“I am looking for someone who has spent years laying down the groundwork for what is now a really cool idea, and they just need my guidance in bringing the project to a sell-able position.”
– Monica Odom
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Monica Odom
Monica Odom joined Bradford Literary Agency in 2015. Monica is seeking: Nonfiction by authors with demonstrable platforms in the areas of: pop culture, illustrated/graphic design, food/cooking, humor, history, and social issues. She is also looking for narrative nonfiction in these areas, and some memoir. For fiction, Monica is interested in literary fiction, upmarket commercial fiction, compelling speculative fiction and magic realism, historical fiction, alternative histories, dark and edgy fiction, and literary psychological thrillers. She does not represent genre fiction.
Monica is serious about the fact that We Need Diverse Books and is looking for authentic representation of all characters, diverse or otherwise. She enjoys working closely with her clients on the editorial and developmental level to fine-tune manuscripts and proposals, and loves the process of managing a writer or artist’s career.
Monica Odom: I really consider the agent/author relationship to be like a business partnership. The author has a set of skills and talents to bring to the table, and so does the agent, and the proper combination of these two skill sets is what makes a successful working relationship. I am not a hand-holding agent. I prefer to let my clients work autonomously, reaching out to me as needed, with me checking in as their self-imposed deadlines approach. I also like to be as real and transparent with my clients and I expect the same of them. Ideally, I like my clients to feel that even if it is 3 a.m. and they have writers block, they know there is at least one person totally in their corner, and that’s me! But they also know not to call me at 3 a.m.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
MO: The first thing I want to see is that the author is hard-working, dedicated and committed to making this a career. I am looking for someone who has spent years laying down the groundwork for what is now a really cool idea, and they just need my guidance in bringing the project to a sell-able position. I also want to feel inspired and touched by the excited energy of the author who is proud of their work and what they’re trying to achieve. These traits bring out the best agent in me.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
MO: This is a tough call. I do think a social media presence is critical, but one does not need to be on all of the platforms, nor do they need to use it the same way as everyone else. Some people are so natural online, and it is hard to fake that. There are debut novelists who do not have a social media presence (ex. Ottessa Moshfegh), but usually there are articles written about the fact that these people are not on social media. So if you plan to abstain, you better have a solid reason (almost like a stance) for why you don’t want to take advantage of this new way to communicate with readers and for them to communicate back.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MO: Be patient! This is seriously so important. Be patient with yourself as you’re writing and creating. Be patient as you query, and as agents are reading. Be patient as you revise. Be patient when your work is out on submission to publishers. Be patient when you’re waiting for the signed contract and for that SIGNING MONEY. Although the publishing cycle has sped up in the past few years, it is still such a lengthy process, and you start to think in timeframes that go years into the future. Savor the moments in between.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.
MO: I took on my first YA fiction this year, after wondering for almost three years if maybe YA wasn’t something I would rep. I definitely did not want to close the door to YA, because I just knew something amazing would come and I’d know it when I saw it, but there are also so many great agents out there doing YA and it’s a bit of a tough market. BUT I am so glad that I stayed open because I finally have this wonderful magical realism YA about a Mexican-American teenager who does tarot, and I literally raised my arms in triumph after signing the author. This goes to show that when an agent says something isn’t for them, sometimes it really is just not for them, the same way that when something is for them, they know it. Which is why authors should keep querying until they find a compatible agent for both their project and working style.
Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.