Tag Archives: literary agent

Why I chose to become an agent?

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My recent promotion as Associate Agent for KC&A had my knickers in a twist for weeks. Not only could I tell people that I was now a ‘lit agent’, I could actually do so knowing how much I enjoyed my job. I know, shocking, right? These days, being in love with your job is unheard off. You take what you get, and as long as it puts food on the table (in my case, wine), we should be thankful. But this kind of thinking filled my stomach with dread. I could not imagine waking up and doing a 9 to 5 that, literally, sucked my brains out. Thankfully, my brain is still intact.

Now, a recent phenomenon that I noticed is that people don’t really know what agents do. When I began to flaunt my new position to people who were not writers/agents/publishing folk, most often, I was met with wide-eyed stares of confusion. Few things people thought I did were: Publish books. Sell books and be on my way, onto the next one! Or rather, just read all day for pleasure. I smiled politely (because I’m still at that point where I love talking about what we do) and gave them the most succinct explanation, which invariably made them question why I become an agent in the first place? Especially since we do not get paid a monthly salary.

Agents make a 15% commission from our clients earnings. People in the publishing industry understand and recognize each others willingness to be a part of the common pauper’s struggle that all writers, editorial assistants, editors, agents, and other publishing folk go through at the beginning, albeit with helpless resignation. However, try explaining that to a room full of relatives and family members who have been ingrained since centuries/decades/lifetimes to a kind of work ethic that is closely tied with responsibility, practicality, stability, and money than the kind that ties you to love, passion, belief, possible money someday, and definite prestige in the long haul (Ah, Sonny Mehta, why do you haunt me so?).

So I explained to everyone that my true reason for choosing to become an agent, rather than a plumber/electrician/mason/doctor/engineer/mountain-climber is because, quite simply, I cannot live without books. I do not mean the ebook or the kindle. I mean the paperback kind of books that send me into a girlish bout of madness when I step into a bookstore or look at my bookshelf or touch a beautiful cover.

Even more, I love coming across a manuscript in my pile that makes my heart skip a few beats. A manuscript that I then envision all the way to greatness- breaking a million records, making a million bucks, bringing in a millions fans, playing in a million theaters worldwide, and touching a milling lives. NOTHING, makes me happier. When I was a kid growing up in the Dubai of the late 80s/early 90s, it was a different city. It was a dry, barren, scarcely populated place that was mostly desert. I never got to hike, or camp, or go on road-trips, or fish, etc. In fact, my mother would not let me out of her sight until I turned a shameful twelve (after which I became an insane rebel and tried to make up for those lost years). That was when I turned to books. Adventure books, mystery books, girly boarding-school books, detective/spy books, emotional-magical books…I would read under the quilt with a torch, long after the night light was switched off, and I was in heaven. This love stayed with me all through my graduation, when I also discovered that I loved writing books as much as I loved reading them.

When I began at KC&A, I realized that there was a different path available to people like me. Agenting, where I would not write as much, but I would still be involved in the initial process of helping an author to shape up the kind of book that I believed would inspire people to read more. I would be able to handpick books across all genres, as long as they inspired me with the same fire. The thought of being a part-editor/part-avocate/part-businesswoman/part-friend excited me. The idea of seeing my future clients works, envisioning their covers at B&N, and being able to talk about them proudly to all and sunder excited me. The idea of being surrounded with manuscripts until the wee hours of the morning, subsisting only on coffee excited me. The idea of mingling with other publishing folk and attending conferences (meeting prospective writers with my prospective dream projects) excited me. The process of negotiating contracts to get the best ones for my (future) clients excited me. What excited me even more was that I was going to be able to do all of this under the loving and supportive umbrella of my boss, Kimberley, who has built a legacy of hard-work and good taste over her years in the industry.

Tell me, is there any other profession that could be better?

On an end note, here are a few links for my fellow readers and writers to peruse.

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/some-good-news-from-the-world-of-books (This article on the state of publishing filled me with great hope for the future).

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/books/tom-wolfe-ian-mcewan-and-j-k-rowling-among-fall-authors.html?_r=2ref=books& (Could the Fall be anymore thrilling?)

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/08/the-publishing-process-in-gif-form.html (The Writing Process, a dash of humor from Agent-turned-Social Media Guru Nathan Bransford).

Enjoy!

@FriscoDreamer

Who is the new Literary Agent in Town? ( Wink Wink )

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That’s right. I am one out of two people that have been taken into the fold by Kimberley Cameron of the Kimberley Cameron & Associates! Forgive me for gloating, but this has been a much awaited moment and I am beyond excited. Therefore, where else can I gloat with abandon?

As a fresh intern in the fall of last year, being a literary agent seemed so glamorous and fun. And it is. Don’t get me wrong, fun or not, it’s a shit load of work to do. But I believe the adages, “love what you do”, and “if you love what you do, not a day at work seems like actual work”, completely apply in this profession. Because despite the unpredictability of the publishing industry at present, there is no other industry I would want to be a part of. The challenge brought about by the business aspect of Agenting is equally balanced with the creative side of the business. Finding new voices, helping nurture talent that is already present, and bringing life-changing books to the public…aah! What better job could there be? Have I mentioned already that a truly beautiful cover for a book can make me feel really…itchy. From then on, I cannot rest until I have the book in my hands. Wouldn’t it be great to help more people feel this way?

Yes, the industry is going through a slump at the moment. Yes, the future of books seem to be in peril, and yes, the arrival of e-books/Kindle/a renewed fervor in self-publishing has rocked the boat a little. But I do believe that the industry will survive. Very much so. It has in the past, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t in the future. People still love to write, which means people still love to read. Be it via Kindle or paperback, the demand for books is still very much alive. And if we move with the times and figure out ways to integrate the modes of e-publishing/self-publishing into the traditional route of publishing, great things could happen. We’ve already begun to see a growth spurt in this area.

Anyway, I shall leave such thoughts and advice for future posts. For now, though, I would like to give you guys a little heads-up of what I’m looking for.

Before I go into this, however, I do have one piece of advice.

Do not submit a half-arsed manuscript. No matter how much you want to see your name in print, take a moment to see if your manuscript is ready for an agent. Be cruelly objective and critical. If this is something writers cannot handle, it’s going to be a big blow to them in the journey ahead.

Submissions have to be polished to look their best. I do not mean to be condescending or horrible. Only helpful. Many times, as an intern, I’ve come across submissions that have made me cringe. The lack of research and forethought that has gone into writing the query letters, the number of grammatical and editing mistakes, the angry emails demanding why we haven’t written back to offer representation…all of it has been truly flabbergasting.

Isn’t the whole purpose behind sending query letters to an agent to actually SELL the idea of your work first? Nobody said it would be easy. In fact, haven’t all our legendary literary voices had to face the same process of rejection and acceptance at some point themselves? So how are we any different? Will taking a step back, sipping some green tea, and spending time reflecting and waiting be such a bad thing?

Being a writer or an artist requires patience and devotion. Trust me, being impatient myself, I know how hard and frustrating it is to see your dreams at a standstill. But I do believe we should only want people to see the best we can produce. If writers are in such a hurry to get published that the quality of their work is not up to the mark, then it’s rather disappointing.

But I shall stop this downpour on your parades and pick it up as and when the need comes up at a later date. Without further ado, here is what I’m looking for, so all you debut novelists and veteran writers out there, please take note. I cannot wait to read some mind-blowing submissions!

– Writing that has a unique perspective and a strong voice. One that will linger in my head even after I have shut the book. I do believe that even a tried before plot can be handled in a way that is fresh, different and never-seen-before. These are what I would like to see. Not well-used formulas, but an idea or story that is different and will add to the wonderful books already out there. Books that contain a subtle life lesson or two is pretty important to me, as this was why I used to read vicariously myself. To search for answers to questions I do not have, and to find more questions that force me to think in new ways.

– In fiction, my tastes tend to be eclectic and varied. Therefore, it’s rather hard to pinpoint what I’m looking for. But interesting and thought-provoking fiction in any genre will get me in knots. Be it literary, commercial, high-brand women’s fiction, or historical. Good fiction is simply hard to put down. However, I do tend to lean towards International fiction quite a bit. Vibrant and complex characters, multi-cultural themes, and lush exotic settings…painted against a contemporary, political, or historical backdrop…how can I not? Being from a different background myself, these kinds of stories resound soundly within me. Thankfully, there is a rather huge market for books like this, so I’m looking forward to reading things that make me forget to breathe.

Did I mention that I have a passion for historical novels set in time periods that haven’t been explored too much, or events that haven’t been talked about/talked about much yet? (Think Sarah Dunant, for example.)

I recently read a manuscript submission that totally blew me away. A story set in South America during a difficult time politically, but told from the point of view of a young girl. It made me want to research the situation as soon as I came home. That is what I call good fiction. However, as an intern, I did not have the good fortune to offer her a representation. But now that I am in that position, hopefully such a manuscript will come my way. (Hint all you historical writers out there!)

In fantasy, I’m okay with stories being completely experimental or set in our reality, as long as the story is believable and fleshed out well. I don’t mean to sound cliched, but J.K Rowling, Tolkien, Philip Pullman, Katie Marie Moning, Deborah Harkness, and a bunch of other great writers had me locked up in my room for days! Test the boundaries people, but make me believe it!

Shall we switch over to non-fiction? Do you folks need a minute to breathe or take a loo break, because I realize this is one darn long post. But I promise, I’m almost done. Almost. 🙂

For my fellow writers who prefer to burn the midnight oil with the non-fiction genre, I tend to gravitate towards adventure and travel memoirs, journalism and human-interest memoirs set in politically unsound countries, self-help books addressing relationships and human psychology from a fresh angle, and submissions that deal with educative or interesting subjects that are as yet unexplored. If you have any of these under your bed, do not hesitate to send them to me without fail.

However, the only question I have to ask is, do you have a decent enough platform? Or can you create this before approaching agents? Most agents will not undertake projects that have no platform because of how hard it’s become to sell books these days. Trust me people, get tapping on those blogs, publicize your subject at various speaking engagements. Twitter and sing about your subject is what I say. Radio appearances, public speaking engagements, blogs with high traffic…all of it helps like magic!

Finally, the last stop. Young Adult fiction. Do I hear sighs of relief, or sadness, perhaps?

I will admit, I haven’t spend too much time reading in this particular genre, but I do enjoy them if they are spectacular (don’t we all!). Think, Speak/Fever by Laura Henderson, for example. Stories set in dystopian, fantasy, magical-realism, and historical contexts are all welcome, but so are those dealing with serious, prevalent issues facing our teenagers today. Like bulimia, anorexia, bullying, finding one’s identity…in a fictional context.

On an end note (cannot be that greedy) I will admit, mysteries and thrillers aren’t really my cup of tea. But if you have one that is dark, edgy, and a bit of a psychological spinner, I would definitely be intrigued.

You can send ALL of the above to Pooja@kimberleycameron.com.

I bet you guys are clutching your head and screaming ENOUGH! with terror. So I shall stop and step away from this laptop, but I do have some visual treats for my next post. A couple of my girlfriends and I are going on vacation to Istanbul soon. Hopefully, I will have some great pictures to share with you all.

Have a great day folks!

x

Catch up time!

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It’s been crazy busy since my last post (a very very very long time ago), but I’ve finally managed to tether my ass to the sofa to write. I’ve never really been good with blogs. But since I began my internship at Kimberley Cameron and Associates, I’ve learned how far the power of blogging and twittering can go. Not that I’m going to become a frantic twitter-r. Baby steps, that’s what I tell myself. Baby steps. But perhaps blogging is not a bad way to start. Where else can I blather on and on about anything and everything with total freedom and no internal brakes? 🙂

On a personal front, life has been going wonderfully. After a long, long, long wait, I have finally become a legal occupant (for lack of a better term) within the United States, and no more do I need to answer to the term ‘Alien’.  Secondly, after endless rewrites, countless tweaking, and two drafts later, what you see before you is an M.F.A Graduate. It was no easy feat I tell you! So you can be sure that the wine bottle in my cupboard, the one that has been dying to breathe, is finally going to be consumed…

In terms of travel, because of work and my thesis, I haven’t been able to do much really. But my husband and I did manage a day trip out the to Alcatraz Island, and boy was the sight completely worth seeing. Even though, like always, we ended up reaching there five minutes past the bugle cry, and had to wait on standby for the next boat. For one thing, the people who engineered the prison on the Island were super clever. Where else would you find a prison–surrounded on all sides by the frigid, inescapable waters–both terrifying and beautiful at the same time? For one thing, having the San Francisco skyline as the view from your pocket sized window must have burned a hole through their hearts. For another, seeing the yachts of vacationers cruising past the island couldn’t have been any nicer. The island in itself is very beautiful, filled with botanical gardens, and breeding grounds for three different species of birds in different areas of the land. Apart from that though, the prison was a grimy, chill inducing place. Here are some pictures for you to see:

 

Apart from Alcatraz, two other trips I’m looking forward to this year is my annual trip home to Dubai, to see my family (who I’ve not seen for a year), and a trip to Turkey with two of my closest girlfriends from school. A Bachelorette party! We are, as the cool kids these days say, going to drop it like it’s hot.

On the work front, as intern at a literary agent, I am always learning. Both from the perspective of a writer, and someone who loves to work with them. It is not an easy business. Not only is the publishing industry a sinking ship that is struggling to stay above the water, editors these days are tough nuts to crack in terms of what they are willing to sell. Which makes the job of literary agents all the more harder. But as a writer myself, do not fear. With the coming of self-publishing and e-books, there is always an outlook for creative talent. However, I would recommend that aspiring writers give the traditional route a serious go. Not only for the experience, but for the perks a traditional route will give them. But if you do not have the patience for query letters, rejections, revisions, and the ultimate sale of your books, by all means, head down the path of self-publishing with your head held high. But remember this. BE PREPARED TO MARKET YOUR BOOK LIKE A BITCH. Forgive my language, but there it is. The Truth. Be prepared to blog about your book, put it out there as much as you can, give as many readings as possible, visit conferences, and be visible on public forums. You have to be a one woman wonder for the baby you’ve worked hard to finish.

For those of you who are looking to get an agent, here are a few helpful tips.

1) The Query letter is most important. Be sure to give a short, yet intriguing blurb (a gist if you will) about your story. Be prepared to write a concise paragraph about yourself and your education, background, and experience with writing. (Eg: have you submitted to journals? Do you write blogs? Have you won any awards or prizes? If so, put it all in as tightly as you can manage.)

2) Polish your work as well as you can, BEFORE YOU SUBMIT. Because of the number of submissions agents get in their inboxes on a daily basis, not many have the luxury of taking the time to develop your work with you. Not until it is that promising…a diamond in the rough. Even then, they would rather have you go through your work and resubmit again when you are done. In order to avoid this, in might be a good thing to get a professional editor to work with you on the final draft, before you submit to agencies.

3) Do NOT send the same query letter and submission to a dozen agents in the same email. That is the lazy way out, and if you cannot give each email/letter your individual attention, WHY SHOULD AN AGENT DO THE SAME FOR YOU?

4) Patience is key. Remember, most agents are severely over-worked and severely underpaid. Agents get paid on commission. Also, most agencies have two to four agents working for them, and against 200-500 letters that come in each week…you do the math. There is only so much they can ingest without going completely bat shit crazy. Be assured that they will get to your work, and if they do reject you, it is after serious consideration. After all, if they truly feel passionate about your work, what would they gain by turning you down?

5) Lastly, be willing to work on revisions if an agent asks you to do so. I’m not saying you need to lose the core of your work, and thereby lose your integrity. Oh no. But be flexible and willing to bend when you can, and be firm when you have to. But remember, revision is always a good thing. When the book is ready to go out, it will.

I will write more as and when I can remember them. But before I end for tonight, as an intern who loves her job and spends a lot of time sifting through hundreds of manuscripts, writers, remember this: I wish wholeheartedly for each and every one of you to be published, if that is your dream. You should always dream! But god forbid, if your work somehow does not find a home at the agencies you covet, perhaps you should consider alternate means of publishing, OR reworking the novel.

What you should NOT do is send unprofessional, angry emails to the agents who’ve rejected you. I have received quite of a few of these lovely missiles, and so have the people I work with. In this game, rejection should be something you need to toughen up against. Take from it a helpful impression, but do not let it leave a soul crushing dent. Second, you might have to deal with the same agents again at some point, say, if you write a second book someday. Just my thought.

Alright lovelies! That’s it for today. Good night and Good bye, until the next one!