Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Agents Like Us - Lucy Carson

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Lucy Carson from The Friedrich Agency is here!

She’s always on the lookout for YA and MG fiction (though nothing younger), but is also actively build her narrative non-fiction list, as well as upmarket fiction for adults, especially upmarket suspense. You can find her submission guidelines here and tweeting under @LucyACarson.

Lucy's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!


Lucy on Agenting
  • When writers query me, I really wish they would dispense with the bestseller promises and movie speculation and just focus on the book itself and why a READER would connect to it, what makes it fresh and special. It's always tempting to oversell (with words like "guarantee") when pitching, but these are empty (and silly) promises which detract from the purity of a good pitch.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is calling an author to announce that a publisher has made an offer. There's nothing like the unadulterated joy that broadcasts back to me on the phone line-- never going to spoil that by writing an email! I'd like to think we're both excited when we decide to work together in an official capacity, but the moment when an offer arrives is the moment when the author's life is forever changed. 
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is being surprised. Whether it's a plot twist, or a narrator that I trust who is later revealed to be unreliable, or simply the kind of profound character development that takes an unexpected turn-- I want to be changed in some way by the literature that I read. Learning counts, but surprise is the ultimate delight.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I savor the sound of the happy author's voice. Hug my colleagues, especially my Mom. And finish the day with a glorious fried chicken dinner (but I do mix it up for restaurant choice).
  • I really wish I saw more non-fiction in the slush. A lot of agents approach journalists with non-fiction book ideas and grow the project from scratch. I'm not good at that, but I know a strong idea when I see one, and I work extensively with the writer to make it an airtight submission every time. I wish there were more non-fiction writers who submitted proposals without waiting for an agent to find them and convince them to write it. I'm of the opinion that the best projects start with the writer's desire to tell a story, rather than the writer feeling obliged to follow an agent's request.

Lucy on Clients
  • My ideal client would be someone who takes the writing profession as seriously as he or she expects me to take my profession. I'm not interested in one-shot deals, my entire agenting style is designed to build a career for a writer long-term. Since this goal directs my strategy, it wouldn't make sense to build one-book authors into my personal list. The value of commitment, the degree of loyalty, the respect for one's time-- these are all elements we should mutual agree upon.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is that though they are a diverse and varied group of writers, they are each and every one of them determined to succeed, ready to learn, and above all invested in building careers that last.
  • What I want most for any client is the best possible treatment from their publisher. Once the book is out in the world, it's up to readers and reviewers and word of mouth to generate an audience for it. But before that happens, we CAN work together to put everything possible in place for a strong entry into this market. Anyone who thinks the work of an agent ends at the publishing contract is either talking to some unfortunate writer friends OR badly misinformed. I would say that the most important moments in a book's life are the 4 months prior to its publication-- what I want for every client is that during those 4 months, no possible stones are left unturned, and every effort is made from every angle to give their book its best chance.

Lucy on Life
  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be a high-school guidance counselor. Some of the skills are pretty similar! And one of the things I love about agenting is that no two days are the same, it's full of surprises and challenges and it requires both deep sympathy and bold decisions that can have long-term effects. 
  • My favorite (non-client) book is NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl, at least for this year. I love suspense novels that are in their own league, free from convention and filled with complexity and nuance. I waited, along with other Pessl fans, a long time for this novel and it was well worth it!
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of bone-cracking noises. I read a lot of genre fiction and have an over-active imagination, so when someone cracks their knuckles near me, it sends grotesque shivers down my spine.
  • My favorite drink is Bulleit bourbon and ginger beer, on ice with two limes.

Don't miss the entire series! 
Next week: Holly McGhee from Pippin Properties, Inc.

3 comments:

  1. Valerie, I found the link to your neat blog when I was over at LiteraryRambles.com.

    What a fantastic interview with Lucy Carson. Thank you, thank you.


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