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 and blogger Katie Flanagan 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.
If you have questions for upcoming guests on the AUTHORNOMICS Interview Series, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interview with Author and Agent Mandy Hubbard
Mandy Hubbard, also-known-as Amanda Grace, is the author of Prada & Prejudice, You Wish, But I Love Him, and several other YA novels. She is also a literary agent for D4EO Literary, where she represents authors of middle grade and teen fiction. She is currently living happily ever after with her husband and young daughter in Tacoma, Washington. Find out more at www.manydhubbard.com, or follow her on Twitter, @Mandyhubbard.
1. You were a published author first before you became an agent. What inspired you to branch into agenting?
It was a steady evolution, for sure. My debut took some time to sell—two years—and during that time I was steadily researching imprints and editors, to the point that I was involved in deciding where my manuscript would go. When Prada & Prejudice sold, we had two offers—one from a brand new imprint I’d suggested. When my next book was ready for submission (BUT I LOVE HIM) my agent just asked me who I wanted it to go to. I already knew which houses and editors I was most interested in working with. I was really lucky that my agent allowed my involvement! During this time, I was also reaching out to various authors and working with them on revisions. Once, I helped a writer trim 100,000 words from her epic fantasy retelling. She queried, landed an agent within a month, and sold to Bloomsbury. It just became obvious that I enjoyed that side of the desk as well as writing, so I found an internship.
2. Have your relationships with your agent and editor changed since you became an agent yourself?
As you can see above, I was much more involved than the average writer to begin with, so there wasn’t a marked shift between me and my agent. As far as my editors, some relationships are the same, and some are different. One of my editors is the only acquiring editor at his imprint. That means I sometimes submit to him. We’ve developed a pretty close, friendly relationship. That’s always such a nice thing!
3. You recently co-wrote a YA novel, Getting Caught, with author Cyn Blog. Can you talk about that writing process versus writing a novel alone?
Co-writing is such a blast! In some ways it combines the best of writing and reading. I would write a chapter and send it to Cyn, and she’d track changes on my chapter, and then add her own and send it back. I’d address anything she had a problem with in my chapter, track-changes on her chapter, and then write a new one. It was such an amazing thing, to learn things from another writer in real time, as we wrote it. I feel like it was a writing boot-camp in some ways! Knowing someone is going to tear your work apart chapter by chapter makes you push to write the best you can.
4. You have several books out at once, including Getting Caught and Ripple. You also write under two names, Mandy Hubbard and Amanda Grace. Does this present any challenges in marketing?
It can be—most authors have one book per year, and focus everything on launching that title. It’s a bit of madness, having books come out in quick succession. Hopefully I’m doing an okay job of it. The problem with marketing is you never truly know what works and what doesn’t.
5. What tools have you found to be the effective for marketing your books?
I’ve decided to give the biggest focus to growing my general online platform—twitter, facebook, and blogging. When you have multiple titles, having a larger author-platform instead of doing book-specific marketing can benefit them all. I also send out postcards to independent bookstores, including the local ones. I wasn’t sure if it worked, but then I found myself in a small indie in Port Townsend. It had about a 4’ section of teen books, mostly stuff like Twilight or the Hunger Games. But they had a copy of my title I’d “advertised” with the postcard. I’d say that’s a good sign!
6. What are some of the advantages of having two author brands?
I think it helps readers know what they’re getting when they buy an “Amanda Grace” book or a “Mandy Hubbard” book. My Amanda Grace books are more literary, dark, contemporary books. It also simplifies the negotiations with contracts. Each of them are invested in the brand they are growing.
7. Your books are published by two different houses: Razorbill, an imprint at Penguin, and Flux, a smaller publisher dedicated to YA. Have there been any differences in working with the two publishers?
Oh, definitely. I liken it to the “big fish, small pond” and “small fish, big pond” sort of theory. Penguin is a huge publisher—the second largest English language publisher in the world. They have a certain amount of power and sway in the industry and with book buyers. They have amazing art departments, too. And when I talk to non-industry people about being an author, they’ll always recognize publishers like Random House and Penguin. So it’s nice being somewhere with that kind of a reputation and history. But it also means my book is one of hundreds published each season. At Flux, a smaller publisher, the catalog is much smaller. The publicity staff is intimately familiar with every title. I think of them as “small but mighty” because they’ve done some pretty amazing things very quickly. They launched the careers of several NYT bestsellers, including Simone Elkeles, Maggie Stiefvater, and Carrie Jones.
8. What are some of the most common mistakes you see in submissions as an agent?
I think people confuse query pitches with “explaining the plot” of their novel. A lot of them read something like: Suzy discovers this, then this happens, and then this happens, and this happens. It’s really not like that. A pitch is meant to entice interest and intrigue me. If you read the back of a book, what’s covered there is often only the set-up and some intriguing facts about the characters’ conflicts—internal and external.
9. At this time, what types of books are you looking to represent?
All genres within YA and MG (No adult books, no picture books). I’ve signed some killer contemporary YA lately—I’m pretty much always drawn to that—but I’d love some fantasy, sci-fi, etc, to balance out my list a bit.
10. How has the changing publishing climate and the increase in ebook sales and self- publishing affected your agency?
It’s one of those things that’s hard to articulate because—what hasn’t been changed or effected? I have clients who have self-published some older works and gone on to sell really well (One is in Amazon’s top 100 paid list as I type this). I’ve submitted projects to some interesting publishers who are working on ebook only imprints. I’ve read up a lot on what other agencies are doing and discussed our plans within the agency. It’s hard to decide what to do (or not do) when agents who have been in this business for decades aren’t totally sure either.
11. What is the best piece of advice you received as an aspiring author?
I found a quote somewhere that said “A published author is an amateur who didn’t quit.” I’m not sure who wrote it. I added it to my blog tag line and included, “Don’t quit.” I actually put it up prior to being published. It has stayed there every since. I also heard, “the difference between a published author and an unpublished one is one day.” So true.
12. As a writer, what is the best advice you can offer authors looking to be published?
You have to love the writing. And be willing to work really hard. Once you have those two things down, well, See above. Don’t quit.
13. Do you have any upcoming projects we can be on the lookout for?
I have two coming out in 2012—my next Amanda Grace book, IN TOO DEEP, is coming in February and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection. My other title, DANGEROUS BOY, is coming next summer.
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.
Katie Flanagan is a fiction major at Northwestern University. She is currently an editor with Booktrope and a reader for Pink Fish Press. In the past, she has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her favorite genre is women’s fiction, but she reads any fiction put in front of her. Check out her blog about the writing life at katieflanagan.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @K_Flanagan.