Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Josh Adams from Adams Literary Stops by to Chat!
Josh Adams from Adams Literary stops by before our Agent Pitch Contest tomorrow.
Hey Josh, tell us about yourself/your agency.
Together with my wife Tracey, I run Adams Literary, a full-service, boutique literary agency exclusively representing children's and young adult authors and artists. Given the focus of your blog, your readers may be interested to know that in addition to my editorial background, I received my MBA from Columbia Business School, where I won the marketing award—and, prior to co-founding Adams Literary with Tracey, worked for several years in marketing and brand strategy. These are all things that have served me well, and perhaps uniquely, as a literary agent for the children's and YA markets.
How do you, as an agent, encourage your authors to market themselves?
The first thing I'd encourage our—or any authors—to do is to write truly unforgettable books. Their work is their strongest marketing tool. But beyond that, I'd encourage them to build a network of contacts and friends in the industry, to attend conferences as participants and/or faculty, to line up school and library visits so they can connect with their readers, to think creatively about publicity, and, especially for young adult authors, to use social media to their advantage.
How have things changed with agencies promoting their author books? What things do agents/literary agencies do to help promote their author's books?
At Adams Literary, we've always tried to be forward-looking in promoting and marketing our authors' work. While it may seem rather quaint now in hindsight, when we started the agency in 2004, we were among the first literary agencies to have a web site and the first that we know of to publicly provide their client list (some surprisingly still do not). While the site is certainly helpful for people to learn about us as an agency (and most agencies use their sites that way), we view it, and indeed everything we do, as a way for people in the industry—and readers in general—to learn more about our authors and their work. Being tireless advocates of our clients' work—and publicizing them at every opportunity, including at regional and national writers' conferences—is one of our main roles as literary agents.
For people in the industry, we produce professionally designed, full-color printed and e-catalogs for major international fairs (Bologna and Frankfurt), highlighting our authors' work and available rights. For years, we've produced a newsletter that has gone to more than 1,000 people, including editors and publishers here and abroad, although more recently, it has been largely replaced by Twitter updates about our authors' new books and achievements. We also work closely with our authors, their editors and their publishers' publicity/marketing teams to ensure opportunities are being created for successful promotion and marketing.
As an agent, when evaluating whether to take on an author or book, I'm assuming you Google them. What do you look for? What would turn you off?
Well, first I'd probably visit their web site or blog, if they've provided it. If they haven't, then yes, I'd Google them. We look for the same thing we'd look for in a manuscript we're considering: a thoughtful, interesting and professional approach. We like to get a sense of the author's personality, if possible, and whether we think we'd like to work with them and would be "on the same page" about the direction of their career. We don't want to see anything inappropriate—either personally, or for the market—or that seems contradictory to the work or goals they've presented to us.
But if an author doesn't have a web site or blog, that's fine, too. (We do expect artists to have a web site that showcases their work.) It all comes back to the work itself. There is nothing more disappointing or frustrating than an author who has clearly spent more time on their web site than their manuscript.
What advice do you have for authors trying to promote their books to agents?
My first advice is to wait until you—and your work—are ready. We want unpublished authors to focus on the work, not on the marketing. As literary agents, we look for potential, not perfection—but we also want to see highly polished work. Also, do your homework to find the agent(s) that you think would be the best match for you, to target your submissions carefully, and to present your work—and yourself—as professionally as possible, without taking it all too seriously. One of our first questions is always, "Why us?" There needs to be a good answer to that. Make connections at conferences or industry-related functions; many of our new clients are referrals from clients and people in the industry. And finally, a sense of humor—and humility—can be helpful.
Don't forget to come back tomorrow at 9AM to enter the Agent Pitch Contest!