“The joy of making a difference in someone’s life — perhaps someone who’s dreamt about a book their whole life, and put an incredible amount of legwork into making it happen — that’s very real and there isn’t anything like it.”
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 Brandi Bowles
Brandi Bowles’ lifelong passion for the written word, a great sense of humor, and the art of engaging storytelling have led her to cultivate a standout client list and an uncommon approach to book representation. At Foundry Literary + Media, Brandi is often the invisible hand helping her clients develop marketable book ideas that take their careers into new directions and heights. On the nonfiction side, she has represented memoirs, cookbooks, and prescriptive books of all kinds, as well as science, humor, pop culture, and real-life inspirational stories. For fiction, she represents high-concept novels that feature strong female bonds, and psychological or scientific themes. All of her books have in common surprising plots or fresh takes on otherwise familiar subjects.
Brandi Bowles: When I find a potential candidate I want to represent, we usually start with a long phone call laying out the timeline, and the editorial and submission strategy for the book. But the first step is always editing and rewriting the material to make sure it’s just right. I don’t think I’ve ever sent out a project unedited. So I work closely with the author to make sure we’re presenting the very best material possible, and in a format (usually a book proposal) that will garner maximum attention and maximum sale dollars for the book. Once we have a final draft, I take over and begin the submission process. I don’t share passes — they’re demoralizing for the author, and only helpful if the first round leads to sale. But as we get closer and closer I will share good news and positive publisher interest, until, ideally, we have moved to auction. Then, once we’ve sold the book, I am a resource for the author to ask questions, push the publisher, and of course for selling all the subrights related to the book.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
BB: Professionalism, patience, and candor. And trust — trust is key for any great working relationship. I am an open book to my authors but there is much about this job that requires some faith!
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
BB: Yes, I actually do. If an author isn’t engaged on social media I would question their ability to promote the book (particularly their ability and desire to engage in the cultural conversation, and to build or maintain a public facing brand).
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
BB: For nonfiction writers especially, you must focus on your platform as much as your work. If you’re not putting yourself out there online, in print, in public arenas, wherever, then a publisher has no proof of your ability to promote yourself or the book.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like the projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.
BB: There have been many proud moments! My first New York Times bestseller, my first six figure book deal, anytime I have a big auction, and every time I sell a book for a first-time author. The joy of making a difference in someone’s life — perhaps someone who’s dreamt about a book their whole life, and put an incredible amount of legwork into making it happen — that’s very real and there isn’t anything like it.
Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on?
BB: I have several books upcoming that aren’t yet published or on my website, but of which I’m immensely proud. These include Rabbit by Patricia Williams, a stand-up comic from the Atlanta projects who had two kids and was a successful crack dealer by the age of 16, who pulled herself and her family out of poverty and was saved by comedy… it’s a beautiful, powerful read. A joyful advice book called You’re Not Lost by this young millennials thought leader, Maxie McCoy, who has incredibly fresh advice for her generation. And a parenting book called Neuroparent from a neuroscientist and mother of four, who teaches her readers how to raise kids with more empathy, creativity, and self-control using brain science. None of these were “celebrity” or high profile authors, but they all had nascent platforms that I was able to work with and stellar book concepts that stood out within their categories.
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.