Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Amy Gash

“Show your work and be open to hearing criticism. Incorporate the feedback that feels honest and true.”

-Amy Gash

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 Amy Gash

Amy Gash is a Senior Editor in the New York office of Algonquin Books, where she acquires literary fiction and narrative nonfiction on topics ranging from from science, education, humor, graphic memoir, history, and language. Books she has edited have won The National Book Critics Circle Award, The American Library Association Sophie Brody Medal, and The Sami Rohr Prize. They have been New York Times bestsellers, Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times bestsellers, #1 Indie Picks, Top Ten Amazon Books of the Year, and New York Times Notable Books. They have been published in translation throughout the world.

Amy Gash photoScribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Amy Gash: My goal is to help an author write the best book possible—and that requires a personalized approach to each book. Often with nonfiction, the book I’ve acquired has not yet been written—there may only be a proposal and a chapter—so the first step might be conversations about what the author wants to achieve and how to get there. We might talk about structure, about themes, about endings and beginnings. I usually have strong opinions but I’m always cognizant of the fact that I’m there to facilitate the author’s vision. At the same time, I want to steer the author in a direction that I think readers will respond to—and I’m the stand-in for the reader. Once the manuscript is delivered, I always print out a hard copy and make copious notes all over the pages—I’ll write down whatever comes to my mind as I read. Then I’ll usually read the manuscript again while I’m transferring those notes to the digital manuscript and by then I’ve formed a cohesive view of the bigger issues (pacing, structure, does the book hold my interest, etc.) and smaller issues (sentence structure, repetition, did I “notice” the writing instead of enjoying the reading, etc.) that need to be addressed. Then I’ll do all this again when the revised manuscript is delivered, and again until the book feels ready to be published.

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

AG: In any book—fiction or nonfiction, debut or not—I’m looking for a story that no one but that particular writer can tell. A voice or a story that makes me sit up and say this is original, this is something I haven’t read before. And even if the story is familiar, I’m hoping it’s told in a way that is completely fresh—maybe the writer comes at it sideways or backwards—or just differently.

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

AG: No, but it certainly can help. That said, I think one’s social media presence has to be authentic to be effective. So an author who has published a book and has never been active on social media but then decides to tweet up a storm in order to sell that book is likely to be disappointed.  Algonquin has a strong social media presence and we really work with our authors to create campaigns that are creative and potent. It takes thought.

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

AG: Show your work and be open to hearing criticism. Incorporate the feedback that feels honest and true.

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 editor.

AG: Algonquin recently published a book by filmmaker and pop culture icon John Waters. It’s the text of the commencement address he gave at the Rhode Island School of Design. I watched the speech on YouTube and loved it because it was not the usual, tired advice for graduates. I immediately thought it should be a book but the text was short and we needed to create a book around it. We found a slightly subversive illustrator whose art fit John’s worldview and we worked with John and now Make Trouble has just been published. It’s not a typical book for me, as I mostly edit fiction and narrative nonfiction, but still it fits well on Algonquin’s list because the book is moving and original.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on, or can you give an example of the ideal book you’d like to publish?

AG: Recently published books include Real Food/Fake Food, an expose about how many of the foods we eat—from olive oil to cheese to wine—are not what we think they are; The Muralist, a novel by the author of the bestselling The Art Forger, about abstract expressionists in pre-WWII New York; Cannibalism, written by a zoologist who looks at the practice across the animal world; Pumpkinflowers, a memoir by a former Israeli soldier about how wars are fought today; and The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, by the comedian Paula Poundstone. As you can see, my interests are broad!

Thanks, Amy!

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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Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Caroline Casey

“A successful author/publisher collaboration is like parent/nanny—no one will ever love your book the way you do, but you need to find someone you feel comfortable with and then trust them to do the right thing by your progeny.”

-Caroline Casey

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 Caroline Casey

Caroline Casey is Managing Director at Coffee House Press. She has a background in marketing, publicity, and acquisitions, including stints at Sarabande Books and Stanford University Press, and holds an MFA from the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

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

Caroline Casey: A successful author/publisher collaboration is like parent/nanny—no one will ever love your book the way you do, but you need to find someone you feel comfortable with and then trust them to do the right thing by your progeny.

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

CC: Talent. Full stop. We only care about the book.

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

CC: Definitely not. Social media can, when employed well and with years (years) of groundwork laying, sell books. But plenty of writers simply write, and they succeed or fail based on that.

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

CC: If only! Everyone requires something different. I guess I’d say to not judge the value of your work by its reception. You can’t control that.

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?

CC: We’re interested in work that conforms more to the demands of “essay” than of “nonfiction.” Recent-ish examples would be Elena Passarello’s Animals Strike Curious Poses or Katie Holten’s collage (that’s the best description I can think of) About Trees. I’m enjoying Lauren Elkin’s Flaneuse. Garnette Cadogan is writer I’m always ready for new work from, as is Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah. I’d say our taste is: any book that approaches its subject with curiosity, sentence-level interest, and a sense of context.

Thanks, Caroline!

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.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: David Doerrer

“Sit down and write! Don’t wait for someone else’s permission or validation to create.”

-David Doerrer

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.

david-doerrerScribe: 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.

Thanks, David!

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.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Tatiana Ryckman

“Often, we can learn more about ourselves through reading about the experiences of someone else. We can learn empathy through gaining an understanding of the world as we have not experienced it. It lets us know we’re connected, that we’re in this whole ‘life’ thing together.”

-Tatiana Ryckman

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 Tatiana Ryckman

Tatiana Ryckman is the Editor-in-Chief of Awst Press, an Assistant Editor with sunnyoutside, and former Managing Editor at The Austin Review. She has worked with award-winning authors including James Tate, Sheila Heti, and Micheline Aharonian Marcom. Tatiana is a hands-on editor who works closely with authors to create the best possible version of their manuscript. Tatiana has been a writer in residence at Yaddo and her novella, I Don’t Think of You (Until I Do), is forthcoming from Future Tense Press.

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

Tatiana Ryckman: The act of writing can be magical. People come to understand themselves and their world in new and important ways by articulating how they see things. It’s a gift to share that new understanding with a reader. Unfortunately, first (and sometimes third and tenth) drafts don’t communicate to a reader the full wonder of our initial ideas. So I see my role as being a kind of translator. I work with authors to make their work the thing they want it to be. But how I work with an author depends on the author and the manuscript. I’ve talked on the phone for hours about theory or plot or audience with some authors, and I’ve made light line edits for others. Consistently, though, my feedback includes a combination of line edits and an end note where I bring up more general issues or thoughts on the work that should send the author down the path of making meaningful revisions.

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

TR: Write for yourself; revise for others.

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 editor.

TR: The last book we published, Vida Cross’s collection of poems, Bronzeville at Night, represented a new frontier for us. Our first two books had been essay collections and we were on the lookout for a third book when I happened to hear Vida read from her manuscript at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. I was blown away — the poems were so engaging, relevant timely, and skillful. After the reading, I approached her and casually asked if the book was out and if I could get a copy. When she told me she was still looking for a home for it, I immediately texted Wendy Walker, the publisher at Awst, and by the end of the night I sent an email to Vida requesting to see the full manuscript. I had this urgent feeling that the chance might pass us by if a single moment went to waste.

I wouldn’t describe the book as something that was outside our wheelhouse, in part because I think we’d publish just about any genre if the book was excellent, but it was a delightful experience to be confronted with something I didn’t previously know I had to have.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on, or can you give an example of the ideal book you’d like to publish?

TR: I have a short list of books that I often mention to our staff as examples of my ideal future Awst book. I want to learn when I read; I want my perspective to shift or widen. I’d like for our next book to take me on a well-executed journey through unfamiliar information. Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being is a perfect example of this, as is just about anything by Maggie Nelson. They are masters of making the unfamiliar feel very real and close and human. I am also interested in finding a novel, which I don’t expect to be Don DeLillo’s White Noise, but I’d like it to make me feel the same way. Ivan Klima’s Love and Garbage is also an excellent example of the sort of work I’d love to see come through our gates. Sometimes I encounter a line and feel so exposed, so understood, that it seems the author has more successfully expressed my thoughts than I could. There is a depth to this experience that goes way down. I want that. I would ordinarily add Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s The Mirror in the Well to that list, but since she is our next author, I’m looking for another kind of new.

Scribe: Awst Press endeavors to promote diversity and support emerging authors. Why do you think it’s important to bring a greater range of voices into the industry?

TR: There are a host of excellent reasons, but I’ll stick to the two that are most at the front of my mind as I consider work for the press. One is purely selfish. I want to read something I’ve never read before, I want to think things I’ve never thought before, and I want to see words fitted together as I never imagined they could be. And that newness is just easier to come by if I don’t limit myself to one profile of what a writers looks like, or where a writer comes from.

Slightly more altruistic is that I want to have an understanding of humanity that is both broad and deep. Often, we can learn more about ourselves through reading about the experiences of someone else. We learn empathy through gaining an understanding of the world as we have not experienced it. It lets us know we’re connected, that we’re in this whole “life” thing together. It can be a hard thing to remember.

Thanks, Tatiana!

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.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Will Evans

“Write with a sense of urgency palpable enough to hook a reader from the first page, and never let them go.”

-Will Evans

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 in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here. 

An Interview with Will Evans

Will Evans is president and co-founder of Cinestate, an entertainment studio established in 2016 with the film producer Dallas Sonnier, combining book publishing, film production, and audio experiences. In 2013, Evans founded Deep Vellum Publishing, a nonprofit literary publisher dedicated to translating the world’s best novels into English. Evans also co-founded Deep Vellum Books in early 2016, a brick-and-mortar bookstore and cultural community center in Dallas’s historic Deep Ellum neighborhood. Prior to his career in publishing, Evans worked for five years in the music industry on tour and in Los Angeles before becoming a talent buyer for Austin’s iconic music venue, Emo’s. Evans graduated from Emory University with degrees in History and Russian Literature and received a Master’s degree in Russian Culture from Duke University. His translation of Oleg Kashin’s political satire novel Fardwor, Russia! A Fantastical Tale of Life Under Putin was published by Restless Books in 2016.


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

Will Evans: Trust in the author as Artist, and maintain open dialogue on all aspects of the publishing process—editing, design, marketing, etc.—as steps on the path to achieving the fullest potential for each story, to implant each story into the brains of its intended and deserved audience.

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

WE: Originality of vision and unique execution.

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

WE: Not critical, though it is an added benefit for those authors with the types of personalities and styles that thrive on continuous engagement with their audience and their peers.

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

WE: Write with a sense of urgency palpable enough to hook a reader from the first page, and never let them go.

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.

WE: The ability to work with S. Craig Zahler is a highlight in my career as an editor. He’s a true renaissance man who’s already had several amazing novels published by indie and major presses. He also wrote, directed, and composed the score for the film Bone Tomahawk, and he has several more films in the works that he’s written and directed that we’re working on at Cinestate, too. His artistic vision is so unique, so precise, so exacting—he is one of the few writers who wields the command to write such cinematic literature and such literary film scripts, in addition to being a damn good filmmaker and accomplished musician. Our company works with Zahler closely across all mediums: he’s written books for us, directed films for us, written scripts for us, produced audio dramas for us—this type of close relationship is what we’re looking for out of the authors we work with. If we believe in you and your vision, there are no limits to the possibilities of ways we will work to share your story with the world.

Scribe: Are there any recent publications you’d like to highlight as representative of the kinds of works you’re interested in taking on?

WE: I’m especially proud of our inaugural publishing list launching this fall, including S. Craig Zahler’s marvelous coming-of-age tale, Hug Chickenpenny: The Panegyric of an Anomalous Child, Michael J. Seidlinger’s provocative thriller, My Pet Serial Killer, and Robert Ashcroft’s incredible debut, a gripping, philosophical sci-fi/horror novel, The Megarothke. These novels are all representative of what we’re looking for in a book we publish: genre-based literature of the highest quality written with a cinematic approach to storytelling.

Thanks, Will!

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.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Brandi Bowles

“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.” 

-Brandi Bowles

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.

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

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.

Thanks, Brandi!

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.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty: Andy Ross

“A lot of writers think that the purpose of an agent is to negotiate a contract and disappear. I don’t work that way. I begin by helping the writer define what the real idea is in their project, or in fiction, what the real story is. “

-Andy Ross

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 Andy Ross

Andy Ross opened his literary agency in 2008. Prior to becoming an agent, he was the owner of the legendary Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Andy represents books in a wide range of nonfiction genres, including: narrative nonfiction, science, journalism, history, popular culture, memoir, and current events. He also represents literary, commercial, upmarket women’s fiction, and YA fiction. Authors Andy represents include Daniel Ellsberg, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Anjanette Delgado Elisa Kleven, Tawni Waters, Randall Platt, Mary Jo McConahay, Gerald Nachman, Paul Krassner, Milton Viorst, and Beth Hensperger. You can read more about Andy on his website at www.anyrossagency.com and on his popular blog “Ask the Agent” at www.andyrossagency.wordpress.com.

andyagency2-1-of-1Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?

Andy Ross: A lot of writers think that the purpose of an agent is to negotiate a contract and disappear. I don’t work that way. I begin by helping the writer define what the real idea is in their project; or in fiction, what the real story is. I will often do a full line edit of a novel. I continue to work with the author as her ally and advisor throughout the publishing process.

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

AR: In a world dominated by celebrity, debut fiction can be challenging to sell. Even if the writing is superb, publishing decisions usually get made based as much on marketing as on literary merit. But the decision is also highly subjective. If the acquisition editor doesn’t fall in love with the book, they won’t buy it. And it’s hard to know in advance which editors will respond emotionally to the book. The best I can do is find authors with talent telling stories that grab me by the heart.

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

AR: It’s important for authors to put themselves out in the world. Books aren’t going to sell just by magic. A lot of writers think that just getting published by a prestigious imprint is going to make the book a success, that these publishers have secret alchemical powers that can promote a book. This isn’t true. For a debut novelist, most of the marketing and promotion will have to come from the author. All that being said, I think social media has been overhyped as a way of selling books. Yes, you should probably be on Facebook. A blog would be nice. But don’t expect miracles.

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

AR: Don’t get discouraged by rejection.

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.

AR: When I was at the San Miguel Writer’s Conference, I met a writer on the faculty, Tawni Waters. She was teaching nonfiction travel writing. She approached me and asked if I would look at her novel that she had written for her MFA. When I saw it, I could tell she had talent, but I didn’t think I could sell the book. She asked me to look at another book, something that had been sitting under her bed for ten years. I graciously agreed. By the time I had finished reading the first paragraph, I was sold. Her YA novel, Beauty of the Broken, was published by Simon/Pulse and was the winner of the International Literacy Association YA Award. I feel pretty good about that.

Scribe: Your biography on your website talks about some of your experiences owning Cody’s Books in Berkeley for 30 years; how do you think your retailer and business-owner positions — as well as the specifics of owning Cody’s, iconic for its cultural and literary importance — have helped you in your career as a literary agent?

AR: When I left Cody’s, I wasn’t sure what I would be doing next. I had been a bookseller all my adult life and didn’t really know much about anything else. One night I woke up and decided rather impetuously that I would become an agent. No one really helped me get started. I was an autodidact. I was familiar with all the publisher imprints (something many experienced agents still don’t know), and I had spent my whole life talking to readers and book lovers. It turned out I knew a lot more than I thought I knew, and it has served me in good stead.

Thanks, Andy!

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.