more than a week goes by without me returning their call, it means something has gone terribly wrong in my life or I am lying unconscious in a ditch somewhere. The point is I give each and every one of my clients easy access to me anytime they want it. And like my own children, they are always on the back of my mind.
If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?
LG: I have a very strong work ethic when it comes to representing my authors and their works. I am willing to put in extra hours of work to make sure I have explored every publishing avenue for their manuscript and in return I expect for them to be flexible in their availability when the need arises. Sometimes an editor will request additional information that only the author can answer or provide. I need to be able to reach out to any author of mine on a dime and know that he or she will provide me with the ammunition I need in a timely manner so I can land them a publishing deal. All authors I choose to represent must be willing to work collaboratively with me toward publication. But more importantly, they must trust and have confidence in my abilities as a literary agent.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
LG: For me there is no bigger turn off than when a prospective author tries to get away with pasting a large portion of his or her manuscript in the body of an e-mail. Like most agents today, I prefer to receive a well-thought query letter and synopsis during the first initial contact. I am especially appreciative and impressed when an author gives me their best elevator pitch for the work they want me to represent. Pasting long-winded chapters in the body of the e-mail really makes it hard to read and I end up getting frustrated enough that I lose interest. I also transfer submissions to my e-reader because I often read submissions while I’m on the go. I simply can’t do this when an author pastes their manuscript into the body of an e-mail.
You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
LG: My taste in literature is very discriminating and it varies greatly. One of the most important things I look for when screening projects to represent is a high-concept and writing to match. In order to land a publishing deal whether it is for a fiction or nonfiction work, the author must come up with a high-concept and the execution or writing of it must be equally matched. You must have both. If one does not live up to the other, then the road to publication is going to be a long and winding one. I am also a sucker for unforgettable characterization and great opening one-liners.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
LG: Make no mistake, being a writer, requires a great deal of self-discipline which may or may not come easily for you. Developing the kind of self-discipline you will need to succeed as a writer is going to take a lot of hard work on your part. One of the first things you’ll need to learn how to do effectively is train your mind to be more self-disciplined. Meditating and visualizing daily is one of the things I do that helps me tremendously.
If you wish to develop the brain power of a Buddhist Monk, then you must take time out of your busy schedule to meditate and visualize on a daily basis. All you will need is a small, relaxing area where you can plant yourself and a few moments of peace and quiet. If you are a morning person, you might be wise to do your meditation and visualization bright and early while the members of your family are sleeping and you have the house all to yourself. If you are more of a night owl, then practicing meditation and visualization might be more beneficial to you before calling it a day and heading for bed. Personally, I do my best meditation and visualization work while I’m soaking in a hot bubble bath. The fun part about meditating and visualizing is that there are no set limitations. It’s your mind and you are allowed to go anywhere you want, whether it’s bathing al fresco underneath a beautiful waterfall, teeing off on a world-class signature golf course, or having a romantic candlelit dinner with the man or woman of your dreams. So go on and meditate and visualize your heart out and remember to reach for the stars. You’d be surprised how making a habit of meditating and visualizing will make you a more versatile writer.
Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.
LG: During these harsh economic times we’re living in what literary agent doesn’t dream of negotiating six figure advance deals and laughing all the way to the bank after doing so. I for one daydream about this more than I care to admit. But at the risk of being taken out of the village and stoned to death by my peer literary agents, sometimes it is not about the money at all. Sometimes it’s about making someone’s dream come true. To illustrate my point, I’d like to share one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had since becoming a full-time literary agent.
Back in January of 2012, I was contacted by a wonderful lady by the name of Patricia L. Aust. Patricia had just finished writing a YA novel that takes place in a domestic violence shelter and was narrated by a sufficiently likeable young Hispanic male protagonist. My first gut reaction to the novel was that it gave readers a chilling ground-floor view of domestic and dating violence. I strongly believed it was a must-read for any teen girl and boy.
Not long after signing Patricia, I came to learn that her life revolved around helping other people. She recognized that for as many children as there were in the battered women’s shelter where she volunteered as a children’s counselor, there were many more that still were being abused. After months and months of submitting the manuscript to prospective editors, I received an offer of publication from Tracy Richardson/Publisher of Luminis Books. Patricia was ecstatic and so was I. We were in the middle of contract negotiations when I received a distress call from Patricia’s daughter Laura who I had never communicated with before. Laura was calling to let me know her mother had just died from cervical cancer. Needless to say, the news blew me away. I had no idea that Patricia was ill. She had never mentioned it to me before.
Laura asked me what the chances were that the publisher would want to proceed with the acquisition and publication of her mother’s novel. I told Laura that I honestly did not know. But I did promise her that I would do everything I could to finalize the deal. It was extremely fortunate that Tracy Richardson really loved and believed in the novel enough to publish it even though the author would not be available to promote it. Arrangements were made for Patricia’s husband to sign the contract on her behalf. It was also decided that Laura would take over the editorial duties for her mother. I’m happy to report that SHELTER written by Patricia L. Aust will be released this Spring. It was Patricia’s hope that her YA novel might help victims of domestic violence to break the cycle.