How long have you been agent and how did you get your start Nicholas?
I've been in book publishing for about 10 years, first as an editor, then as a manager. I started as an editor at the literary journals Conceptions Southwest and Blue Mesa Review and went on to work in the editorial department at John Wiley & Sons. After that I became managing editor at mid-sized New York publisher. I eventually started my own eponymous house, which was named by Writers Digest as one of the top 50 publishers for first-time authors. The Bob Grant Show, Men's Health magazine, Inc. magazine, ABC and CNN and others all covered my books. Building on that experience I started the agency in 2007.
I like to think of us as "author" representatives, as the agency tag reads, not just representatives of individual titles. I look for career-spanning relationships and have a comprehensive approach to representation. I help my authors develop their manuscripts and continue with selling the remaining rights to their projects after publication as well as try to aim their future books in the right direction.
What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?I'd like to see more genre fiction with fresh (and I stress "fresh") angles and characters. New approaches to categories such as chick lit, mystery, suspense, horror have so much potential for series and franchises, especially now in today's platform-agnostic book world. I'd also like to see more narrative nonfiction. There's a lot of film potential there at the moment.
Nicholas what are you tired of receiving?I get a lot of literary fiction. It's wonderful to read but very hard to sell so it really has to stand out. In general though I don't like to see submissions that are sloppy or unprofessional. It reflects poorly on the writer. For me, the quality of the submission carries nearly equal weight to that of the writing. After all, I work with authors as much as I do their books so professionalism is important.
How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?Author credentials and platform are key for nonfiction. Are you an expert in the field? Where can you promote your book? For fiction I look first for a unique author voice, more so than story. You can edit a story but voice, in my opinion, is something you're born with. On the more practical side do your research. It's not enough to just have a wonderful book any more. Study the competition and explain why your wonderful book is different from and better than all the other wonderful books out there. Finally, stake your category. While it may be innovative to straddle genres it also dilutes your book and makes it very hard to sell to an editor and then a Barnes & Noble that can only place it on one shelf.
How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?Open communication is important in any author/agent relationship. I believe that. I almost always respond to my authors immediately. However, understand my workload. As an agent I get shovels of email a day so gratuitous questions can quickly become disrespectful and unproductive for everyone.
What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Nicholas that they don't seem to?Please understand that I carefully read every submission, which is why it takes so long to respond. Occasionally it takes more than my four-to-six week estimate. Writers should know that a delayed response is in no way a sign of disrespect or disinterest, but rather the opposite.
Everything should go through email. I used to receive submissions by snail mail but after my slush pile grew bigger than me I set up firstname.lastname@example.org.