Interview – Lara Perkins Part One
Today I am so thrilled to have agent Lara Perkins of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency on the site today. She’s so cool and awesome and a great professional. Read any interview and you’ll see what I mean. She’s just that impressive. Some of Lara’s recent titles include THE FANTASTIC FAMILY WHIPPLE by Matthew Ward (Razorbill/Penguin)*, A MILLION WAYS HOME by Dianna Dorisi Winget (Scholastic Press), IF YOUR MONSTER WON’T GO TO BED by Denise Vega (Knopf/Random House), THE STEPSISTER’S TALE by Tracy Barrett (Harlequin Teen)*, and I’M NEW HERE by Anne Sibley O’Brien (Charlesbridge). Noteworthy deals include a two-book, six figure deal to Razorbill/Penguin and a two-book deal to Harlequin Teen (*together with Laura Rennert).*
See? Told you she was impressive. 🙂 In fact, when Lara agreed to the interview and I realized I would actually be able to ask her questions, I went a bit overboard and came up with a lot. So many, in fact, that I separated this interview into two parts. So enjoy part one, and see you tomorrow for part two.
- You’re an an agent with the very esteemed Andrea Brown Agencyand you got to work with the awesome Laura Rennert, who reps some major authors. Can you talk to us about what sort of things you learned from Laura that are especially meaningful to you, and that you’ve carried over into your own agenting style?
I feel incredibly lucky to work with the amazing Laura Rennert and to have her as a mentor and colleague. I’ve learned so much from her that I feel I could write an entire article just answering this question! Since I can’t do that, I’ll instead say that her creative, strategic, and rigorous approach to all aspects of agenting has had the most meaningful and lasting affect on my agenting style. Observing Laura’s approach, which is always considered, well-informed, and imaginative, is what originally made me want to be an agent. Her perceptive and rigorously thoughtful approach to understanding the market, to strategizing the arc of her authors’ careers, to negotiating, to giving editorial feedback and more, is something I strive to replicate and is the reason I know I will never be bored at this job. I continue to learn every day from Laura and from my other amazing colleagues at ABLA, all of whom are inspiring, brilliant, and incredibly generous with their expertise and knowledge.
- At Andrea Brown, you’re not only an agent, but you’re also their Digital Manager. What does that job mean exactly? Can you give us a glimpse inside what you do?
I’m happy to! As Digital Manager, I help strategize our agency’s approach to all aspects of digital publishing and help keep the agency up to date on new players, new programs, current wisdom, and new publishing possibilities that may benefit our clients. I attend conferences focused on digital publishing and marketing on the agency’s behalf, and I support my agency’s efforts in helping our clients independently publish by creating resources and systems within the agency and by making myself available as a resource for any questions. I do my best to take the big picture view of what’s working and what isn’t in digital publishing and marketing both within our agency and more broadly in the market, and use that perspective to help the agency shape our approach to all things digital.
- There’s still a ton of dialogue going on about digital publishing, which isn’t necessarily the same as self-publishing. Some agented authors get digital only deals, or digital first deals. One thing for sure is that digital publishing is pretty powerful. It practically created the New Adult genre. What sort of things do you see happening in the digital publishing world right now, as you are right in the thick of things! 🙂
Subscription services have been predicted for a long time, and now that they’re rolling out in earnest (as evidenced by Kindle Unlimited’s launch two months ago, though some others like Scribd have been around a bit longer), it will be very interesting to see the long term effect across digital publishing, both for traditionally published and self-published ebooks. I’m hardly the first to mention this, but the declining price of ebooks is also having an effect industry-wide, with the average price of a best-selling ebook dipping to $7.26 (as pointed out in Rich Bellis’s article in Digital Book World on 9/24/14). One of the effects (of this and of the “tsunami of content” as Jon Fine of Amazon put it) is that I do think it’s becoming harder across the board to draw attention to a new ebook title, even (or especially) through low prices and price promotions, which for a long time were a self-published author’s best friend. They’re still effective, but for new titles, they are not as effective as they used to be, and price promotion amplification sites like Bookbub are becoming more central to a promotion’s success.
- To keep going regarding digital….earlier this year at the great IndieReCon, you talked about the hybrid author, which is an author who publishes both traditionally (with a house) and on their own. So if I may, let’s focus on the “on their own” part of the equation for a moment. 🙂 You’re obviously not afraid to take on clients who have self-published. But what are some of the challenges with negotiating and career-advising an author who has x number of books self-published and now wants to publish x number of books through Penguin or Entangled or any other publishing firm? Conversely, what are some real rewards you see when you take on a hybrid author? You mentioned quite a number of pros for the author, but what are some benefits that come to you as an agent?
I would say one of the challenges is that self-published authors are used to things moving very quickly, and unfortunately traditional publishing usually just cannot move as quickly. There are valid reasons why it takes a lot longer for a traditional publisher to release a book, but adjusting to a traditional timeline can cause some hybrid author “jet lag” and be frustrating for the author. There are so many benefits to working with hybrid authors–too many to list! Since agents are usually deeply invested in our clients’ careers, the benefits for them are also benefits for us. But I feel the greatest benefit is that an author who has self-published successfully is already very business savvy and ready to take an active hand in shaping his or her career. If their self-published books have been successful, they’re also usually very connected to their core readership, as well as connected within the larger publishing community, active on social media, and able to bring a lot to the table in terms of marketing.
- Is there ever an instance when you take on a self-published author for a new series or title but then, for one reason or another, can’t find a home for the work they would like traditionally placed? What do you do then? Do you self-publish it? Do you wait? Do you revise and resubmit?
This does happen, and it depends on the project and the reason that the title isn’t getting traction with traditional publishers. If the author and I agree that the feedback we’ve received indicates that the project is a good fit for the traditional market, but perhaps has elements that need to be re-thought, then we will likely revise and resubmit. If we feel that the title isn’t getting traction because of market concerns by publishers but we feel that readers will still respond to the title, then I would likely recommend that the author self-publish it. If the issue is a market concern that might extend to readers, then we might wait. But, of course, there are other individual factors that could come into play, too, including category, format, other projects in development, etc.
- I imagine you take on authors whose work you absolutely love, so you have tons of faith in it. Do you ever think that some work is best suited toward being self-published while others aren’t?
Yes, definitely! Beginning with category, adult and young adult fiction are still by far the strongest contenders for self-publishing, at least in my experience. Books for younger audiences are still a challenge to self-publish, though certainly Amazon and other digital players are actively investing in making this easier and more lucrative. Within those categories, I think certain genres lend themselves much more to self-publishing–and these unsurprisingly are the genres in which ebook sales tend to be the strongest (and the genres in which mass market sales used to be the strongest). So a YA thriller might be an excellent candidate for self-publishing, but I might hesitate with a MG nonfiction title, just as one example.
- Kristin Nelson, another big advocate for hybrid authors, wrote a great blog post on the partnership between agent and author in regards to hybrid publishing. She said that it’s not so much of a question as to WHY partner with an agent, but WHEN. It’s such an interesting statement. When do you think is the best time for a self-published author to reach out to an agent in the hopes of becoming a hybrid author?
I loved that blog post and thought Ms. Nelson made an excellent point. As with everything, I think this does vary author-to-author. Certainly, I think she is right that for an author who is beginning to see substantial success with self-publishing, that is an ideal moment to partner with an agent who can help amplify and leverage that success, particularly on the subrights front (foreign, film, etc). Another moment that makes sense to me is when an author who has had strong success with a number of self-published titles is about to launch a new series. If they are looking to broaden their readership even further with the new series and have stronger paper distribution, as well as subrights support for all their work, that moment may also be a good time to partner with an agent.
Check back for part two tomorrow!
*taken from the Andrea Brown website