1. What do you look for – and avoid – in manuscripts in your role at Trident?
When writing commercial fiction, it’s important to be aware of genre conventions and tropes — either to avoid them or spin them in a new way. For example, in almost every zombie novel, the protagonist wakes in hospital from a coma to find the world’s full of zombies. Nowadays, that trope is just old hat to most readers.
The notion isn’t entirely true. I’ll give an example. A recent manuscript I recently took on, and sold, was sci-fi author Christopher Brown’s Tropic of Kansas coming out from Harper Voyager in 2017. What drew me to the project was that Christopher not only had a lot of ‘street cred’ as an award-nominated writer in his shorter work — stories, nonfiction, and criticism — he’d already collected pre-publication blurbs from notable authors for his book and trade review sites.
My advice is to really nail the writing of that query letter. A good query letter that reads well is usually a good indication that the manuscript will similarly read well, inclining the agent to request the manuscript. Often the query letter can go on to become the publisher’s jacket copy.
At the Trident Media Group literary agency, we’re a full-service literary agency. Many of our fiction and non-fiction titles have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers Lists and have won major awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the Booker Prize.The value for authors lies in what I call the ‘Trident Advantage’. We’re a diverse group of successful literary agents, skilled in all genres of fiction and nonfiction, and career management. We’re leaders in international sales, audio rights, film and TV sales, and foreign rights. We offer support services, which include contract negotiation, legal review, and much more.
The bar is quite high in terms of self-publishing to attract an agent or traditional publisher. An author needs to have sold at least 50,000 copies at a decent price to secure an agent.
It’s easy for an author to feel discouraged and turn to self-publishing or small indie publishing. However, many successful self-published authors eventually go into traditional publishing to take advantage of having a team of professionals at a literary agency who help them take their work to the next level.At Trident, we’ve built a lot of self-published success stories into bestsellers, giving authors a Godzilla-like footprint in the industry.I’d like to think that a literary agency would save an author a lot of headaches in to order to help them focus on their own writing, allowing them to be more prolific.
The digital landscape has seen our literary agency evolve. Our agency, for example, has a digital media and publishing department, focusing on digital marketing and a publicity strategy for our authors.
Many of our authors have benefited from this service, going on to hit the bestseller lists. As such, we have tremendous resources available to help our authors, especially working with their publishers. We have in-depth meetings with publishers, and encourage them to perform more marketing tasks for the author.It’s no lie that an author receives a larger share of royalties in the digital space in self-publishing. However, authors sell in smaller numbers than a literary agent and publisher could do for an author.
Generally, fiction needs to be fully written in order to be sold, since it’s about the quality of the writing. An agent would be reluctant to sell a work of fiction on a proposal basis. Non-fiction can be sold on a book proposal, as it’s idea driven and more about the author’s authority on the subject matter.
Depending on the length of a manuscript, and how much is on the agent’s plate already, response times can differ. I prefer to read a submission within the first few days or weeks of receiving a manuscript from an author in order to express my level of enthusiasm rather than just sitting on my hands.
I always say begin at the top in terms of submitting to literary agents, and then work your way down — that will produce the very best results.Most literary agencies tend to be small and are inclined to give rights away to publishers – whether because they can’t fend the publisher off, or just don’t have the resources to sell those rights properly on their own.Trident has nearly 50 full-time employees, and handles contract review, foreign rights, audio books, film and TV, within our own company walls. We help authors properly exploit those rights with other publishers.
Unfortunately, the world of literary agenting is full of a lot of people who appear to have died on the inside and are just waiting for a bestseller to hopefully float on down the river.Short of finding a literary agent that can actually produce results, an author might have to turn to somewhere else. However, I see no difference between a literary agent that covers what a literary advisory service ought to provide.I don’t see the need for a literary advisory service in an author’s life once an author finds a proper literary agent.
Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.
Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 44: White Hot Writer – 7 Tricks To Write Faster
Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 43: 3 Ways To Finish Your Draft Before The End Of The Year
- Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 42: 12 Easy Ways To Find A Title For Your Novel
Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.