1. Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you became a literary agent?
I’ve been a freelance writer for almost 18 years, and have written about the Christian book industry both for The Grand Rapids Press and for Publishers Weekly. When my agent, Tim Beals with Credo Communications, asked me to come on as an agent, it was a natural segue from writing about Christian publishing to participating in it as an agent. My years freelancing for The Press were coming to an end, so I said yes to agenting. I still write about the industry for PW, which informs my role as an agent. I’ve been agenting for nearly four years.
2. What do you wish aspiring authors knew about the book industry?
I wish aspiring authors knew how long it takes to get a book published. Writing it takes a long time; finding an agent can take a long time; getting a contract can take a long time; and the time from contract to published book can take a year or more. Of course the timeline can be faster once in a while, but for the most part getting a book published just takes a long time. I also wish aspiring authors remembered that they are not the only author in the world. Agents have other clients and publishers have other books and authors they are working with.
3. What was something you’ve read recently that got you excited (whether you worked on it or not)?
I recently interviewed Andrew Blauner, editor of “The Good Book: Writers Reflect on Favorite Bible Passages.” The book is filled with essays about Bible passages written by greats such as Clyde Edgerton, Pico Iyer, Cokie and Steve Roberts, and Tobias Wolff. The writers often present different views than I and my more conservative Christian colleagues might find comfortable, but each one presents a thoughtful and often challenging look at Scripture. The essays by Thomas Lynch and Lois Lowry were especially poignant and so incredibly well written. I read Lynch’s and Lowry’s essays twice each, and cried both times.
4. Is having an agent important? Why?
Having an agent at the right time is important. Many authors expend energy searching for an agent when they should spend that energy and time perfecting their work (both book and proposal). An agent can help you perfect your proposal, get it it front of the right editors/publishing houses, negotiate a contract, mediate any disputes (small and large) that arise, and help you plan your next projects. An agent can help you realign your expectations with reality, and generally help you navigate the tricky waters of publishing. But only when you’ve got a salable idea, are a very good writer, and are reaching your potential readers in good and measurable ways.
5. Anything you’d love to see from your slush pile? A particular genre? Something specific?
I’ve gotten at least one agenting request every day for the last two weeks. I’m a little tired. But I’d love a well-written cozy mystery series. And a beautiful historical fiction.