“I do love it when a debut author is some magical combination of hardworking, eager to promote, and just an all-around good human being. I find most of my authors are that way; I think we self-select each other.”
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 24th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 30 – July 2, 2017, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Michelle Brower
Michelle Brower began her career in publishing in 2004 while studying for her Master’s degree in English Literature at New York University. After stints at Wendy Sherman Associates and Folio Literary Management, she joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth and Kuhn Projects, now Aevitas Creative Management, where she is looking for literary fiction, suspense, “book club” novels, genre fiction for non-genre readers, and narrative non-fiction.
Michelle Brower: I’m a very editorial agent, so I love digging into the manuscript and helping the author turn it into the best version of itself. I really think that my main job in working with the writer is to ask them questions. I can suggest what the answers or solutions might be, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the writer to decide. And in addition to that, it’s my job to be a cheerleader for the book, both in selling it to publishers and getting it through the publication process in the best way possible.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
MB: Voice, voice, voice. I’m selective in adding new authors to my list, but I always desperately want to find a voice that I haven’t heard before and that sweeps me away into the world of the book. All else is immaterial. But I do love it when a debut author is some magical combination of hardworking, eager to promote, and just an all-around good human being. I find most of my authors are that way; I think we self-select each other.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
MB: Not at all, but it is helpful. A huge social media following will not cover for a bad book, and a good book can rise up without a big social media presence.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MB: Write from your heart and your gut. If you aren’t, it becomes obvious very quickly.
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.
MB: They all feel special and unique in their way — that’s sort of the type of project I like to take on. But for example, I have a novel publishing called Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore, about a man who has been reincarnated 9,995 times and only has 5 more lives to achieve Perfection before he ceases to exist entirely. It’s strange and vastly funny, and it made me feel like a slightly better person after reading it. I was thrilled to find a great home for it. Another good moment: Stephen King tweeting that he really loved Final Girls by Riley Sager (out in July).
Scribe: On your website, you talk about an interest in fiction “that pays equal attention to both the voice and the story.” Can you give readers a few examples of novels that you feel find this balance?
MB: Yes! I like to think most of my books fit this criteria — the ones I mentioned above, Sarah Domet’s The Guinevers, Erika L. Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Heather Young’s The Lost Girls — but for books I don’t actually represent, I just read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Catherine Webb and loved that. Really, I just find that plot is a useful craft tool and something that I’m drawn to as a reader.
Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.