Interview – Lara Perkins Part Two
And we’re back with amazing agent Lara Perkins for part two of our interview! (Part one can be found here.) She’s an agent with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency and 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).* You can follow her on Twitter or read more about her here.
8. Okay, let’s talk about the other end of the spectrum for a minute. What happens when you have an author who has traditionally published and now wants to self-publish? We hear a lot about non-compete clauses and other contractual terms that prohibit writers from doing that. As an agent, how do you advise in a situation like that? In your IndieReCon article, you mentioned thinking outside the box. Can you talk more about that?
Because so much depends on the individual situation, my first step in a situation like this is to look at all the factors–the contract language, the nature of the current project vs. previously published projects, the author’s desire to continue to traditionally publish vs. to move permanently to self-publishing, the status of the author’s relationship with the publisher, the publisher’s hopes and plans for the author, and the author’s past sales figures. All of those factors would influence my approach and advice, which is why I really think there’s no one size fits all approach. I think the most successful approach in a case like this is to analyze the situation on its own terms rather than applying a standard approach, and then to make tactical decisions about how to proceed and how to manage the relationship with the publisher from there.
9. There are some who believe the traditional model of publishing isn’t viable anymore. What do you want to say to people who think the only way to publish is by self-publishing?
I would say that, for them, self-publishing may be the only way to publish–and that’s fine! I know it’s pretty clear from my job description that I feel both models are viable and have their own strengths and benefits. My take is that authors need to understand their options and make an informed choice about which path is right for them. My one piece of advice for authors making this decision would be to make sure they’re approaching the choice with clear eyes in both directions and gathering information from reliable sources. I’d also recommend making sure that they’re approaching it primarily as a business decision, not based on frustration or as a reaction against one model or the other. For example, if you’re a debut middle grade author, it may be very challenging to find a readership if you self-publish your work. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it if you truly feel it’s the right move for you, but going in to it with open eyes (and understanding the difference between your situation and a bestselling author who is now self-publishing her adult mysteries) will help you make informed decisions and help set your own expectations for what success will look like. Similarly, if you’re a self-published author and would like to be traditionally published, the experience will be a better one if you’re aware of the difference in time frame, standard digital royalty rates, range of marketing support, etc., going in.
10. You made a cool prediction and raised an interesting question at the end of your IndieReConarticle. You wondered if there might come a time when everyone is hybrid and what makes them (both agents and authors) different, won’t be so different in the future. Makes sense. 🙂 Being so entrenched in the publishing world, both the paper and digital branches of it, where do you see the most change happening? Where do you think the most change needs to happen?
One change we see happening that’s moving more authors towards hybrid status is that when the rights to a title revert, our authors are increasingly interested in self-publishing those titles–or even seeking other digital opportunities. For example, I recently closed an app deal for a board book title that had gone out of print. So even if authors are still aiming solely at the traditional market for their new work, they may become hybrid authors anyway as the rights to their old titles revert. Another situation that we see arising is that if a publisher publishes the first book in a series but chooses not to publish the second book for whatever reason, it’s often a win-win when authors are able to get the rights back to the first book and self-publish the series themselves. In terms of where I think the most change needs to happen, I’m certainly not the first to say this but I feel the standard digital royalty rate for authors at traditional houses needs to change.
11. So much is happening right now in publishing. The Harlequin acquisition, the Hugh Howeywebsite, and JA Konrath always seems to be breaking big news. You as an agent must, I’m sure, always be up to date on the most current news, whether it’s about houses merging, the newest self-published bestseller, or what editors are looking for. How do you stay on top of it all, so you can best inform your clients and best guide your career?
I read a LOT and subscribe to countless blogs and industry news sites. I tend to read industry news in the morning with my coffee, look at recent deals and favorite blogs during my lunch break, and catch up on digital-specific news at the end of the day. My colleagues at the agency are also always a wonderful resource. I’m very lucky to have colleagues who all prioritize staying informed and current, so we have many conversations in-agency about recent developments and all share information.
12. In all the interviews you’ve done, you’re always very open and honest about what you do. So for writers who have finished and polished their manuscripts until they shine, how can they especially impress you with their query or pitch?
What I care about most, of course, is a wonderful idea and great writing, but I also always hope to work with authors who are thoughtful, professional and savvy, and good humored. So a query letter that shows these qualities, and is short and sweet, will always catch my attention. My best advice in crafting your pitch is also to focus on who your main character is and what the stakes are for him or her–what can be gained and what can be lost. Of course, you need to cover who, what, where, and when, but if you can make me care about the stakes for your main character in your pitch, then I will be very excited to read the pages and know why I should care about this story.
13. Alright, let’s end this long interview with lucky number 13. 🙂 You’re a huge advocate for writers and obviously love reading and sharing stories. What advice do you want to give someone who’s at that crossroads, who have a finished manuscript and just aren’t sure what to do with it? What advice would you give them?
I think one of the hardest things about that moment is that there are so many options in front of you! If you haven’t already, I would recommend connecting with other authors online, joining author organizations like SCBWI and attending local conferences, reading industry sites, and generally learning as much about the business as you can. If you’ve already decided to pursue traditional publishing and feel ready to look for an agent, I recommend reading as much as you can about each agent you’re interested in and reading some of each agent’s key titles to get as strong a sense as possible of that agent’s taste and whether your work will truly be a good fit. For example, two agents might both say they’re actively looking for contemporary YA, but one might have a clear preference for very dark, issue-driven contemporary YA and the other might lean more towards funny contemporary YA. Researching thoroughly enough that you’re aware of that kind of nuance can really help you target agents successfully. Of course, researching agents is an important first step, but I’d also recommend reading as much as you can about the publishing process in general. Of course, there are nuances to the publishing process you can only really learn through experience and most agents, myself included, are very happy to answer questions. However, I’m always impressed when a new, debut client already has a solid understanding of the industry so that we can focus together on more strategic questions right out of the gate.
*taken from the Andrea Brown website.
*taken from the Andrea Brown website.