“I really enjoy forming a relationship with authors so that we can talk about books and writers openly and with passion.”
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 Mark Falkin
Mark Falkin has represented authors for three years, but has practiced entertainment and intellectual property law for 17 years, representing hundreds of artists (a platinum seller and Grammy® winners among them), entrepreneurs, and businesses. He is licensed in Texas and is based in Austin. Mark is also an author. He’s completed three novels (and a chapbook of poems). One, literary, is long, self-published, and well-reviewed (Days of Grace). Another, an upmarket supernatural thriller, garnered an agent at a venerable NYC agency (Howard Morhaim). The most recent is a dystopian suspense tale called Contract City, published by longstanding Baltimore indie publisher Bancroft Press, and which is currently in screen development with a studio in Los Angeles.
Mark Falkin: I’m a writer, so I tend to approach my clients as fellow writers first, “clients” second. I really enjoy forming a relationship with authors so that we can talk about books and writers openly and with passion. I try to be an open book and timely in responding to questions. While I do look for manuscripts to be in really good shape as they are, I do like getting my hands on the work itself, making suggestions, and editing.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
MF: As far as the work goes, a debut author’s work needs to stand up and sing just as a veteran’s. The marketplace doesn’t, and reader’s don’t much care, if the book is a debut as much as they care if it’s any good. I can’t say that I look for or expect anything more or less from a debut writer compared to an experienced one. That said, debut manuscripts that exhibit an uncanny sense of control and great pacing from the start will get me to sit up and pay extra attention. I suppose another way to say this is that I look for writerly confidence and a unique narrative voice.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
MF: I really don’t. It helps, particularly if you’re writing young adult and romance, but critical? No. What’s critical is whether I can put the book down or not.
I believe the internet and social media are great tools but a huge distraction. Writing is hard and takes energy. The time one spends on social media and blogging is time and energy you could and should be spending on your core work. I don’t care that a writer lacks social media presence, feeling that writers ought to, you know, write, and create meaningful, toothsome composition; rather than tweet, Facebook, blog, text, play around with technology. I realize I am very much in the minority.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MF: Write like it’s work. Write on the days you really don’t feel like writing. Repeat.
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.
MF: I represent a lesbian romance novel. I specifically do not call for romance novels. The genre simply is not on my manuscript wish list. However, from the strong title and the opening passages, I felt like it was something I wanted to work with. It went on to sell really well in the genre. Another proud moment was selling a debut literary manuscript on its third round of submissions to one of the country’s great independent publishers, written by a person in circa midlife.
Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?
MF: Client Louisa Luna has a, what I believe to be certainly an upmarket, if not literary, thriller coming out with Doubleday in early 2018 entitled Two Girls Down. I tend to like dark, taut books with high stakes written in elevated prose. Louisa’s is a good example of that. I love funny stories, and boy are they rare. Those are hard to execute. If you can maintain a comedy for 75,000 words, I’d offer to represent it, no doubt. I’ve said this at other conferences and I’ll said it again here: I’d love to see a horror novel like we’ve not seen before, one that relies on tone and creep more than set pieces; something so simple in concept that we smack our foreheads for not seeing it before, yet so original and well-written that it actually changes the genre. A high bar, I know.
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.