Have you ever worked with a literary agent? What benefits can an agent offer to authors navigating their options: self-publish, sign a traditional deal, or take a hybrid approach? We delve into these questions and more in this interview, our first on the podcast focusing on literary agents. Amy Tannenbaum from the Jane Rotrosen Agency offers the agent’s perspective, chatting with KWL Manager Christine Munroe about:

  • Amy’s background as an editor at Simon & Schuster for many years. She had begun to acquire self-published authors, but they always asked her if they should work with an agent. When she replied yes, they always asked for a recommendation. Eventually, she decided that she wanted to fill that role.
  • As part of a bigger full-service literary agency, Amy is able to offer her clients support in pursuing opportunities in foreign, audio, and film and TV rights.
  • The majority of new clients she takes on are self-published authors looking for a traditional deal. That’s how she started out building a client list as an agent, and she takes on most of her new authors through recommendations from her existing clients. That being said, the industry changes constantly so the picture may look different a year from now!
  • Does she approach working with authors different based on their publishing path? No – it’s all about career management, and what the right option is for each book. “Most readers don’t care about whether a book is self-published or traditionally published. They just want to read a great story.”
  • A few years ago, publishers were hungrily acquiring self-published titles, and you could more easily sell a book based on sales track record. Now, publishers are more selective, and the emphasis has shifted back more to the quality of the voice and writing. Sales numbers and social media presence certainly help, but they’re not enough.
  • That being said, if your ultimate goal is to be traditionally published and you’re having difficulty getting the attention of an agent or publisher directly, then trying to build your own successful sales track through self-publishing will definitely help build your case to make it happen.
  • With every author looking to switch from indie to traditional, Amy extensively discusses the pros and cons of that decision. Authors won’t be able to use their cover designer, choose their editor, set their prices, set a release schedule, etc. On the plus side, though, they’re gaining a support team taking the business side (and the pre-publication costs) off their plate.
  • The major thing traditional publishers still offer is print distribution – this is the typical tipping point for indie authors wanting a publishing contract.
  • In the reverse direction, traditional authors often go indie when they have a book that their traditional publisher isn’t interested in publishing.
  • Christine’s experience working as an agent before self-publishing became a viable option for writers, when a publisher saying “no” was potentially the end of a writing career. We’re in an exciting time now, when authors have many options.
  • When Amy is looking at a potential new client, she looks primarily at the writing. Then, she looks at social media – and not necessarily just reach, but engagement level with fans.
  • Most common error to avoid: submitting to an agent who doesn’t represent the genre you write in.
  • Most successful way to get an agent: get a recommendation from one of their current clients. So make friends with other authors, engage with them, check the acknowledgements of similar books where authors will thank their agents.

We close off the episode with a tech tip from Julia Nethersole, KWL’s Author Care Coordinator. If you’re having any issues setting up your banking info on KWL, she addresses our most commonly asked questions. You can always email writinglife@kobo.com for any account or tech questions.

Many thanks to Amy for sharing insights about what a literary agent’s role for authors in 2016. Do you have any additional questions for Amy? Are you thinking of working with an agent? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Amy Tannenbaum is a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. Her list includes bestsellers in women’s fiction, romance, and suspense. More information can be found at janerotrosen.com and on twitter at @aftannenbaum.



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