Planning and promotion are essential to the development of a writer’s career. This month, Paige Wheeler, founding partner of Folio Literary Management in New York, shares how creating a career plan prior to seeking representation can benefit both the author and the agent. Ms. Wheeler founded Creative Media Agency (CMA) in 1997 and served as its president until merging it into Folio in 2006. The agency has seven agents and represents both fiction and non-fiction authors.
Folio’s Web site mentions looking for potential clients who have a solid five-year plan for their writing careers. What should a first-time author consider when developing such a plan?
An author needs to be realistic about his/her writing goals. Not every author can be a New York Times bestseller right out of the gate—maybe not ever. If your goal is to make a bestseller list, how can you grow your career to make that list? Maybe your goal is to write and get published steadily and consistently. Perhaps you need a book to promote your speaking business or to gain exposure in your chosen field; maybe you’re in academia and you have a publish-or-perish mentality. In each situation, you have to think about how you want your career to progress. Do you have eight books in you? Maybe you could write 30 books or more. Or write different types of books (fiction/non-fiction) or different genres. You should share this information with your agent so that the two of you can plan appropriately.
When setting goals for one’s writing career, what resources would you recommend?
You should read the industry trade periodicals: Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, Writer’s Digest and genre-specific publications. To become part of a larger network of writers, look into different organizations such as the ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors), WNBA (Women’s National Book Association), MWA (Mystery Writers of America), RWA (Romance Writers of America) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators).
These organizations often have their own publications and helpful advice for both aspiring and advanced authors. Also, attending writers’ conferences is an excellent way to network and learn more about the business.
What suggestions do you have to help writers find the right agent for them?
Do your research. First, choose an agent who handles and has sold the type of material that you write. If the agent is new, see if the agent is part of a larger organization where she is able to get advice from her colleagues. There are a number of resources such as Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & and Literary Agents and Guide to Literary Agents (Writers Digest Books). You can read Publisher’s Lunch for recent book sales. You can also network with other authors in critique groups, conferences and other organizations. Make sure that you get along with your agent and that you are clear on the terms of your arrangement. Is this a handshake deal or is there an agency agreement? Are the terms of the agreement acceptable to you?
What types of projects are you currently looking to represent?
For fiction, I like women’s fiction and romance, upscale commercial fiction (think book club books), as well as mysteries, suspense and thrillers. I’m looking for anywhere from Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl) to Lori Lansens (The Girls) to Mary Guterson (We Are All Fine Here) to Allison Pearson (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Also, Jennifer Weiner, Lolly Winston, Karen Brichoux, Janet Evanovich and Karen Hawkins. For mysteries, I like both light and dark, even noir. It can be romantic suspense, a gritty thriller, or psychological suspense. I’m looking for writing with an almost lyrical quality to it for the thrillers and the suspense (and the book club books). For non-fiction, the authors should be an expert in their field and have had many articles published or media exposure. If I were a TV producer, would my Rolodex have their name as the name to go to for this field? Am I looking for new authors? You bet!
Folio Literary Management provides author support services. Please explain these services and why they are important in the current marketplace.
With hundreds of thousands of books published every year, the task of marketing and promoting many titles is increasingly falling onto authors’ shoulders. In many cases, however, writers don’t know how to market their work, and they often don’t know where to turn for help. At Folio, we determine the likely readership for your book and then work aggressively to find creative and innovative ways to reach that audience.
We now have a publicist, Ami Grecko, who works with our authors to reach their target audience. Folio also has the capacity both in-house and through strategic alliances to set up radio and/or TV satellite tours as well as find, arrange and book speaking engagements. In the very near future, we will also have the capacity to find and negotiate all sorts of licensing deals based on our clients’ books. In other words, Folio Literary Management lives up to its name. We do more than sell your book and fade into the background; we work beyond the page to manage every aspect of your literary career.
Writers can query Paige Wheeler by e-mail at pwheeler at foliolit.com. Check the Folio Literary Management Web site for more details at: www.foliolit.com.
Lori Russell is an award-winning writer who has had the pleasure to work with several great editors in her 17 years as a freelancer. She is a contributing editor to Columbia Gorge Magazine and has been a regular contributor to Ruralite for more than a decade. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the country and her short fiction and poetry has been published in several journals and anthologies. Lori recently completed her first novel, Light on Windy River.