Today we're proud to have Eddie Schneider, agent at the JABberwocky Literary Agency, to answer some questions about the Biz.
How did you become an agent? Was that always what you wanted to do?
It all started, one peyote-fueled night in the desert...
Really, I moved to NYC with the vague notion I might want to be an editor, and got an internship at another literary agency, which quickly divested me of that notion. Agents can have more leeway to work on their hearts' desire than editors, and as I read pretty widely, that appealed to me.
Take us through a typical day in the life of a New York agent.
A typical day starts with a meticulously laid plan, which is tied up neatly in a bow and then tossed out the window. Inevitably we wind up working on surprises that come up, which can occupy more time than they ought. But isn't every job like that?
More specifically, during the day, an agent might: Negotiate a contract; nag a publisher on an overdue payment or correct a royalty statement that has been subject to creative accounting; discuss changes to the title/cover of a forthcoming book; box up twenty pounds of books to ship to subagents in Germany or Thailand; curse at the foolishness of the latest publisher to reject a book they would pay $100,000 for, if they had any sense. Then after business hours, on weekends and holidays, we get to work on the fun stuff: Reading, editing, looking for new clients.
What makes a manuscript stand out to you? And what can authors do to improve their chances of impressing an agent?
What makes a manuscript stand out most to me are two things. The quality of the writing (#1), and the ability of the storyteller to immerse me (#2).
The second part is easy. Write well, and we'll be impressed.
The problem, of course, is getting from a place where you have the burning desire to write a book, to actually being good at it. It's like playing football in that regard. Lots of kids grow up wanting to be a pro quarterback or a linebacker, but a tiny fraction make it to the NFL.
Those that do, make it because they worked harder than anybody else they went to school with, followed that up by working harder than anybody else they went to college with, and followed that up by working harder than the other rookies in training camp.
As Jon mentioned in an earlier blog post, it's a huge help to have a writing group. To keep this metaphor going, having someone else who knows what they're doing look at your writing is like sitting down with the quarterbacks coach and going over game tape. You'll learn a lot, which you can apply to your next performance.
Work hard, keep trying to improve your game, and you'll give yourself the best possible shot at being a professional author. No one's going to just give you that QB slot, or that publishing contract, just because you have heart.
What is the usual process for presenting manuscripts to editors? Are those stories of three-hour work lunches really true?
These days, we usually e-mail them after talking with editors. Changing over to e-mail from physical manuscripts wasn't good for the bicycle messenger industry, but it was for the environment.
As for those lunches. If only the urban legends of the three-martini lunch were true! We do have lunches, and they can sometimes run long, but it would be rare for one to go on for three hours. Both editors and agents' lives are too hectic for that, at least in the US.
Are you actively seeking new clients? And what kinds of books are you looking to represent?
Yes! I'm looking for YA and adult fiction, specifically sf, fantasy, and literary fiction. I'm also looking for science, history, and narrative nonfiction. For more detail, visit http://awfulagent.com/agents.
Our submission guidelines are here: http://awfulagent.com/submissions-2
Please note that the agency has re-opened to submissions, so don't be shy.
Thank you, Eddie. If you folks have any additional questions for him, post them in the comments and I'll bug him for an answer.