Literary agents play an important role in the publishing world. They work closely with publishers and marketers to help find success for the authors they work with. Their knowledge of the industry is extensive and wide-ranging, and their job requires them to wear many different hats. This makes literary agent advice a great resource for anyone writing, publishing, or marketing a book.
To gather more insights, we interviewed Christina Hogrebe, a literary agent at the Jane Rotrosen Agency. In this Q&A, Christina shares valuable insights into her role as a literary agent and into publishing industry trends, and she offers some fantastic advice for authors!
1. As a literary agent, what does your average day look like?
One of the best parts of my job is that there is no average day. Because agents wear many hats, I may be editing a manuscript or proposal, negotiating a deal, vetting a contract, interfacing with my colleagues in JRA’s subsidiary rights and business departments, working with a film and TV coagent on a deal, or revisiting goals with a client.
2. How much interaction and communication should an author expect with their agent?
That all depends on what’s going on. If you’re working together on a new proposal or in the middle of negotiating a deal for publishing rights, you may be in contact multiple times a day. But if you’re in the middle of writing a book with a year on your deadline, your agent may only be in touch periodically to explain royalty statements or to report on any subsidiary rights sales that may precede publication. One expectation all authors should have of their agents regardless of their particular situation: Your agent should respond to your phone calls and emails in a timely manner. If your correspondence goes unanswered, that’s a warning sign.
3. If you had to give one piece of querying advice to an author, what would it be?
Don’t rely on querying alone to help you find the right agent for you. In the last two years, 80% of my new clients did not come from my query inbox. The majority of these new relationships came about through referrals from agency clients or colleagues, or they were established authors whose work I admired and pursued.
You should absolutely query to a select few legitimate agencies whose tastes and sales history align with your work. But my advice is to become part of the writing and publishing community. Find a critique group or professional author organization. Attend conferences and follow your contemporaries on social media. And more than anything, read widely in your genre.
4. What do you think is an exciting trend in the book industry at the moment?
For me, it’s a tie between audio and books-to-film/television, two areas of growth that have developed because of advances in technology. When it comes to audio — digital audio in particular — authors should see it as another format; another vehicle for communicating their story. But authors should be prepared to see changes in the marketplace reflected in their agreements with both print and audio publishers.
5. How should authors prepare for or react to this trend?
More than ever, authors need knowledgeable business partners to help them navigate these changes in the marketplace, to protect their interests, and to seize opportunities that will arise. The growth of books-to-film/TV has been a particularly interesting one. As we have seen in the romantic comedy genre in particular, film/TV streaming services have helped translate viewers into readers of a particular brand of fiction and have become a bit of a barometer for what can work on the page. Authors in those genres would be smart to note what is working on the small screen as a way to seize opportunities for their business.
6. Regarding book-to-film adaptations, how would you recommend authors of self-published books pursue adaptation to film/television?
I think all authors should strongly consider hiring reputable, established agents to help guide their careers and create opportunities for their work. Part of a literary agent’s job is to cultivate a network of film and television coagents to co-represent an author’s work to the big and small screen. Book and film/TV agents typically split commission and get paid when the author gets paid.
7. What big changes or challenges do you expect in the publishing landscape in the next few years?
One of the continued challenges we face is the health of brick-and-mortar stores and physical book sales overall. I expect we will see revitalization in this landscape as booksellers rediscover their roots as literary tastemakers and community centers. That may change the way publishers control the titles that make it onto bookshelves through co-op and merch, and in turn put more pressure on authors to strengthen their relationship with a core readership who will need to seek out books that aren’t as visible in stores.
8. What go-to marketing strategies do you recommend each of your authors and their publishing teams do when preparing for their next book launch?
Next to my desk is a printout of Debbie Macomber’s book launch checklist, which is a great reminder of prelaunch basics. But really, that list is an extension of BookBub. I’ve been a broken record about BookBub for years. It’s an invaluable tool for every stage of a book’s life, whether the goal is strictly book sales, drumming up preorders for a frontlist release, or helping an author bring readers from one series to another. But BookBub’s blog posts and follow features have also become useful resources to authors and their team. That sounds like an ad, but it’s true!
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