“Sit down and write! Don’t wait for someone else’s permission or validation to create.”
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 David Doerrer
David Doerrer is a graduate of New York University and worked at Sterling Lord Literistic and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt before joining Abrams Artists Agency in 2010. In addition to working with a growing list of writers, novelists, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, he works with his colleagues at Abrams, “a full-service talent agency,” to create opportunities for his clients in other mediums and outlets. He’s on the look-out for big-hearted adult and YA fiction, and a wide range of narrative nonfiction, from science, sports, and pop-culture to memoir that atomizes large-scale change through a personal prism.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
David Doerrer: Before I made the transition to agenting, I was in subsidiary rights, which is strictly a sales position. I switched gears because I wanted to play a greater role in the editorial development of projects—and still have a chance to sell them. So I tend to be very hands-on. I work with authors over the course of weeks, months, and in some cases years to get a proposal or manuscript just right.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
DD: I look for a compelling and confident voice. I find that a lot of debut authors get tripped up in trying to embroider every sentence and fitting all of their stored wisdom in one book. I love a well-crafted, flowery sentence, but it’s not everything. I look for first-time writers who unfurl their stories with assurance and patience.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
DD: Social media is no silver bullet for the unpredictability of the marketplace. That said, I advise all of the authors I work with to cultivate some kind of social media footprint. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—these are unparalleled avenues for authors to find their fans and for their fans to find them.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
DD: I realize this is not particularly profound, but I’d say: Sit down and write! Don’t wait for someone else’s permission or validation to create.
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.
DD: Playing a role in the sale of the memoir by the first male professional athlete to come out as gay. That book saves lives.
Scribe: On your website, you give a wide-range of narrative nonfiction; can you highlight a few examples of recent narrative nonfiction publications to give readers get a better sense of what you’re looking for?
DD: I recently sold a nonfiction account of the citizen science movement told through the prism of one crusading family. I love books that anatomize large-scale social, political, and cultural change.
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.