Monday, March 29, 2010
This will have to wait for another day...
What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.
A bad internet connection at my hotel made any daily blogging difficult. I actually tried popping up to press room one afternoon as it had been rumored there was free internet there. Alas, that was not so. I’m also on vacation this coming week so I’m going to post a bunch of entries today to get you through the week.
Bologna in a Wrap Up.
1. The “big” book of the fair was a middle grade fantasy called EMERALD ATLAS. From the buzz I heard, there was a large auction in the US for the title at the same time a lot of foreign publishers decided to kick in some good money as well.
On the whole, this was seen as a positive sign that middle grade could make a little resurgence soon as sales have been slow in this arena—despite a lot of editors looking for good MG material.
2. Almost all foreign editors expressed some fatigue in vampires, werewolves, angels, demons, and all things paranormal. Despite that, these titles were still selling like crazy in their territories so I’m not sure what to tell you. I actually got a lot of interest in my fun vampire books as they are a bit different but on the whole, foreign editors weren’t jumping on things paranormal unless it was a ‘big” book.
3. YA is still hot.
4. Foreign editors love Ally Carter. She seems to be the one non-paranormal author who works well abroad. We just found out she is a bestseller in Brazil. How fun is that?
There it is in a nutshell really.
Monday, March 22, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? KIM THE WAITRESS by Material Issue
Well, I do foresee a few problems with blogging this week but I will try my best. I will be spending the majority of my time in the Agents Centre and it does not have wifi. Yes, you read that correctly. Nor can I plug my computer in for the internet. It just doesn’t have it.
And the hotel’s definition of “high speed” internet greatly differs from mine. Working on my network is physically painful it’s so slow. I’ve also looked around for an internet café and geographically they are not handy. So we’ll muddle long as best as possible. In good news, the vino rosso is lovely and the formaggio even more so.
So this morning I’ll be heading over to the Fairgrounds around 11 a.m. to visit the Agents Centre and have my table assigned. I spent 2 weeks trying to figure out when they would send me my table number. At London, you get your assignment when you registered. Finally an agent friend took pity on me and mentioned that the table doesn’t get assigned until the fair begins. Aha. Seems a little inconvenient for the people trying to meet with me but when in Bologna….
Today is the SCBWI Bologna Symposium. I’m participating in a first pages agent panel. This is the workshop where the conference volunteer reads the first page of a variety of submissions and the agents then comment on it.
Hey, writers wanting to be gluttons for punishment is international! Grin. Seriously though, just remember that no matter how an agent responds to your pages today, this is not the make or break moment of your career. The greatest thing about writing is that you can grow and mature in your ability.
Since the fair hasn’t actually begun, I have very little to report but I do have two fun pics to share:
From a bookstore on Via dell’Indipendenza, the Italian bestseller, which is currently sitting at #7 on the list, IL GUSTO PROIBITO DELLO ZENZERO:
The Forbidden Taste of Ginger. Look familiar? Yes, it’s the Italian version of Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet.
And four ladies take a Venetian Gondola by storm. I must say Antonio looks distinctly unimpressed.
From left, author Sarah Rees Brennan, her friend Natasha, and me. Ally Carter snapped the pic. I have other great shots but guess who forgot to bring the cord for her camera so I could download the pictures off of it….
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? TELL ME WHAT by Fine Young Cannibals
To give you a real rant. Today I found out that Penguin is no longer sending out final contracts electronically in locked PDF.
Why? Because some unethical agent decided to tamper with the e-lock and then make unauthorized changes in the contract before sending on to a client for signing.
Now the rest of us have to go back to the stone age of having things mailed (unbelievable!) to us.
Unethical agent, I want to hunt you down and slap you upside the head.
Now, I have argued with Penguin to create an “approved agents list.” I’m sure there are many agents like me who have more than proven that we don’t contract tamper and can be trusted with a locked electronic PDF for final contract.
I’m so annoyed by this, I can barely type. And other publishers, please don’t take this step backwards. There is a lot of technology out there that could resolve this issue. Use it. Going back to snail mail is costly—and I do mean in actual dollars.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? RUNAWAY TRAIN by Soul Asylum
Just diving right into the questions today.
Shelley Watters asked:
1. As far as re-querying an agent - if a writer queries an agent for a story and is rejected, how long should they wait before submitting a new project (not the rejected one but an entirely new project) to that agent? It seems that agents differ on their answers to this question.
Of course we all differ on what the answer would be. That’s why publishing is so maddening to writers. For me, I’d say wait 4 weeks, then query with new project. But here’s the kicker. DO NOT mention that you have queried the agency before. Act like this is the first query ever that you are sending us. We get 150 queries a day. Chances are very good we won’t remember your name (unless you have a really unique name that is!) Writers for some reason feel obligated to tell us their whole prior history of our rejecting their queries. Don’t be seduced!
2. I understand that a writer/agent relationship is not simply for one book, but hopefully for the entire career of the writer. I write across genres (from children's picture books to young adult novels to adult novels). I have been submitting my picture books to agents that specialize in picture books. If I manage to get an agent for the picture books but they do not represent YA novels, does that mean I have to start the querying process all over again?
I have to say I’d be a little surprised if an agent who reps picture books doesn’t also rep other children’s projects. Let’s say imagine they don’t and you have an agent for your picture book but also want him/her to shop a YA. I’d talk with the agent first and ascertain comfort level to do that. I know a lot of agents who specialize in children’s but will also rep an adult project by a current client and can do so quite successfully.
I have several YA and MG authors. If any of them had a picture book, I would shop it for them although in general I don’t want to take on clients for just picture books. It’s a really tough thing to sell.
Is there a specific market for YA nonfiction?
Yes there is but it’s significantly smaller than the market for fiction.
I personally have a memoir (250 pgs) that I would love to target for High School Family Studies. It's sort of like "Tuesday's with Morrie" & "The Last Lecture" but as if written by Erma Bombeck -and no one dies until 46 years later - and it chronicles a happy family life after the traumatic event that shaped them... and no one did drugs, or got too depressed or... but boy is there conflict and drama. :)
And of course memoir would be THE toughest thing to sell in a YA market but it has been done. In fact, I took some time to look up a few titles that I had seen recently for teens but couldn’t remember the exact titles. A quick search on Amazon and BN didn’t yield much. That shows what you are up against. I ended up not being able to find the titles I was thinking about as I couldn’t remember the either author’s name--just the subject matter of each memoir.
I'm curious to how you would handle an author who writes mainstream romance novels and multicultural romance novels under separate pseudonyms.
I’m not sure I understand the question. Authors use multiple pseudonyms often. There’s nothing special about “handling” it. An agent would just need to make sure that option clauses were restricted for the two genres so the author doesn’t get in trouble with the publishers over it. Also, agent would have to modify the no compete clause in both contracts to accommodate as well.
Are you open to queries from Asian countries as well?
Heidi Wesman Kneale asked:
We all know it's a hooky voice that gets an agent/editor's attention, but it's a satisfactory story that cinches the deal. Say you get pitched by a hopeful writer who has a great voice, but their story plot fizzles. "Not interested in this story, but would like to see other works," you might say
So they send you another pitch, and then another pitch, and then another pitch, but you must turn them down because the stories are dull, lackluster and very flat. At what point would you say, "You've got a great voice, but you can't write a satisfactory story arc?" Or would you not say that at all, hoping that some day they will write a cracking good tale?
I can only say how I would handle it. For me, I’d give the writer two chances and if they couldn’t nail a great story with that lovely voice, I’d be moving on. There are too many other great writers out there who have mastered this.
In Hollywood, the time of year a movie is released typically speaks volumes of a studio's expectations of success, keeping tentpole movies in the May - July bracket and the less ambitious projects in January - March. Is the same true for publishing? Does the month/season a book is released say anything about how the publisher expects a book to perform? And are certain genres more commonly released during certain parts of the year?
The answer is yes—publishing mimics those months/seasons as well. Traditionally, it’s the hardest to launch a debut author in the fall—specifically in the months of October, November, and December as that is the time that the publishers release their big box authors for the holiday season. Competition is fierce for the customer’s attention and buying dollars.
Now having said that, Simone Elkeles was launched in December for what was her fourth book PERFECT CHEMISTRY and that gamble paid off handsomely. Walker knew that teens would be buying this novel on their own with holiday money or gift cards and so risked releasing that title during the “big release” season. Also keep in mind that the children’s world operates a little differently than adult divisions which is why Jamie’s HOTEL was released in January. Much easier to get review attention and the big push in that month. Fewer books to compete against.
Monday, March 15, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? MERCY by Duffy
I thought I would have a bit more time to blog tonight so my apologies for not tackling a ton of questions this round.
Compared to the first three months of last year, have you received more or less query letters in the first three months of 2010? What are the most common genres? What do you rarely see?
Yes, our query inbox has definitely grown from last year. This time in 2009, we were probably seeing 80 to 100 queries a day. Now it’s more like 100-150. I have no explanation for it. Perhaps we are on more people’s radar?
Most common genres? Young adult, romance, women’s fiction.
What I would like to see more of? Well written query letters. Grin. You knew I was going to say that. I’d say that easily 50% of stuff we get is for nonfiction or something else we don’t represent.
I’d love to see more queries for literary fiction with a commercial bent, middle grade, and more sf&f. I’d like to build in these areas (and yes we are still beefing our list in the above stuff as well.)
If a writer has gained success in one genre (over twenty novels that have made money, helped build a large fan base, and five contracts for five more books) and he/she wants to switch genres after the contractual obligations have been met because he/she always wanted to write mainstream, is this writer starting from scratch again? But more than that, would this writer be taking a huge chance by walking away from a good thing and trying to pursue another?
I’m a little leery about answering this question. There are so many factors that need to be taken into consideration. Also, this is a conversation you really should be having with your current agent. Now having said that, I will try and answer—although my gut tells me that you already know the answers to your questions and perhaps you are simply looking for encouragement or validation as you walk this new path.
Of course the author would be taking a chance by walking away and starting something else. You already know that is the answer. My question is this: does it have to be one or the other? As in do you have to walk away or can you scale back the number of books in that genre in order to give yourself time to work on something mainstream?
Are you no longer passionate about the genre you are established in? If that is the case, then it may not be worth pursuing more books because your heart isn’t in it. What is your financial picture and can you afford to take a risk? Will fans of your current established genre be open to a move in a new direction? Can you live with that fact if the fans aren't willing to follow you?
If you want to be safe, I’d keep a foot in your current genre and then test the waters with a new work that is more mainstream. If your heart isn’t in staying in the old genre than you just have to jump in and try it.
There are many stories where this has been successful for the author and I can probably highlight as many stories of where it hasn’t.
How much of your time do you spend reading query letters versus time spent blogging? I'm just wondering because there are several agents who blog every day and I often wonder where they find the time.
I actually don’t spend a lot of time reading queries. First off, we’ve hired a wonderful assistant named Anita. Her job is to read all queries that come in as we can get up to 150 a day. She sets aside the ones that Sara and I need to review. Given that, I try and check my query email inbox once a week. It usually takes me 15 minutes to read the queries there and decide if I want to ask for sample pages or not.
As for blogging, I give myself 20 to 30 minutes a day to write my one entry. That’s it.
How do you know if or when to resend something to an agent? Are you only supposed to resend a query when they ask you, or can you even when they don't, if you've made extensive revisions?
Constance, I think if you extensively rework a query letter so it’s basically new, I’d resend it. My suggestion? Change the title to something new. Sometimes titles stand out and it will sound familiar. In terms of time span, if you submitted queries and have received mainly rejection responses, I’d revise significantly, wait about 3 weeks, then resend. What can an agent do? Track you down and chastise you for resubmitting? Grin. Be bold. Now if you are rejected numerous times by same agent. Move on. Lots of other agent fishes in the sea.
Oh, boy, I should triple check before I press send. Here's the real question:
Would you consider SOMEONE published if they have worked as a writer for a book packager?
Yes. Especially if the book packager is a well-known company with a strong record.
Friday, March 12, 2010
STATUS: I’ve collected about 40 questions that I’ll be answering all next week. No more submitted Qs please as it would go on forever then… If you are in Tucson this weekend, two NLA authors, Jamie Ford and Sara Creasy, will be at the Tucson Festival of Books. A literary and an SF writer. How great is that?
What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE SWEETEST TABOO by Sade
This week’s entry is courtesy of my author Kristina Riggle, REAL LIFE & LIARS.
A movie trailer that nails every dramatic cliché! Love it. I have to say, I can’t help but think of the “opening credits” for TROPIC THUNDER while watching this. Def. in the same vein.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? LEGEND IN YOUR OWN TIME by Carly Simon
Wow. That’s a plethora of Qs. At least I know what I’ll be gabbing about next week—which is good because pre-trip is always a tad hectic.
1) If you had to choose a different career than literary agent, what would you choose?
I used to teach college back in the day. Unbelievable to me that it has been over 15 years ago now. I think if I weren’t going to be a lit agent, I’d probably teach again. I really enjoyed it.
Of course what I like to be is independently wealthy. Wink.
2) I tweeted your post(s) yesterday because they rocked. If you're not on Twitter, how come?
Oi! It’s on my list of things to do. Honestly! Anita, our new fab assistant is getting us on Facebook and Twitter very soon so keep an eye out.
I don't know if this outside your power/knowledge, but I'm wondering why Perfect Chemisty isn't available on Kindle?
In this case did the publisher decide not to go ebook? Or was that decision made on different level? Any insight onto the reasoning?
Walker, Simone, and I all want to be in eBook format. The eBook was supposed to be available by now but the reason it isn’t has a lot to do with the whole Amazon hoopla and publishers changing to the agency commission model etc. I expect it will be available very soon as Simone’s editor keeps assuring me that it’s in the pipeline etc.
Staying with the cover art theme, could you explain the process. I assume the editor gives the art department direction and the writer's input is slim to nil (unless your name is Stephen King and your publisher contracts an independent illustrator to do your cover art).
And have you ever had to battle a publisher on your client's behalf because the cover art was just all wrong or looked like it had been slopped together?
The answer to this question really depends on the editor and the publisher involved. I have some editors who keep us in the loop on EVERYTHING regarding the cover—including seeing early sketches from the cover artist. Then other houses just want to present the finished cover to you (which I hate). Now, in general, editors really want their authors to be happy with covers so they often ask for a lot of feedback before the cover process begins such as how a character looks or scenes that could be cool if represented.
No matter what, I always have a new author put together a file of covers they love and why (and grabbing most from their publisher but others are included too). That way the house gets a sense of the author’s taste even if they aren’t going to get a direct say in the art.
And yes, I’ve done many a battle over cover art. Sometimes I’ve won. And sometimes I have not. In the latter case, I always pray that the publisher was right and I was wrong and the cover works in a big way.
More Qs tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? MARGARITAVILLE by Jimmy Buffet
I’m having performance anxiety. How can I possibly follow the last two wonderful blog entries?
I need to make a video or something. Speaking of, if you couldn’t get enough of the cover design for BLAMELESS, Orbit Art Director Lauren Panepinto gives an interview here. There is even a glimpse of an earlier version of the cover for SOULLESS. I find that just fascinating and thought my blog readers might think so as well.
Alex, Orbit Publicist, emailed to say that the link was all over twitter including a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. Yes, that Guy from Apple. I think my clients might be too cool for me… Grin.
Let’s hope some of these folks will buy the book….
Also getting amazing feedback from Simone’s book trailer for RULES OF ATTRACTION. I’m hoping that is tweetalicious as well. (Hey, maybe I can get a new word into Urban Dictionary.) It’s gotten a thumbs-up from my 16-year old niece and as all of you might not know, she rules the universe.
If it looks like I’m stalling in writing this entry, you’d be right. I’m floundering around for a good topic today. I haven’t got anything new to relay in terms of contracts and electronic book royalties. For one of my contracts in play, we may be reaching a record on how long it’s taken for a publisher to come to terms with us on language regarding this issue. We are at 6 months. Oi! I so feel for my client. Luckily she realizes how important all this is and so is being really terrific and patient about it. But yuck, 6 months and we’ve been pushing. It’s not like I’m sleeping on the job here….
I’m also getting ready for the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. I’ll be flying out next Thursday to Italy. I’ll be giving you the scoop from the floor while there. So in the meantime, maybe it’s time for a few questions. We did this in December and it was fun. I thought maybe I’d entertain some every couple of months so let’s see if you have some good ones for me.
Please no questions easily answered via our website or have been discussed ad nauseam on this blog.
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
STATUS: Second cool thing that happened yesterday but couldn’t share until today. Grin.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE by New Radicals
I have to say this is a video intensive week but it’s not fair if my blog readers don’t get to see it first so here you go.
For Simone’s new book, she really wanted to do a book trailer that looked like a movie trailer. Considering how many teens loved her first novel PERFECT CHEMISTRY, I have a feeling that they are going to love the trailer for RULES OF ATTRACTION. My only regret? That I wasn’t in LA with Simone for the filming. Be still my Mrs. Robinson’s heart.
I’m no stranger to quirky book trailers. I’ve produced parody rap videos as book trailers for some of my previous books, but for the sequel to my bestselling novel Perfect Chemistry I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted my book trailer to look exactly like a real movie trailer – with actors acting out snippets of scenes from my book.
I called Pete Jones, a friend and writer/director whose screenplay Hall Pass is currently being filmed with Owen Wilson and Bill Murray and being directed by the Farrelly Brothers. I told Pete I wanted him to direct a “movie trailer/book trailer” and he said he’d do it. Pete hooked me up with producer Pat Peach with Spotlight Films in California, who did an amazing job of auditioning actors and scouting locations (among other things – the guy seriously is amazing). Each audition was emailed to me, so I was a part of the audition process even though I live in Chicago. After hiring actor Giancarlo Vidrio to play the lead high school bad boy Carlos Fuentes (I knew my fans would LOVE him) and Catesby Bernstein to play the lead heroine Kiara Westford, I still needed to find “my Alex.” It was a cameo role for the hero to Perfect Chemistry and Carlos’s brother. I knew I couldn’t settle for anyone less than “perfect.” My fans are obsessed with my Latino hero Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes. They get tattoos with Alex’s name because they’re so obsessed. I knew I couldn’t let my fans down...I needed to give my readers an Alex Fuentes that fed the fantasy of who Alex is in the book.
As I was watching the auditions and the filming date grew closer, I told Pat Peach that nobody who’d auditioned filled the bill to play Alex. He said if I could have any actor in the world to play Alex, who would it be? That was easy – Alexander F. Rodriguez from Katy Perry’s Hot N Cold music video. Talk about perfection! Both Pete and Pat told me it was a long shot. I got Alexander’s email address and emailed him. To make a long story short, I told him I couldn’t imagine anyone else making my character Alex come alive for the book trailer.
To my complete and utter shock (yes, my jaw actually dropped) Alexander emailed me back and said it sounded like fun and he was on board for the cameo role. I flew out to California for the filming, and I felt like a teenager again seeing the heroes I created come to life. To see my characters exactly how I imagined them was surreal and wonderful and crazy and...and I got so emotional when it was over and Pete Jones called “that’s a wrap!” I started crying. Of course when Pete looked over at me and saw tears running down my cheeks, he laughed and said, “Stop it, Simone. There is no crying in Hollywood.” I couldn’t help it...it’s no accident I write romance novels!
Monday, March 08, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? PRIDE & JOY by Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble
Sometimes a Publisher will put together a really cool promo for an author. And in general, I have to say that the Orbit team is one of my favorites to work with—especially publicity guru Alex. He’s the one that came up with the SOULLESS paper doll promotion. (I’m not biased or anything as he was NLA’s marketing director Lindsay Mergen’s assistant back in the day….Grin).
He, Lauren and Eric of the fab Orbit team (huge thanks!) came up with this just incredible promo—a video montage that compresses hours of labor into 2 minutes on the making of the cover for BLAMELESS—Gail Carriger's third book in the Alexia Tarabotti Parasol Protectorate Series.
Love Orbit! Galley Cat and Huffington Post have already picked it up.
Check it out.
And for fun, here’s the ‘oops’ first draft of the cover. If you watch, you’ll learn exactly what was the mistake in draft one.
Friday, March 05, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.
I’m not afraid to admit this is a total punt of an entry today. It’s almost 7 pm. I’m still at the office and I’d really like to head home. I also have a bad head cold so applying my brain isn’t going to happen.
This is such classic, it’s so worth posting again. Mitchell & Webb’s WRITE THIS. Enjoy!
Thursday, March 04, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? TOMORROW PEOPLE by Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers
Come sit next to me!
Last week, I pretty much spent every entry talking about contracts but today’s discussion tops the cake.
Just recently, a publisher made an offer for the next books from one of my clients. Excellent. But this publisher is also one of the big 6 that have announced that they are moving to the agency commission model for the sale of electronic books.
As ya’ll know based on my math lecture about net receipts last week, there are some key questions that really need to be answered about electronic books and exactly what 25% of net is going to mean.
So my contracts manager and I insisted on talking to contracts director before closing the deal.
The publisher’s response (and this is a paraphrase): they have no idea what the definition of net receipts will be and feel uncomfortable accepting the language we have put forth. Their suggestion? If the author would like to put the contract on hold until the company makes a corporate decision on this, then the author is free to do so. However, the publisher has no timeline for when this will be resolved.
Snort. That’s the solution?
Publishers. The world is changing. Quit dithering. We agents have to negotiate contracts now so maybe get on this. Telling us we can just put it on hold until you get your act together isn’t an alternative.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? HOW TO SAVE A LIFE by The Fray
Last week we got a query from a writer who had published a fantasy series outside of the US. This person was looking for new representation to shop the series in the United States. There was only one problem. It sounded like the writer’s prior agent had already done so.
Just to make sure, I wrote the author to inquire about that. The return response listed a wonderful submission list with all the editors I would have gone to if I had repped the project.
This author is between a rock and hard place. The submit list was good and if it was rejected by all those places, there’s only smaller publishers to try and to be blunt, potentially not worth the agent’s investment of time.
I responded to the author to say so. What advice would I give in this situation? As hard as it may be, it’s time to write something new. Go out with a fresh project in the US. If that book does well, then the agent can always go back to that initial series and rekindle interest in a possible buy. (Good sales can do that.)
Unfortunately, this author did not have anything new to share but I did respond again to say we’d be happy to look at new future work.
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? SHATTERED by O.A.R.
This probably won’t come up for the majority of my blog readers but just in case, I’m going to dispense a few more interview tips if you ever want to work at a literary agency.
Before the interview, visit the agency’s website. (I know—no brainer but hang with me here.) See what kinds of authors and books the agency handles. Then, in preparation for your interview, read some of the authors before your meeting. (Or at the very least see if you can find the first chapter on Amazon’s Search Inside or the author’s webpage so you can read a snippet of the work.) Then demonstrate that knowledge during the interview.
We were hugely impressed with candidates who did that.
Another bit of advice? Be prepared to ask some insightful and/or intelligent questions. At the end of each interview, we always asked the candidate if he/she had any questions for us. Good questions really stood out for us—especially if it showed the candidate’s awareness of current events in publishing (like the Google Settlement or anything else that may have hit the major newswires).
And one last bit of advice. Practice your interview with a friend (and have that friend make up some questions for you). This will allow you to think on your feet if you receive a question that is unanticipated. This will also allow you to practice your speech and conversational ability during the interview. The biggest killer for us in our recent interviews was the constant repetition of the word “um.”
Now we realize that people are nervous in interview situations. We do expect some “ums” (after all, anyone who doesn’t make a living in TV or radio will interject an occasional one here and there). It’s the excessive amount of “ums” that are the problem. Unfortunately, that can make a candidate sound verbally ineffective or tentative—not two qualities you want to project in an interview.
So be conscious of that possible verbal tic during an interview and if you practice before, you’ll have some answers ready and smooth. Trust me, that will impress.
Monday, March 01, 2010
What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEARTBREAK WARFARE by John Mayer
This past week we hired a new assistant. I cannot tell you how excited Sara and I were for this person to start. At the very least, the last 2 months without an assistant aptly demonstrated how much we need one!
During the process, I was talking about it with a friend who is an HR manager. She was absolutely appalled to learn that we planned to interview about 14 candidates (from the over 50 applications we received). After all, we obviously must not have specified the job requirements accurately enough. In her mind, we should only be interviewing about 5 candidates total.
On one hand, she’s probably right. But on the other, the one main criterion we were looking for cannot really be specified on a resume. Lots of our candidates had terrific qualifications. What we were looking for, however, was a demonstrated passion for reading—and not just for one type or genre of fiction. That’s not really going to show up on a resume. It’s only going to be apparent when we ask one specific question.
In our interviews, that one question was this: Tell me about the last three novels you read. Why did you choose those books? Did you enjoy them? Why or why not?
For candidates interested in working at a literary agency, you’d assume this would be a slam dunk kind of question to answer. A “no brainer” if you will.
Surprisingly, a lot of candidates struggled to answer this question.
We were not expecting that. We, of course, had other questions about how detail-oriented was the candidate and how they handled processes etc. but it was really the above question that was the most important to us. So keep that in mind if you ever decide to pursue this type of job path.
Luckily, in the end, we had several terrific final candidates and it was rather sad that we only had the resources to hire one person.