Debut Authors: They Want You!
Do agents really want new authors? Fresh talent? Or are they focused on those who are established money makers? The short answer? Hell, yes, they want you! After doing some basic research and taking a gander at what agents (and editors) are seeking for their lists, you will notice that there are myriad agents who are looking for innovative voices to represent. Agents and editors want to sign a career author – one they can work with for years, decades even, helping those writers grow and flourish under their guidance. Discovering a new writer is the goal of most people in the publishing industry because it’s a chance to launch a groundbreaking talent, to make a splash with an exciting author never seen before; an exhilarating opportunity to stoke great interest within not only the agent, but others in publishing: agents, publicists, marketing and sales teams. When an original voice creates a splash and a buzz, it fuels a fire within everyone involved, reminding them why they got into publishing in the first place. Why? Basic human nature: the thrill – of sparking a new, creative career, of bringing a unique voice to the marketplace, and honestly, of the promise of success for those involved in finding this needle in the haystack.
And how can you discover which agents and editors are open to and actively seeking new voices and talent? Handy-dandy Google. There are numerous articles and sites that provide updated information on which agents and editors are interested in debut authors and which specific genres intrigue them. These articles and sites then lead you to agency websites and even to up-to-the-minute Twitter accounts that give further details on what these agents and editors are on the hunt for currently and how to submit to them. There’s really no excuse in this day and age to send out your query to agents that you haven’t specifically targeted or to those that are not explicitly looking for your exact genre and a debut author. Just do your research!
Often, hungry young agents are the best to seek out, as they’re eager to find authors at the beginning of their careers, or even more experienced agents who have recently moved to a new agency. Most importantly, do not think that agents and editors are simply sitting high and mighty in their offices, resting on their laurels, content to continue publishing established authors. Sure, there are those old-school agents and editors who work with famous authors and must spend an inordinate amount of time on these cash cows; however, nothing is more thrilling than finding a fresh voice that will become the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or even an author whose career will be a slow and steady build. Agents and editors take great pride in their work, in their abilities to discover new talent, in their own genius, if you will, at unearthing brilliance. Don’t underestimate the ego of an agent or editor! They want to lay claim to finding the next big thing.
There is no greater feeling in the world for an editor (I’m simply speaking for myself, but I assume this goes for agents as well) than finding a diamond in the rough – a manuscript hidden among the numerous submissions – that you can pluck from the pile, polish, and use to make that author’s dream come true. Some of my best memories are calling previously unpublished authors to tell them that I adored their manuscript and was interested in buying their book, and then guiding them throughout their burgeoning career. There were hits and misses, to be sure, but the excitement at finding that one manuscript that leapt out at you – the one that kept you up reading until 3:00 a.m. on a Tuesday, the one that made you run into an editorial meeting the next morning with a huge grin on your face and with multiple copies that everyone in the company must read immediately – that made a career in publishing worthwhile, every time.
So, whenever you, as a writer, become jaded, or think that only the big names can make it and cause a ripple in publishing, remember that there are tons of agents and editors out there who are actively seeking, and get the biggest thrill from discovering, new talent. Twenty years after I initially discovered my first debut author while working at a big New York City publishing house, I’m still in touch with her, and we often relive those first thrilling moments of becoming a team. Sure, she’s moved on to other editors after I moved on as well to a freelance career decades later, but that thrill of discovery has stuck with me . . . and her, and can’t be matched. I’m so grateful to have been able to discover new talent, and even now as a freelance editor, when a manuscript catches my eye, it’s electrifying to refer a debut author to an agent I know who might be interested in a unique, new voice. Remember, the excitement is not only in you, the author, but it still burns brightly in agents and editors. They’re waiting for you . . . so make it happen.
Erin Brown worked as an editor for almost a decade at two major New York publishing houses, William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins, and Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. She’s had her dream job for ten years now, as a freelance editor working directly with writers in order to improve their work (and hopefully find representation and publication!). You can contact her at www.erinedits.com. You can also email her directly at: email@example.com.