Tuesday, November 25, 2008

GumboWriters Interview with Literary Agent, Peter Buckman of Ampersand Agency

How long have you been agent and how did you get your start Peter ?  Ampersand is in its sixth year, and I'd already been a publisher and then a full-time writer. But after 35 years I'd said most of what I wanted to say, and people weren't listening anyway, so my wife, who's been a foreign rights agent forever, said why didn't I get some authors and sell them in the English-speaking world, and she (and our daughter: they work together) would cover the rest of the world. So I had lunch with the guy who'd taught her everything, and after four bottles of Merlot we emerged with The Ampersand Agency.

What makes your agency different than any others?  We're very candid, we respond very fast, we only take on stuff  we're really enthusiastic about (as opposed to stuff that might sell but isn't very well written), and we're very professional.

What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
  Good stories told in a distinctive voice, whether it's a novel or non-fiction. 

Peter what are you tired of receiving?
  We try to make clear what we DON'T handle: poetry, science-fiction, fantasy, illustrated children's books, scripts, and books by American writers on American subjects that don't have an American publisher on board. I get very tired of opening submissions from people who plainly haven't read our website.

How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
  Brevity and wit. 

How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
  Most of publishing is insane. Mind you, the movie business is worse.

What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Peter that they don't seem to?  That my rejection letters are nicely phrased but still mean "no". Having been a writer for many years I know that rejection (like criticism) is painful, but like everyone else I want to be loved too.

What's the best way for a writer to reach you?  Queries via email, submissions via snail mail.