Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Laurie McLean

“Remember why you started writing in the first place and constantly reconnect with that joy as you move through the cut-throat, competitive business of publishing.”

-Laurie McLean

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 Laurie McLean

Laurie McLean spent 20 years as the CEO of a multi-million dollar marketing agency and 8 years as a literary agent/senior agent at Larsen Pomada Literary Agents before co-founding Fuse Literary in 2013. At Fuse Lit Laurie specializes in adult, middle grade, and young adult genre fiction. Laurie is also the co-director of the San Francisco Writers Conference, in its fifteenth year, and co-founded two ePublishing companies: JoyrideBooks.com for romance, and Ambush Books for tween and teen books (acquired by Short Fuse Publishing in 2015). Find out more at FuseLiterary.com and AgentSavant.com, and follow her on Twitter @FuseLiterary and @AgentSavant.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Laurie McClean: My approach with a client is to start building their career as soon as they sign the agency agreement to work with me. That begins with an author branding session on the phone, Skype or Slack where we determine how to describe that author to attract the kinds of readers (and editors) who love what they write. We also do a career planning session as well as a social media audit.

Armed with that kind of information, we progress to the work in progress. I do an edit, which might be light or heavy depending on the state of the manuscript, create a pitch list of editors/publishers and a pitch email, then I go to work. Each situation is different so I can’t give you a cookie cutter approach to pitching, but suffice to say that I try to give the author and the project the best chance of securing the best deal for their particular situation. Once a deal is achieved, I continue to work with that author and editor to shepherd the book through publication and into the world. Fuse does a lot of social media promotion between its 9 agents and 130+ clients. And we keep finding ways to market our clients and their work since publishers save the big marketing guns for their bestsellers.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?

LM: Passion. Talent. Understanding. Curiosity. Patience.

Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career? 

LM: I do believe social media is critical for an author’s success in today’s publishing revolution. Fuse is passionate about it and has created multiple bestselling authors through the use of social media promotion. We even created Fuse Club on Facebook for our authors as a place where they can share ideas, answer each other’s questions and promote the heck out of Fuse Club member writing. For the first time, social media allows authors to market their own work and talk directly with their fans outside a book signing. Previously authors would have to buy ads or pay a PR firm for drive time interviews. It was prohibitively expensive. And with social media, especially blogs, it plays to an author’s strength: WRITING!

Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?

LM: Never give up. Remember why you started writing in the first place and constantly reconnect with that joy as you move through the cut-throat, competitive business of publishing.

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.

LM: My proudest achievement as an agent was a million dollar deal I worked my butt off to get for my bestselling client YA author Julie Kagawa. It took me almost a year of researching and planning and two months of intense negotiation, but we ultimately not only got the publishing deal, but a 7-figure movie deal as well.

Scribe: You represent mostly adult genre fiction (romance, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, horror, etc.). Is there a genre among those you are currently seeking more than others at this conference? Is there any benefit to a writer whose manuscript could be classified as cross-genre?

LM: I’m pretty heavy with fantasy clients at the moment because it has been super popular over the past 3-4 years, but science fiction is something I’m looking for, especially space opera. I just picked up a weird western series that I love, so more weird westerns would be nice. Plus any kind of thriller and psychological horror is always welcome. I’ve pulled back on romance and mystery simply because we have three other Fuse Lit agents who are aggressively looking for new clients in those two genres, but I’m happy to hear pitches on romance and mystery at the conference, which I will definitely pass on to my colleagues.

As for cross-genre writers, hey, write what you’re passionate about. If it’s harder to sell, or impossible to get an agent interested, self-publish it and market the heck out of it. It’s all great practice for the traditional deal down the road. But seriously? I’ve got half a dozen indie authors who have no interest in traditional deals because they’re making mid-six figure income from their self-published genre fiction. And I love selling their subrights. Heck, I just negotiated a six-figure advance for books 7 and 8 in Brian D. Anderson’s epic fantasy series The Godling Chronicles with Audible. Six figures for audiobook rights? It’s a wild, wild time to be an agent!

Thanks, Laurie!

Click here and here to read our 2017 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

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.

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