Meet Literary Agent Lois Winston

Agent/author Lois Winston

Lois Winston

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.comwhere she and her fellow editors at the magazine blog Mondays through Thursdays. On Fridays they host guest authors.

On Sale Now!

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 lois@graysonagency.com.

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About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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13 Responses to Meet Literary Agent Lois Winston

  1. Kathy Bain says:

    Thank you for your response.

    It seems almost harder for a writer to get an agent than to get published. I know someone who just signed a three book deal (that means about 22 published books when done), and she can’t seem to get an agent. That makes someone like me who is unpublished feel there is no chance. Any advice to a “hopeful to be published by the end of the year” with regards to getting an agent?

  2. April says:

    Great post! I do think that so many writers wonder how it works for agents and how to approach them. Love that you’ve given them a glimpse into your agency.

    PS Everyone, I can second that Lois is a great writer.

  3. Lois Winston says:

    Kathy, I don’t understand how a 3-book deal extrapolates to 22 published books, but once your friend signed her contract, there was no incentive for an agent to take her on. Agents are in business to make money, just like everyone else. It’s also difficult to give blanket advice to you or any other unpublished author, not having ever seen your work. I have no way of knowing why agents aren’t interest in representing you. What I can tell you is that it’s much harder now for agents to sell books to publishers than it was even a year ago. Publishing is going through some very rough times right now, and with the announcement of Borders’ bankruptcy filing this morning, things will only get worse before they get better — if they ever do get better.

  4. I’m in the middle of reading Lois’ Talk Gertie to Me and am enjoying it very much. Her Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception is next on my list. I’m looking forward to reading Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun as well.

  5. Chelle says:

    Hi Lois, Congratulations on your new series. Since your book was compared to Stephanie Plum, I was wondering if you are an Evanovich fan and if so, did her writing have an influence on you?

    • Lois Winston says:

      Thanks, Chelle. I do enjoy reading the Stephanie Plum series. That said, though, I’ve never been able to get into any of JE’s other books. As for whether or not her books have influenced my writing, they haven’t. I wrote the first draft of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN before I’d ever read any of the Plum books.

  6. Meredeth Mann says:

    The title is great but the video is amazing! It sounds like a “comical catastophe a minute” – my kind of tale!

    I definitely want to read your book!

  7. Lois Winston says:

    Thanks, Meredeth! Hope you enjoy it.

  8. Lois Winston says:

    Debby, thank you so much! I’m glad you’re enjoying TALK GERTIE TO ME. You’ll find ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN has similar humor. LOVE, LIES AND A DOUBLE SHOT OF DECEPTION is a bit different. It’s a romantic suspense that focuses on some serious issues. Although there are some bits of humor in it, it’s far from a humorous story.

  9. Nancy says:

    Meredeth,
    I went to our local B&N (St. Augustine FL) and asked them to get Assault into the stores. They promised to get in more than one copy, so maybe next week or so, you can get one locally.

    Thanks for reading and posting! Hope you have a good book for your trip!
    NQ

  10. Thanks for the great information on the agent side of the business, Lois. And I’m looking forward to getting a copy of Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun when you speak at the next Sisters in Crime Central Jersey meeting. Your Anastasia blog is so great! 🙂 Karen Bostrom (And thanks, Nancy, for asking the questions I want to get answered.)

  11. Lois Winston says:

    You’re welcome, Karen! I’ll be at Sisters in Crime for the combined SiC/LSFW meeting in May. I’ll make sure I have copies of ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN with me.

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