TXS: You’re a bookseller and an agent, which is enough of a juggle, but you also host Not Your Mothers Book Club AND run chat after Tuesday KidLitChats AND answer questions on Absolute Write forum AND constantly tweet about your clients AND return their calls and emails. HOW???
JL: It isn't so hard. I just have two jobs. I am an agent (which means that talking to and about my clients comes with the territory!), and I help out with children's & teen events at the bookstore (which is where the book club comes in). I prefer jobs that have a lot of different tasks to do all the time so I don't get bored, so these things suit me.
Meanwhile, the online chats and answering questions are an extension of my agenty work, and while I don't have to do them, I do find them fun. If I didn't have time, or didn't want to do them, I would stop. :-)
TXS: Have you ever felt a client was right about a manuscript and the editor was wrong? If so, how have you handled the situation?
JL: Usually an editor wants a change made, not just for the sake of making a change, or to mess with you, but for a reason. The edit is merely a suggestion of how you might get the desired result.
If an author steps back and gives it some time, they will realize that it is almost always the result that the editor wants, and it doesn't much matter how you get it. For example, your editor might say: Character Y is coming off as robotic. Can you make him cry here? You hear: Make Character Y into a crybaby! and you react badly. But the reality is, there are other ways to make Y seem less robotic... maybe we can brainstorm some of them, and you can get the result (Y less robotic) without having to do the thing that you don't want to do (make him a crybaby). Or maybe you could think of it as an experiment, just try it and see what happens - after all, we're in the computer age, you can always go back to the old version if you hate it.
If it was something seriously absurd though, and my author was worried enough to come to me to resolve it, then the editor and I would have a talk.
TXS: Going into more detail about the agent being an author advocate, I’ve known several people who have dropped agents because the relationship just wasn’t what they thought it would be. What, in your opinion, is the job of the agent, and what do you expect from your clients?
JL: First of all, I think it is really important to note that authors and agents "break up" for all kinds of reasons, and it doesn't mean that the agent is bad, or the author is bad... it just means that it didn't work. It is NOT the same as getting a divorce, it does NOT mean that you'll never get published, and it does NOT mean that that agent is a criminal of some kind... it just means that it didn't work, and that is OK. I say this because I know how fraught with drama the whole process of getting an agent is and I try to demystify as much as I can.
I'm an advocate for you and your books. That means of course that I have to be able to communicate with you well. I expect that to go both ways - quick and clear communication is important to me. I also expect hard work, and I will do my best to give the same. And let's have fun, skip the drama and just make some beautiful kids books. If this isn't a great job, I don't know what is!
TXS: Working as a bookseller, you get to see firsthand what readers are going for and what they’re asking to see more of. Does that effect you as an agent (be it acquiring clients, suggesting new projects, etc)?
JL: Definitely. I think I have a slightly different perspective than most people, because I am seeing trends from the very very beginning all the way through to point of purchase, and I get to see how what we imagine from behind the scenes really works or doesn't work in the real world. It's cool, and I think useful for my agenting.
TXS: With publisher purse strings tightening in this economy, what is an effective, affordable way an author can promote him or herself?
JL: I definitely think it is important for authors to be proactive about their own publicity efforts. If you are the kind of person who likes to blog / tweet / facebook - DO IT! If you are great at talking to kids, work up some school presentations and hit the road. If you are a homebody, at least make some postcards or bookmarks and send them out to bookstores, and have a website. If you don't do anything, you won't get anything.
TXS: And finally a bit o’ fun… We all hear tales of agents getting strange things along with a writer’s submission (nude photos, candy, coupons, etc). What is the strangest thing you’ve gotten in the mail from a writer?
JL: Well, I've never accepted mail slush, so I haven't had much in the way of experience with this phenomena. But I have gotten a few offbeat emails, one of which I remember distinctly and can only be described as... Hardcore Merporn.
And no, I don't represent that.
TXS: Thank you, Jenn! We were so happy to feature you!
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