Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coffee and Q&A with my Agent!

Hi, guys! As promised, my awesome agent, STEPHANIE KIP ROSTAN is answering the first batch of questions we’ve drawn from the hat today. I’ll take your coffee orders now : )

Q: I'd love to hear your agent's thoughts on electronic media, and whether writers should start thinking about adding 'extra value' through additional content such as deleted scenes, essays, etc.. Thanks for providing this opportunity -- great idea. And how wonderful that your agent would do this!

SKR: There’s no question that e-books are increasing as a percentage of sales and it’s important to think about how this changes the business. For a new or still-getting-established fiction author, I think it is most valuable to spend your time building an online presence via social media, blogging, a website, etc, instead of focusing on creating special content for an e-book. If you do create compelling additional content, my opinion is that you would do best to give it away for free as part of the previously mentioned efforts – on your website, and via other online platforms, to generate interest in your writing. So far we are seeing that people are willing to pay for an electronic format of just the book – and unless you are talking about increased functionality (how-to videos, etc) they are not really willing to pay any more and not more likely to buy if there are additional text features on an e-book. This might be different when you are a celebrity and can offer exclusive e-book only add-ons! For nonfiction authors, there is a lot more to say about the convergence of apps, “enhanced e-books” (e-books including text and video or interactive functionality), and verbatim text e-books – that’s going to have to be an answer for another day!

Q: I did have a question for Ms. Rostan. I noticed on Querytracker that she is closed to unsolicited queries, so I just used the basic query email address at the agency to query my historical suspense/mystery. Does Ms. Rostan see these?

SKR: I am not closed to unsolicited queries. I read every query that is sent to my email address, and I do request additional material from a small number of these, although unfortunately I do have to decline most as I don’t have a lot of time for reading new material. I have a pretty full client list already and need to prioritize spending time on them (right, Sam?).

Q: Aside from a first line hook, compelling synopsis or story idea, what makes you keep on reading, what makes it, for you, a book you can’t put down?

SKR: As a follow up to the last question – it’s the voice! Sometimes you start reading something and feel like it’s like nothing you’ve ever read before. I mean, it may be similar in certain ways but the writing feels very distinct and unique, like you’ve met a person at a party that you find totally fascinating. This is the best way I can think of to explain what attracts me to some voices. Of course, this is one of the most subjective elements of writing but even when I work on nonfiction it is the unique perspective/voice informing the material that really excites me.

Q: There isn't much up on the agency's website on what she likes to read, so what are her favorite books and what is she looking to represent?
 What books is she excited to see coming out in the coming year? Tell us something that people don't know about her.

SKR: I like to read the same kinds of things I represent -- really, I think that is why I represent them! My fiction clients range from funny and wry -- Lisa Lutz’s THE SPELLMAN FILES (and the next four books in the series, including the paperback of THE SPELLMANS STRIKE AGAIN out in March) and her collaborative mystery HEADS YOU LOSE written with David Hayward (out in April) -- to very dark and literary fiction like Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES (she will have a new book in Spring 2012). I also love charming, heartfelt, thoughtful women’s fiction (like Sam’s and) like Laura Fitzgerald’s DREAMING IN ENGLISH (February), Wendy Wax’s TEN BEACH ROAD (June), and Carol Snow’s WHAT CAME FIRST (Fall). I am interested in paranormal elements. I love a love story. I like historical novels and real events used as the basis of fiction. I am often won over by things that are unusual.

I also represent some nonfiction; I would describe what I’m looking for as practical nonfiction that has a perspective, fills a need and hopefully makes people think. This includes psychology, craft/cooking/home, travel, parenting/kids activities, women’s issues, business and some memoir.

In my spare time (ha, ha!), I do read books that I had absolutely nothing professional to do with. Last year, I loved THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, Tana French’s books, PREP, IN COLD BLOOD, ATONEMENT, UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King, Chitra Divakaruni’s SISTER OF MY HEART, the memoirs LOOK ME IN THE EYE and THE GLASS CASTLE and Emily Gray’s COMMUTERS. Many of these were not new last year – I just finally caught up to them!

Something people don’t know about me: I have watched so many episodes of CRIMINAL MINDS that I truly believe I could profile a serial killer myself if the need arose. But let’s hope it doesn’t.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for so eloquently answering the question about "voice".

Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview! My thanks to you both. I have two questions for Ms. Rostan,

1) Writers are always being told to "write the next book" while we're querying and subbing manuscripts, but what should the "next book" be? Do you recommend writing something similar to what a writer's already written, or trying something new?

2) Are you a "no response means no" agent or do you eventually respond to all submitted manuscripts?

Thanks again for providing such an enlightening interview!

Scrollwork said...

That was a satisfying read! Thank you. Mighty generous of you to share your agent with us.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Linda - I hope you found Steph's answer useful :)
Jblynn - Thanks for your great questions! I'll drop them in the hat for the next round. :)
Scrollwork - Full credit goes to Steph for taking time out from her SUPER busy schedule to answer questions :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for doing this, Sam and Stephanie. It was an interesting and informative read.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Liz - I'm glad you found it useful :)

Cathy Kozak said...

This is great Sam. Now, if I could just figure out the Archetype for the Agent, I'd be set!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Cathy - Haha! Oh, what writers would give to figure that out... ;)

Victoria Dixon said...

Sam, I'm researching Arielle Eckstut at Levine Greenberg and found your link to this interview on Absolute Write. Thanks so much for doing this!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Hi, Victoria! Glad you found it useful. Good luck with querying! :)