Meet the Conference Faculty: Lauren E. Abramo

“If you can hook me on page one and make me regret every time I have to put the book down, chances are I’ll want to work with you!”

-Lauren E Abramo

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Lauren E. Abramo

Lauren E. Abramo joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2005. As VP and subrights director, she maintains a small client list and sells foreign and audio rights for the agency. Her interests include humorous middle-grade, contemporary young adult, and upmarket commercial fiction and well-paced literary fiction on the adult side. She’s also interested in nonfiction, especially pop culture, psychology, pop science, reportage, media, and contemporary culture. Her list has a strong focus on books that engage in some way with social justice. In all categories she’s especially seeking authors from marginalized communities traditionally underrepresented in publishing.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Lauren Abramo: In general, my goal is to support my clients in whatever ways they need to do their best work. Some clients love the phone, others hate to feel like they’re on the spot. Some need space to develop their ideas without pressure or outside influence, others want me to set deadlines for them or give them feedback as they go. Some want to know as much as possible, some prefer having fewer details to stress about or want to focus on craft rather than business. So my approach is to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. My relationships with clients vary based on what the authors need from me to accomplish their goals.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

LA: Lots of things, but the key for me is voice. If you can hook me on page one and make me regret every time I have to put the book down, chances are I’ll want to work with you! There are so many things I can constructively edit, but the voice is really something the author needs to find for themselves, so it’s always a high priority.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

LA: One book that I’m working on selling now is the story of a man who has the perfect life on paper, but he has a tenuous grasp on his mental health, his marriage, and his relationship with his daughter that’s buoyed only by the support of his best friend. That support leads him to ignore some pretty bold red flags about that friend, and when she winds up in prison and in debt to him and his husband for more than $20,000, both their lives come crashing down around them. It’s a wry and clever debut novel that nonetheless carries a lot of emotional weight and explores some complex ideas—the perfect combination in my book.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in novels that have a strong focus on books that engage with social justice. What’s a recent example you’ve fallen in love with?

LA: In nonfiction I represent authors like Ijeoma Oluo, Dylan Marron, Rabia Chaudry, and Robin DiAngelo, whose work either directly engages social justice concepts or simply incorporates them into the perspective with which they tackle other things. In fiction it tends to be more indirect. For example, Mason Deaver’s YA debut I Wish You All the Best, which comes out this May, is a novel about a non-binary teenager falling in love and coming to terms with being rejected by their parents. It’s both heartbreaking and joyful. It’s a story–and character-driven, not didactic, but the author made a conscious choice to center a non-binary protagonist in a love story with a happy ending.

Thanks, Lauren!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Jessica Errera

“I am always drawn to a creative and fresh hook for a story, something we haven’t seen before or a trope turned on its head.”

-Jessica Errera

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Jessica Errera

Jessica Errera has been with JRA since 2014. She is looking for commercial women’s fiction with a fresh and fun hook, all genres of YA (especially diverse stories), contemporary romance, mysteries and suspense, the occasional historical fiction, and anything that might be read in a day on the beach. Jessica is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she spent four years cheering on the Tar Heels and a few fantastic months interning with Algonquin Books.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Jessica Errera: It’s my job to be your partner and your advocate–not just for one book but for what will become, I hope, a long and successful career. For that reason, I look for authors interested in building a long-term partnership and whose goals align with my skills and interests.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

JE: I am always drawn to a creative and fresh hook for a story, something we haven’t seen before or a trope turned on its head. I am also particularly fond of sister/family stories or anything told in a unique format (letters, texts, mixed media, etc.) However, great writing is the most important element and that trumps all the rest!

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

JE: I am very excited about S.C. Perkins’ debut mystery novel Murder Once Removed, which will be published by SMP/Minotaur in March. It’s a cozy mystery featuring a genealogist-turned-sleuth, plus TexMex/tacos! It’s fabulous.

Scribe: And also, what is a recent women’s fiction novel that had an interesting hook that caught your attention?

JE: I loved Yara Zgheib’s The Girls at 17 Swann Street, about a young woman reclaiming her life in the face of an eating disorder. It’s just beautifully and poetically written. I’ve also been seeing a lot of great titles in the romantic comedy space lately—most recently I loved The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, which features a neuro-diverse heroine and a love interest who’s an escort, and which I read in one sitting.

Thanks, Jessica!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Rayhané Sanders

“I think of the author/agent relationship as a marriage…we’re in it together, and if there’s no trust there, it won’t work.”

-Rayhané Sanders

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Rayhané Sanders

Rayhané Sanders is a literary agent at Massie & McQuilkin and an independent book editor with over 10 years of industry experience. She began her career at Newsweek Magazine, before moving to book publishing, working for Penguin’s Dutton and Gotham Books and then for William Morris Endeavor, where she worked closely with veteran agent Dorian Karchmar. Rayhané began to represent authors at WSK Management, adding a New York Times bestseller to her list, before moving to Massie & McQuilkin in 2015. She represents literary, historical, and upmarket book club fiction; narrative nonfiction; and memoir. Her clients include bestselling, award-winning authors Lidia Yuknavitch, Janet Beard, Devin Murphy, Jonathan Weisman, Margaret Malone, and others. As an independent book editor, she offers a wide range of editorial and consulting services to help emerging writers polish their fiction and non-fiction projects to attract agents and publishers.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Rayhané Sanders: Ideally, I will sign a client on for the long term, which is to say, over multiple books.  Even if I love a single book, I like to know what an author is working on next, what their ideas are. I think of the author/agent relationship as a marriage…we’re in it together, and if there’s no trust there, it won’t work. I’m very honest with my authors—and blunt as well. If something’s not working in a manuscript, it’s no use to beat around the bush about it. We have to roll up our sleeves and address the problem—I’m a very editorially hands-on agent.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

RS: I love an immersive story that transports me into a fully realized world. I love a strong, assertive voice from page 1—one that makes me laugh or chuckle with its wry, keen observation nearly always draws me in.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

RS: Lidia Yuknavitch’s story collection, Verge, will be coming out with Riverhead in Spring 2020. She is so talented at delivering us right into what may be an average quotidian scene—in one story, a line of cars at a fast-food drive-in—and animating the depths of a person’s internal world, which are as complex and dramatic as any fantasy realm.

Scribe: And also, what’s a novel that you recently fell in love with?

RS: Jamie Weisman’s debut novel, We Are Gathered, comes out in paperback with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June 2019. Longlisted for the JQ Wingate Literary Prize and nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award, the book takes place over the course of a hot, humid afternoon wedding in Atlanta, told from the perspectives of the various guests…it’s such a great conceit, and peopled with delicious voices.

Thanks, Rayhané!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Tricia Lawrence

“Fun is my main ingredient. If we’re not at least enjoying this, what is the point?”

-Tricia Lawrence

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Tricia Lawrence

Tricia Lawrence is the Pacific Northwest branch of EMLA, born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 22 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist. As agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go. Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Tricia Lawrence: Communication, vision, evolution, and fun! Let’s break it down.

Communication is vital to the success of a working partnership. My clients and I are writing and selling partners. If we don’t talk or tell the truth, this partnership is not going to work. Vision is long-term planning. Often a client has a vision for their career and it’s going to take time (it doesn’t spring up that day or that week or even that year!), so we need to know where we are headed. Evolution is so necessary. This process of writing and submitting forces my clients and I to rethink our strategy, our vision, our communication, and our motives. And hopefully, we get better. Fun is my main ingredient. If we’re not at least enjoying this, what is the point? Sure, there are elements that just SUCK but most of the time, I want to have fun and enjoy the heck out of the journey.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

TL: Voice every time. If the project beckons to me, I’m in.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

TL: A MG graphic novel adaptation that I’m about to go out with. It began as a YA novel, and we sent it out on sub, got feedback about the voice sounding too young for YA, so my client and I talked about it, and she decided to turn it into a MG graphic novel. It’s been so much fun. I’m so excited, so pleased with her vision, her evolution, her determination, and that she had fun! You can tell!

Scribe: And also, what is your favorite children’s lit story to have recently come out? 

TL: Jerome By Heart, put out by Enchanted Lion. It’s just masterful. I can’t stop thinking about it.

Thanks, Tricia!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Melissa Edwards

“While beautiful writing can keep me going for a while, I need a snappy pace to keep me turning pages.”

-Melissa Edwards

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Melissa Edwards

Melissa Edwards joined Stonesong as a literary agent in August 2016. Previously, she was a literary agent at the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, where she managed the foreign rights for a 40-year backlist. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt Law School, Melissa began her career as a litigation attorney before transitioning into publishing. She is a tireless advocate for her clients and a constant partner during the publication process and beyond. Melissa represents authors of children’s fiction, adult commercial fiction, and select pop-culture nonfiction. She is looking for warm and timeless middle grade fiction and accessible young adult fiction. For adults, she is looking for fast-paced thrillers and smart women’s fiction. Melissa also acts as a contract consultant for authors and agents under the business MLE Consulting.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Melissa Edwards:I look at the author/agent relationship as a variable one. It’s not a one-size-fits-all experience. Certain clients are best off when I don’t hear from them–I know they’re writing and happy. Others need a more active cheerleader. Some want to know everything about the submission process; others only want the highlights. One of the great parts of being a literary agent is learning what my clients need and adapting to their style. The role of literary agent has so many elements–editor, therapist, business consultant, negotiator, contract specialist–we need to be able to switch hats at a moment’s notice.

Scribe: Are there specific elements draw you to a project?

ME: I prefer a pretty driving pace in all my genres and age groups. My taste tends to run on the commercial side, and while beautiful writing can keep me going for a while, I need a snappy pace to keep me turning pages.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

ME: I am really excited about Dianne Freeman’s cozy Victorian mystery series, which started in June 2018 with A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. That book has been nominated for three awards already (a Lefty, a Mary Higgins Clark Award, and an Agatha) and the series shows no sign of slowing down. It’s truly a delight!

Scribe: And also, what is your favorite YA book to have come out recently? 

ME: Immoral Code by Lillian Clark is one of mine–it’s like a teenage Ocean’s 8, and I think it’s absolutely stellar! It’s that amazing mix of funny, heartfelt, honest, and thrilling that just gets me. But if I am going to pick a book that’s not mine… I would say Sadie.

Thanks, Melissa!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the Conference Faculty: Serene Hakim

“It’s important to find someone who not only understands your work but who you feel comfortable talking openly with.”

-Serene Hakim

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 26th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 28–June 30, 2019, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Serene Hakim

Serene Hakim has been with Ayesha Pande Literary since 2015. A child of immigrants, she grew up straddling cultures and languages. She is looking for both adult fiction and non-fiction as well as YA (all genres) with international themes or a focus on LGBTQ+, feminist issues and underrepresented/marginalized voices. She is especially interested in stories dealing with the Middle East and is specifically looking for writing that explores meanings of identity, home, family and parenthood/motherhood. Forthcoming projects include Kristen Arnett’s debut novel Mostly Dead Things.

 Scribe: What is your approach to the author/agent relationship?

Serene Hakim: For me, the author/agent relationship is really unique. It’s a professional relationship, but it’s also very personal so it’s important to find someone who not only understands your work but who you feel comfortable talking openly with. We’re your advocates and want to make sure we’re all on the same page. So I believe in full transparency and being open and honest about my approach, both in terms of my revision plans and the submission later down the road.

Scribe: Are there specific elements that draw you to a project?

SH: I love when projects have some sort of quirky element or something that’s just a bit different and fun. In this sense, I love magical realism, but I’m also drawn to offbeat themes. No matter what though, I love confident, voice-y writing and a compelling plot (which I totally know is what everyone says they want!).

Scribe: Tell us about a recent project you’re excited about!

SH: The first book I ever sold is finally coming out this June – Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (about a woman who takes over her father’s taxidermy shop) – so I’m really excited to see this book exist in the world and I can’t wait to hear how readers react. In terms of projects that I’m working on, one of my authors is writing a YA coming-of-age story about a Filipina-American girl who gets into a lot of trouble in the aftermath of her mother’s death. It’s heart wrenching but also subtly funny and so relatable. Another one of my authors is working on an adult novel about two Iranian-American friends who start having odd mystical experiences that connect them to a culture they thought they had lost.

Scribe: And also, in your bio, you mentioned that you’re interested in novels dealing with themes of family and identity. Is there a novel that you recently enjoyed that deal with these themes?

SH: Last year I read Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram and loved it. It follows a boy who visits Iran for the first time with his family and it expertly captures the feeling of both being connected to a culture and yet completely outside of it. The author focuses a lot on family, friendship and identity, and it’s basically everything I’m drawn to!

Thanks, Serene!

Click here to read our 2019 A&E Conference agent bios.

Click here for more information on the 2019 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 28-June 30) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty – Jessica Papin

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 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here. 

An Interview with Agent Jessica Papin

Jessica Papin is an agent at Dystel and Goderich in New York. Prior to that, she was the Director of International Rights at the American University in Cairo Press in Egypt, and an editor at Warner Books (now Grand Central Publishing) in New York. With a background on both sides of the desk, Papin loves working collaboratively with clients to shape and refine their work.

She is interested in literary and smart commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, history, medicine, science, economics and women’s issues. In every case, she looks for passion, erudition, and storytelling skill. A wry sense of humor doesn’t hurt.

staff_jessica

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?

Jessica Papin: I take a very hands-on approach to my clients’ work. Indeed, writers uninterested in a rigorous edit would be wise to seek other representation. For nonfiction projects, once a client has a complete, polished draft of a proposal and sample chapters, I usually do a comprehensive mark-up, making queries and suggestions. The client will revise and then send it back to me for another round. We’ll repeat as necessary, editing, polishing and tightening with each iteration. With fiction, I generally begin by sending along an editorial letter that addresses global issues of plot, characterization, inconsistencies and pace. Once those big picture concerns are addressed, we can drill down into particular scenes as necessary. During the submission process, I keep my client as looped into events as he or she wishes—preferences vary widely. After the book is sold, I continue to be an active partner, providing advice, advocacy and structure (as needed) on everything from contract and cover design to career trajectory. I see the author-agent relationship as a long-term partnership, and a strategic union of art and commerce.

Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?

JP: It’s always useful for aspiring authors to have a baseline understanding of how the book business works—that getting a book published is fraught with challenge, frustration, and is a very bad get-rich-quick scheme. Patience, resilience and a sense of humor are handy. A day job you don’t hate is also helpful, and not only for financial reasons. Cultivating a life outside of writing not only complements and feeds your craft, it can keep you sane. Building friendships within the writing community will give you a sympathetic and like-minded audience when your loved ones grow tired of shop talk.

Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.

JP: I fear my answers here won’t be very original, but nevertheless: rookie mistakes, like writing a “fictional novel;” purple prose; improper diction; misplaced modifiers; mistaking my interest in editing for an invitation for half-baked projects. Deliberately provocative letters that attempt to insult me into evincing interest in a project. “Dear Agent, In the unlikely event that you’re not so much a brainless lemming that you can recognize true originality, keep reading…” Perhaps I’m a lemming, but I just can’t imagine this ever works.

If I had a nickel for the frequency with which “I’ve always wanted to be a writer” appears in queries, I’d be a wealthier woman than I am today. I’m not churlish enough to say it’s a pet peeve, but most agents and editors believe that this fire in the belly is a given, and we’re probably less interested in a third grade epiphany than what a writer has since done to realize it.

And I’m less irritated than amused when I encounter lines like “correctly marketed, this book will be a blockbuster!”  I, and the rest of the publishing industry, would love to know the secret of “correct marketing.” Connecting a book with its audience is a considerable challenge (whoever said if you build it they will come was not talking about the book business) and for the most part, traditional publishers are neither willing nor able to manage it alone. Hence, particularly in the case of nonfiction, most houses are looking for authors who have pre-existing platforms, who can call upon their own networks and partner with their publisher to spread the word.

Scribe: You often hear that it’s the first ten pages—or even the first page—that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?

JP: I don’t think that the first ten pages can sell a story. They can buy a book more time—Scheherazade-style. That’s not to say a great opening is not a powerful invitation. It’s also a writer’s best insurance against being passed over. So it’s probably not a bad idea to forgo the slow burn in favor of beginning with a bang. (In medias res may be an old concept, but it’s a good one.)

I look for voice, I look for evidence of a compelling conflict, I look for a superb and subtle command of the English language. I look for that rare project that prompts me to push aside all other work, ignore my inbox, abandon my to-do list, and just keep reading.

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

JP: Keep at it. Pay attention to the ubiquitous accounts of writers who encountered rejection and disappointment but succeeded anyway. Take with a grain of salt the Cinderella stories of authors who went from unknown to the top of the bestseller lists. Publishing is chock full of overnight successes that were years in the making. Expect that it will be hard, but don’t let that deter you.

— Thanks, Jessica!

Click here and here to read our 2016 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Meet the A&E Conference Faculty – Ammi-Joan Paquette

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 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here. 

An Interview with Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette

Ammi-Joan Paquette is a senior agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency, representing all types of children’s and YA literature. She is also the author of the Princess Juniper series, for which book #2, Princess Juniper of the Anju is newly out this year. Her other published works include the novels Paradox, Nowhere Girl, and Rules for Ghosting, and the picture books Ghost in the House, Petey & Pru & the Hullabaloo, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies/Mermaids.

In her agent acquisitions, Joan is particularly drawn to richly voiced, unforgettable characters and settings, as well as tightly-paced, well-plotted stories with twists and turns that keep you guessing right until the end.

AmmiJoanPaquette

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

Ammi-Joan Paquette: I’m quite hands-on and editorial in my approach to working with authors. My goal is to help bring the manuscripts I represent on to a point where they feel just as polished as I can help them to be. With the publishing landscape grown increasingly populated and competitive, I want to really help my authors’ work shine to a level where it becomes irresistible to editors.

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

AJP: A unique point of view; a stand-out voice; a story that is not only entertaining but has something to say that extends beyond the page; a tight, strongly paced story with not a single wasted word.

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

AJP: I don’t think it’s essential. If it’s a medium that an author is comfortable with and finds productive, it can be a helpful way of spreading the word and gaining readers. But it’s just one way to interact with the reading public.

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

AJP: Take your time. Publishing is not a race—it’s worth it to allow whatever time you need to thoroughly develop your craft and find your truest voice. Give your manuscripts the time and energy they need, and you won’t regret the results.

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.

AJP: I don’t really have one in particular of these moments—I think that’s what makes up the bulk of an agent’s life: taking chances, following your gut, falling in love with a voice, a story, an author, and then being able to find those connections that bring the spark that flares the whole bonfire to life. That’s magic! There’s nothing like it in the world.

— Thanks, Ammi-Joan!

Click here and here to read our 2016 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.

Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.

Interview with Stephanie Barko

Stephanie Barko, is a Literary Publicist based in Austin. Upon completing her degree in Sociology and Business, Ms. Barko was invited into the publishing industry after many years in high tech marketing. She was voted Preditors & Editors Best Book Promotion Service in 2011. Her award-winning clients include traditional publishers and their authors, small presses, and independently published authors. Visit with Stephanie at www.stephaniebarko.com.Image

Stephanie Barko (left) and a fan


After visiting your website, I learned about your success with both historical fiction and nonfiction publicity. Tell us more about a specific genre that you enjoy most working with.

Well, fiction sells better and is easier to place but I read nonfiction, so I feel closer to it.  Historical fiction tells a story but in a factually correct way.  I like that because you can learn from the novel, like you can nonfiction. I, personally, read almost exclusively nonfiction.  Fiction feels like candy to me, but historical novels have the weight of reality in them like nonfiction does.

Do you think that our internet age has made the job of a literary publicist a little difficult?

The internet has made my job easier, not harder.  I can reach more people quicker and more efficiently.  One could even argue that it’s cheaper to market online.

What got you interested in working with the spiritual subject matter?

The end of the Mayan calendar and the pivotal changes all the way through 2012 led me to declare a special subject focus last year.

On Feb 16th, you will be teaching a course titled, Trendspotting Toward a Faithful Following.  What are some things that you would expect the participants to take away from your course?

It’s a class that gets authors thinking about what they already have, not in terms of talent but in terms of marketing power.  Each participant will find unique answers to questions they have in common. I would like the participants to, most importantly, have a better sense of who their following is.

What are some things that make you love being a literary publicist?

The thing I like most about what I do is that I get to write and work with words all day. The write to evoke a particular response.  My job is asking people to do what I want them to do because they want to do it.

What is your core business philosophy?

Work smarter.  If you’re working harder, you’re probably not working smart enough.

What are some examples of books that you think have exhibited intelligent marketing techniques?

The Harry Potter rollouts always fascinated me.  A historical novelist I marketed hired actors to play the English royals in her novels at her launches.  That was exciting and sold books.  People came for the performance.

Ms. Barko has presented on book marketing & publicity at Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference, DFW Writers Conference, Writers’ League of Texas Conference and Women Writing the West Conference. Her articles and book reviews have been published in Western American Literature, Roundup Magazine, Book Marketing Matters, San Francisco Book Review, and the Texas Book Marketing Directory. She will be teaching a course, which is titled, Trendspotting Toward a Faithful Following. The course will be taught on Feb 16, at St. Edwards College.

Third Thursday Wrap – Up

WLT November 3rd Thursday 2012 The Book Launch and Beyond

Do you remember, the Third Thursday in November? (Sung to the tune of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September.”)  If not, this post will refresh your memory.

It seems like a long time ago, especially with the holiday activities happening since then.  Good for us that the information shared about “The Book Launch and Beyond” at November’s Third Thursday meeting has an extended shelf life.

The evening’s panelists were author Greg Leitich Smith, former editor and current children’s and teen’s book buyer at Book People Meghan Goel, author and The Writing Barn owner Bethany Hegedus, and author Cory Putnam Oaks. WLT Programming Director Jennifer Ziegler poked and prodded the collective wisdom of the panel, helping us learn the about book launches.

Book Launch

A book launch is not what happens to a manuscript when the writer is frustrated. Quite the contrary. A book launch is like a party for your book.  As Cory said, “Think of it as a victory lap.”

What if you’re not a party person? You don’t like attending parties, much less planning and hosting them.  That’s okay. Don’t think of it as a party, think of it simply as a gathering of your support team.  If that doesn’t help, you probably have a friend who loves planning events and would jump at the chance to help you.

A book launch is also a way to thank the people who helped you and support the local writing community at the same time, helping bring people together in a public way.

So, how do you go about planning your party (or your gathering of friends)?  Regardless of what you call it, you need to plan ahead. Meghan said that Book People events have a lead time of 3-6 months. Generally you want to schedule it within a month of the book’s publication date, depending on the book. (If it’s connected with a season or event, you would launch around that time.) Try to avoid November and December when people are really busy. Also, keep an eye on when competing books may launch.

Where can you host a book launch? A bookstore is a natural place to launch a book, but there may be other venues that fit your book well. The Leitich Smith’s hosted two launches for a children’s book, a child-centric one at a bookstore with an after party at their home for the adults. Think of organizations that connect to the topic or theme of your book.  Bethany’s place, The Writing Barn, is a beautiful venue for a book launch.

What do you do at a book launch? There are no book launch laws, but successful launches do have some things in common.

  • Snacks. (And wine if you’re at Book people and the audience is over 21.)
  • Simple structure of  something to listen to (a brief excerpt read by you), followed by time for questions and answers.
  • Theme and guests related to your book. (Examples mentioned: miniature ponies, an MLK-era civil rights marcher, middle school cheerleaders, and a Dachshund rescue group.)
  • Tone suited to your book and your personality.

Once your fabulous event is planned, who should you invite? First on the list are the people who put up with your while during the book birthing process. You can also invite personal friends and writing fans and watch your words collide beyond their existing overlap. If you’ve been making an email list and checking it twice, now’s the time to use it. Also invite your feeps (Facebook people) and tweeps (Twitter people).

Finally, embrace the fun of your book launch. Enjoy running your victory lap with your book jacket draped around your shoulders, if that’s your style.

Beyond (after the launch)

So, you made it through the planning and partaking of your book launch, but there’s more.

Greg said the best publicity for your book is to write another book. Cory said that by the time you launch one book you’re already deep in the next book (Of course, your mileage may vary on that.)

Staying active on social media and in writing guilds and organizations is helpful, but don’t let it detract from your writing time.

Another aspect of an author’s life is appearances. Depending on your book, find related places to go talk about your book with potential readers. This requires some research and creativity on your part, but it can be rewarding in terms of book sales and marketing.

Finally, if your book is stocked in a local bookstore, go in and sign your book.

Looking Forward

Regardless of where you are in the publishing process, you can benefit from joining us at Book People our next Thursday Third in January 2013.

Lexie Smith is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.comBloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com.  A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.