Today the Insecure Writer's Support Group is glad to welcome Mark Gottlieb, a literary agent for Trident Media Group. Trident Media Group is the #1 ranked literary agency on Publishers Marketplace. We're discussing query letter deal breakers, audio rights, and author promotion. Welcome, Mark!
1. What mistake in query letters are deal breakers for you?
There are many mistakes that I’ve seen in query letters, but I will name just a few that would absolutely deter me from requesting the manuscript from an author.
- Submitting queries for novellas, short story collections, poetry or textbooks will usually turn a literary agent off, as most literary agents do not represent such things. Publishers tend not to buy from literary agents in those areas in the first place.
- Word count is also very important. Traditional book length is 80-120K, and commercial fiction tends to be in the 80-90K-word range. Going outside of normal book-length will not produce good results for an author querying a literary agent for a shot at going into major trade publishing.
- Writing within struggling genres such as cozy mysteries, erotica, or urban fantasy is also another way to turn a literary agent off in the querying process. We tend to be weary of that at Trident Media Group.
2. You used to hold the position of audio rights, which doubled the annual sales volume for Trident Media Group. Why should writers pursue audio rights for their books?
Once an author has a portfolio of books with publishers, audio can end up comprising around 10% of an author’s overall income, and that is nothing to scoff at. Audio books are also another entry point for readers to discover an author. Most audio book listeners are loyal to audio books but sometimes overlap with a general reading audience preferring to read from text. Certain readers that may be elderly or disabled, or just plain too busy to sit down with a book might also prefer to listen via audio recording.
3. Trident Media Group excels in supporting its authors and marketing its titles. What can authors do to further promote their books?
Beyond what a publisher or a literary agent can do in marketing/promoting and author, it is important for an author to understand that they are very central to this process, since ultimately readers will want to hear directly from the author when possible. I encourage clients to build author websites, blogs and to beef up their social media presence, via sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, Reddit Author AMAs, etc. Performing readings/signing, speaking at conferences/workshops and reaching out to local publications and libraries is key, as is appealing to highly established authors for advance praise. Writing to online blogs/podcasts/YouTube channels, etc. for review/interview attention is also very good. Sometimes I might even recommend a book publicity firm to a client, but that can cost a couple thousand dollars/month in the few months leading up to publication. Ultimately, there’s no small drop in the bucket, since everything an author puts into marketing/promo, they will get back in sales of their book, especially if the book falls into the right hands of a major publication, celebrity or film/TV company, which can be marketing gold.
4. What is your average day like as a literary agent?
The interesting thing is that there really is no average day in the life of a literary agent, or at least there shouldn’t be, for when a literary agent’s days begin to stagnate and look the same, then that person’s career is in trouble. Every day that I walk into the office, I think of ways to try to reinvent myself in a way to make myself competitive, while improving the careers of the authors I work with in creative and innovative ways. Every day should not be about drudgery—life is an adventure. Of course there are a few things typical to most every day in the life of a literary agent, such as reading query letters, meeting/calls/lunches/drinks with editors and publishers as well as clients, pitching manuscripts to publishers, meeting with film/TV companies to adapt books for the screen, attending conferences/workshops, looking for new talent, etc.
5. Describe your ideal project and/or author you’d like to work with.
An ideal project would carry an important social message or moral to the story, and while not only being beautifully written, it should be accessible or have some aspects of commercialism to the writing, even if it is literary fiction. I also look for authors that have good writing credentials such as experience with writing workshops, conferences, or smaller publications in respected literary magazines. Having awards, bestseller status, a strong online presence/platform, or pre-publication blurbs in-hand for one’s manuscript is also very promising in the eyes of a literary agent.
Mark Gottlieb attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature & publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s VP. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was EA to Trident’s Chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories. Trident Media Group
Question to Readers: What is your favorite way to promote your books?
Question to Readers: What is your favorite way to promote your books?
IWSG ANTHOLOGY UPDATE:
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology
Can a lost hero find redemption?
What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?
Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.
Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Great advice by Mark. That's good to hear that he encourages writers to use blogging as part of their social media platform. So many people don't work on connecting with others through a blog much these days.
I know my publisher prodded me to build up my social platform before the release of my first book. And now that my books are on audio, I appreciate the extra income.
Thanks for joining us today, Mark!
A presence sure is needed beforehand. Great advice indeed!
Fantastic advice. An author's job is so much more than just writing these days, and I'm happy to see blogging is still encouraged.
It's interesting to hear how much marketing you encourage your authors to do. A thriller writer organization recently told me it won't accept any publisher that has their authors do marketing, which made me laugh. I don't know of any publisher or agent that doesn't tell their authors to market.
Informative post. Love the cover of Hero's lost.
Juneta @ Writer's Gambit
Thank you for your wonderful advice, Mark! And for being our guest today. :)
It's so great to hear this advice from an insider in the industry. I have a few friends who write cozy mysteries. I didn't know they were in the struggling category.
I've learned so very much about the many aspects of writing. Wow, it's complicated.
I'm so happy for Ellen. She's one of my regular reads.
Have a fabulous day. ☺
Thanks, Mark, for caring enough to help us help ourselves. Thank You, Chrys, for being creative enough to reach out to Mark. :-)
Very interesting interview with Mark. Thanks for this.
Invaluable post so worth saving. Great advice especially as planning to go down agent route, but need to get a suitable manuscript ready...and extend my social media profile to Instagram. Many thanks.
Get advice from a professional in this business is very valuable for young entrepreneurs. I used to often find new ideas and tips for businesses here http://essays.io/. It is very convenient, especially when it comes to data collection. I advise everyone to listen professionals and do better than they.
Amen re audio books. In an ever more mobile multi-tasking world they are bound to become even more popular.
Thanks for the helpful information, Mark! And thank you, Chrys, for posting this. I have a busy friend who listens to audio books almost exclusively. One of her prime listen times each day is while she's feeding, watering, and grooming her four horses and mucking their stalls! Have a good one!
Thank you for everything you do for writers, Mark. We forget that there is a real person reading our query letters. Your comments are being bookmarked. Thanks.
Audio is another income stream we writers should definitely think out. Many thanks to Mark for giving us insight into his world.
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