Note: Lois and I met years ago, both pre-published authors determined to write and sell great novels. Lois has won more prestigious writing contests than I can count. She wears all the traditional family hats: wife, mother, and grandmother. And in addition to being an award-winning author and a literary agent, she’s an award-winning needlepoint pattern designer. I’m delighted she agreed to meet with us today!
Lois, thank you so much for stopping by Faith, Hope and Grace! It’s wonderful to have you. I know with three simultaneous careers going, plus your wonderful family, you’re a busy lady! Can you tell us about your role as literary agent for the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency? How long have you been with them? What types of work does the agency represent and how many agents are with the company?
The Ashley Grayson Literary Agency was founded in 1976 by Ashley Grayson. It is a full service literary agency for authors of both fiction and non-fiction books. We do not handle screenplays, television projects or stage plays. Both of the principals, Ashley Grayson and Carolyn Grayson are members of the AAR. Denise Dumars and I are the other two agents. We’re also both published, Denise in non-fiction and I in fiction. For full information on the agency, visit our agency page at Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/CGrayson/.
I’ve been with the agency five years and primarily handle women’s fiction, chick lit, mystery, and romance, but I accept queries for any genre the agency represents. If something isn’t right for me, I’ll pass it along to the appropriate agent. The others do the same.
How many clients do you represent and can you tell us some of the authors?
We’re a boutique agency with a select list of authors because we’re more interested in growing our authors’ careers than just selling books. I currently represent six authors but because some of them are not writing anything new due to personal reasons, I’m looking to add to my author list.
Some of the agency’s leading clients are John Barnes, Barb and J.C. Hendee, Carrie Vaughn, Bruce Coville, Christopher Pike, and Allison van Diepen.
What publishers has the agency sold to in the last 12-24 months?
Recent sales have been made to Ace, NAL/ROC, St. Martin’s, Pocket, Tor, Viking Children’s Books, Knopf, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Midnight Ink, Simon & Schuster, and Harlequin Teen.
What is your response time for queries, partials, and manuscripts? Is there something specific that makes you say “yes” to a query? That seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for new authors.
I usually get to queries within a day or two of receiving them, partials within a week or two, and completes anywhere from a month to three months. This can vary, though. Sometimes I’m faster, sometimes slower.
What I look for specifically in a work is voice. If the author has an interesting plot and characters but a boring voice, I’ll reject. If I love the voice, but the ms. needs some work, I’ll offer suggestions and ask the author to resubmit. Technical stuff can be learned, but voice is something either an author has or doesn’t have. Sometimes voice can be developed over time, but it’s not something that can be taught.
For this reason, I generally will ask to see at least the first few pages of a manuscript after reading a query letter since it’s hard for an author to incorporate her fiction voice into a query letter. When I don’t ask to see any pages, it’s because the author has queried about something we don’t handle, the query letter is riddled with typos and grammatical errors, or the author has told me nothing about her plot and characters in the query.
Some of New York’s agencies are branching out into services for hire such as editing and publishing. Do you see the role of agents changing in today’s marketplace?
Agents are being forced to branch out. Publishing is going through some tough times, and it’s never going to go back to the way it was.
What advice would you give to authors who feel they are ready to look for an agent now?
Make sure you’re really ready. I see too many submissions where the author thinks her work is polished when it really isn’t. Then, write a compelling query letter that makes me want to read the manuscript.
Before we sign off today, tell us about your new mystery release, Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, and how to keep in touch with your protagonist, Anastasia Pollack. Who is your publisher and how did you sell Glue Gun?
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun is the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series and is published by Midnight Ink. The series was submitted to Midnight Ink by Denise Dumars and was the first series bought by editor Terri Bischoff after she came on as Midnight Ink’s acquisitions editor.
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun has received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews called it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”
Here’s a blurb:
When Anastasia Pollack’s husband permanently cashes in his chips at a roulette table in Las Vegas, her comfortable middle-class life craps out. Suddenly, she’s juggling two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, a communist mother-in-law, AND her dead husband’s loan shark. And that’s before she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a coworker she discovers hot glued to her office chair.
You can read the first chapter at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com. The second book in the series, Mop Doll Murders will be released in January 2012. The third book (tentatively titled The Crafty Corpse) will come out in January 2013. Hopefully, the series will do well enough that there will be more books after that.
Anastasia has her own blog, Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers — http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com — where she and her fellow editors at the magazine blog Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays they host guest authors.
Lois, thanks so much for joining us here today. Current, honest information is the one thing that can keep hope alive for new authors. I hope you’ll come back later in the year and chat with us again.
Thanks for inviting me, Nancy! I’d be happy to come back again. And anyone interested in querying me can do so by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.