Does the idea of finding representation for your book seem daunting? Are you ready to take your book or novel to the next level, but have no idea where to begin? Now you can get all your questions answered in a one-day seminar called Essential Guide to the Legal and Business Aspects of Getting Published. Held on March 26, this informative course will be co-taught by Los Angeles attorney and literary agent Paul Levine and Manhattan literary agent Katharine Sands.
Here, Paul reveals some insight into the mind of an agent.
Writers’ Program: You’ve been teaching for the Writers’ Program for 15 years, both in creative writing and screenwriting. What do you love most about teaching? Is there something you’ve learned from your students over the years that has affected your own professional work?
PL: I love helping to dispel the myths about the book publishing and screenwriting businesses, and educating writers about the business and legal aspects of “the business.” After all, it is called the entertainment business. I can’t teach writers how to write whatever it is that they write, but, hopefully, I can teach them something about what happens to whatever they have written after they write it—how a writer goes from fingers to keyboard or pen to paper to actual dollars in their bank account.
As far as my students go, I’ve learned that writers come in all shapes and sizes—that the level of business and legal sophistication which writers have ranges from none at all to more than even I will ever know.
WP: What’s one thing you think writers don’t know about literary agents?
PL: Writers don’t understand that first and foremost, we’re all different human beings, and have different likes and dislikes, and different ways of doing things. We’re not fungible—one agent is most certainly not the same as another.
WP: Could you share with us what jumps out at you when you’re reading through the slush pile?
PL: When I read a query, or a proposal for a non-fiction book, or a manuscript for a novel, or a screenplay, I always ask myself the same two questions: 1) Can I “sell” this?; and 2) Do I know enough buyers who I believe will “buy” it? If the answers to both questions is an unequivocal “Yes!” I take on the client and his or her material.
WP: What do you most want students to come away with from your classes?
PL: I hope that students come away with some understanding that they can make a career, and a business, out of their writing, if only they understand how “the business” works and how they can capitalize on it.
WP: Finally, what’s your best piece of advice for the aspiring writer?
PL: Keep writing. Write what you know, from the heart; don’t write to trends.
Remember that it’s the publishing business, so be business-like in the way you conduct yourself.
Thanks for lending your insight, Paul! Oh, by the way, students who are enrolled in Paul and Katharine’s March 26th seminar will be given the opportunity to email a one-page pitch to Katharine for her comments. It’s a great way to make a connection with a reputable New York agent!
As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions about how to achieve your writing goals. Call (310) 825-9415 and ask to speak with a creative writing or screenwriting advisor today.
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (onsite).