With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer/blogger Cherise Hensley present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author, agent, and editor, Andrea Hurst
You’re both a literary agent and an author. Which came first and how did you get into the industry?
I got my start in writing and publishing over 25 years ago, when my first nonfiction book, Everyone’s Natural Food Cookbook, was published. Since then, I’ve worked as a literary agent, a developmental editor, a writing coach and instructor, and an advisor for other self-published authors. The Guestbook is my novel.
As an agent, where do you see the publishing industry heading?
The industry is in a bit of a standoff right now. Authors who publish independently are seeing more and more success and have even made it to the New York Times Bestsellers List. That being said, these successes are comparatively rare. It used to be that traditional publishers were the “gatekeepers,” the ones who made sure of the quality of materials being released. With the rise of self-publishing, the public has come to fill that role more, choosing what they will send to the bestsellers list.
Since I’ve worked with both traditional and indie publishing, I have a pretty good idea of the advantages and disadvantages of both. With traditional publishing, you generally get more exposure and better distribution, especially in book stores. The downside is that you lose some control of the book, you have a long wait until it comes out, and you earn a smaller piece of the royalty.
With indie publishing, you have full control and you take full responsibility for what you put out. This can be either good or bad. Hopefully, you will take the time and use professional help to put out the best book possible. The upside is you get to design your own cover, pick your own title, get the book out fairly quickly, and receive a large portion of the royalties.
Last year was a big year for you with the release of your new novel (The Guestbook), literary conferences, and MFA classes you taught. What are some of your plans for 2013?
On the agent front, I have several big projects I will be pitching this year, and I am very excited to move forward and continue the agency’s pension for representing great books. We also welcome our new agent, Margaret Bail, who represents commercial and genre fiction. She will be at several writers conferences this year if you would like to meet her. Check out her profile at http://www.andreahurst.com/literary-management/about/margaret-bail/. Our agent, Amberly Finarelli, has returned to work after having twins and continues to sell multiple-book deals for current clients only.
On the teaching front, I will continue to do webinars for Writer’s Digest and speak and instruct through various conferences listed on our website and for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA in Creative Writing program. I am excited to teach for their new Publishing and Editing track as well.
The agency is working to form our own imprint, Hurst House, to work directly with clients we take through the Kindle Direct publishing program.
On the writing front, I am in the finishing stages of my current novel, Always with You, and plan to release my second book in the Madrona Island Trilogy.
Constructing a novel is no easy task. How do you motivate yourself to write and keep writing? What inspires your writing?
Even with a fulltime literary business, classes to teach, and two dogs to take care of, I still try to make time to write almost every day. I am determined to follow my own passion for writing. Of course, that’s not always so easy to do, but I find that on the days I get at least two hours of writing in, I feel much more human and happy. What has recently helped my writing was the book 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron, which is a pantster’s dream for plotting. I highly recommend it.
What were some challenges of releasing The Guestbook? How has it been a rewarding experience?
It has been a very challenging, but also extremely rewarding, experience for me.
Being a literary agent, I try to have my finger on what’s popular with readers and what I can sell to publishers. I knew my book had a strong readership, but I also knew that, as a first-time novelist in this genre, it would be a hard sell to a major publisher. I was also very interested in learning first-hand the whole process of indie publishing and therefore chose that route so that I could not only use it for myself, but for my clients in the future.
If you could pick any actress to play the part of Lily in a film adaptation of The Guestbook, who would you pick? Which actor for Ian?
Actually, when I was working on the story, I often had references and print-outs, not only for locations and scenery, but for what my characters might look like, too. I guess I always imagined Lily to be a blonde Katie Holmes, and Ian was heavily influenced by Josh Harnett and a young Mark Harmon.
When can readers expect the sequel to The Guestbook? Can you tell us a little more about the story itself?
I have begun working on Book 2 of the Madrona Island Trilogy: Tea and Comfort. At this point, I have my characters, setting, and plot down, but I need to do more research to really pull the final pieces together.
In the first book, there are three women that become close friends: Lily, Kyla, and Jude. The Guestbook follows Lily as she inherits a bed and breakfast and leaves a troubled marriage to find her passion and find herself. Tea and Comfort features Kyla, the owner of the local herb and tea shop. It will uncover her mysterious background. Without giving away too much from the first book, it deals with why she made the decisions she has in the past and her deciding whether she can love again.
Can you tell us about some of the other services your agency offers?
We offer assistance to writers in all areas of crafting and publishing a book. For more information, see www.andreahurst.com under Author Services.
Remember, although everything is constantly changing in this crazy business, the opportunities for publishing and reaching your audience independently are greater than ever.
Check out Andrea’s author page for more information on her books, including The Guestbook!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal and has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.