My thanks to Wendy Schmalz for being my first blog guest. Her remarks remind us that publishing is a business that takes many forms. If we want to see our words in print, we must understand how the business side works. Many authors and artists work on their own while others use agents. A word of caution though. No agent can sell a weak manuscript and none will try. Whether we go it alone or rely on an agent, our responsibility to produce excellent writing doesn’t change.
I’m compiling a list of other experts to invite to share their experiences and advice on my blog over the coming months. If there is a particular subject you’d like to see addressed, let us know.
Have you discovered our first three thanks poems? They’re posted under ADULT WORD OF THE MONTH POEMS. Each one offers a different way to express thanks. So far we haven’t seen a poem this month in our YOUNG POETS’ WORD OF THE MONTH POEMS, but i bet we will. I’m counting on it!
As promised, today my guest is New York literary agent, Wendy Schmalz. I’ve worked with Wendy and know her as a professional and as a friend. If you have questions or thoughts, that’s what the comment section below is for! Wendy opened her own agency in 2002. Before that she was a principal at Harold Ober Associates. She represents a small, eclectic group of writers.
Hi Wendy. Thank you for being my first guest. Welcome to the blog.
Hi, David, and thanks for inviting me. I hope your readers will find my remarks of interest.
I love books. I love everything about them – how they smell, how they feel, how they look on a shelf. I love the words. I’m infatuated with my Sony Reader. It smells like pleather, it’s stiff in my hands and it won’t stand on a shelf. But it’s got all the words.
I first got my Reader so I could download manuscripts and not have to schlep heavy paper manuscripts with me wherever I went. It wasn’t long before I was downloading published books. To my utter astonishment, it’s become my preferred way of reading. It’s more than just the portability. It’s my personal movable library.
For my entire career in publishing people have been predicting the death of books. First it was CD ROMS (Boy was everyone wrong about that one!). Now people predict ebooks as the beginning of the end. I think it’s the beginning of an expansion of reading, especially for older middle grade and YA novels. Kids prefer reading on screen. The more ebooks we offer them the more they’ll read. I also think it will result in more sales. I might lend friends a copy of a book, but I’m not going to lend my reader. They’ll have to get their own download.
What I am concerned about is the fate of literary fiction for children. While “quiet” books have been difficult to place for a while now, it’s been much, much harder during this recession. In the last several months, I’ve seen a spike in queries from authors who have had several books published (often to starred reviews and awards), but have been cut loose by their publishers because of mid-list sales. More often than not, I have to tell them that I can’t do anything to help them.
High concept is what sells. I by no means think that high concept equals dreck. Many, many commercial books are extremely well written. Publishing is a business and I’m part of that business. It’s how I make my living and I want my business to be prosperous. I do, though, think there’s a beauty in literary fiction that children are going to miss out on if the current trend doesn’t change.
As an agent, I look for books that are well written and that appeal to my personal taste. I’ve never been a fan of traditional fantasy or science fiction so I’m not a good judge of those genres. I focus on older middle grade and YA fiction. I’m not taking on any new picture book writers.
People often ask me if vampire books and urban fantasy are on their way out. Clones of TWILIGHT and other huge sellers are out, but an original take on vampires or urban fantasy or any other genre will always sell. Anyone can copy; a good writer finds a way to be innovative.
David, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit on your blog.
Wendy, many thanks for taking the time to share some of your views.
BULLETIN: I JUST POSTED MY THANKS POEM. LOOK FOR IT UNDER ADULT WORD OF THE MONTH POEMS. DAVID
I mentioned the other day that I plan to invite an occasional guest to appear on my blog. These brief articles (500 – 750 words or so) aren’t set up in a Q/A format. I’ll simply ask experts in various fields of interest to choose a subject and write about it. Our first guest is a New York agent, Wendy Schmalz. Wendy opened her own agency in 2002. Before that she was a principal at Harold Ober Associates. She represents a small, eclectic group of writers and I think you will find her opinions and advice most interesting. I’ve worked with Wendy on projects with Sandy Asher so I can tell you from personal experience that she is a good agent and a neat lady.
Read what Wendy has to say on Monday when I post her remarks.
On to other matters. One good teacher I know (Kim Jasper) suggests that my word for this month, thanks, is tougher to write about than our word last month (dirt). Another great teacher (Laynah Rogers) suggests a more emphatic word: gag.
So what do you think? Opinions please. We can stick with thanks and save gag for later or we can give our poets a choice between those two words for this month. I’m a little concerned that so far Steven Withrow is the only poet who has posted a poem. How is everybody else doing?
I hope you enjoyed Wendy Schmalz’s remarks yesterday. I was reminded that publishing is a business and anyone interested in being published must become partly business people too. The products of our minds drive the industry but we must also be aware of the practical side of getting published. Some writers and artists deal with that part of the business on their own. Many depend on excellent agents like Wendy. I thought you might like meet her hear what she has to say.
I am making a list of other experts to call on for opinion pieces and advice over the coming months. Let me know if you have subjects you’d like to see addressed.
By now I hope you’ve discovered our first three thanks poems, which are posted in the Adult Word of the Month Poems section. Each of the offerings has found a different way to express variations on the theme. I look forward to seeing your poems when you are ready to share them. So far we have no entries from students but I hope that will change soon!