Monday, December 1, 2008

GumboWriters Interview with Agent, Jamie Brenner with Artists and Artisans

How long have you been agent and how did you get your start Jamie?
I've been in book publishing for 12 years. I've been an agent since early 2007. I had been scouting for film companies prior to that. Part of my job as a film scout was meeting with different agents to see what projects they had that might work for film. That's how I met Adam Chromy, my colleague at Artists and Artisans. One day he called me about a book project and we started talking and ...I started working for him about a week later. Best professional decision I ever made.

What makes your agency different than any others?
I think Adam's background and attitude make it different. He has a business background and that makes him extremely strategic in the way he approaches an author's career. He understands branding and the big picture more than anyone I've ever met. We understand that the decisions we make for an author today aren't just about the one book we happen to be trying to sell at the moment, but that each move will have an impact on the future. We also encourage and help authors to learn how to be their own best publicists/brand developer -- not to wait for the publisher or an outside publicists to do that for them.

What are you looking for specifically that you wish you would see more of?
I'm looking for  fiction that bridges commercial and literary. I like stories about moral crossroads, passion, betrayal, suburban ennui. I like things that are slightly dark and edgy. I am always interested in a coming of age story set against a unique background.
Jamie what are you tired of receiving?
I'm tired of stories about women in their twenties trying to get a guy in a big city. Those stories have merit, but they have been done to death and I just can't get excited about them.
How can a new writer get your attention in a good way?
Email a great query. And by great, I mean that they are able to convey the hook of their story within the first two paragraphs of the email.

How can a signed writer stay in your radar without driving you insane?
My clients have all been pretty great about trusting me to get things done. I always welcome a call or email to check in. When I am going out with a client's project, I try to explain the process so they know what to expect in terms of updates and I try to understand what they need to make them feel comfortable as well.  Some people need more hand holding than others, and I understand that.

What do you wish more writers understood about you as an agent Jamie that they don't seem to?
Great question. I think writers need to understand the extreme volume of material that we have to read at any given time.  It's not just submissions -- it's our clients manuscripts and revisions or maybe an article they are writing that they want an opinion on.  When I pass on a manuscript, I just don't have time to a detailed critique of what isn't working. Sometimes I do, but only if I think the manuscript is really close and I see very clearly what could be done to improve it. I also think writers need to remember that this is a business, not a resource for workshopping their project. I also wish writers would know that every agent I know truly loves books and writers, and we take no pleasure in passing on manuscripts. We wish we could sell everything that crosses our desks!

What's the best way for a writer to reach you?
Email: And please, please don't call about what kind of work our agency represents. Our website has all that info: