For today’s Friday Five, I’m featuring an interview with literary agent Liza Fleissig, founder of the Liza Royce Agency (LRA). I signed with Liza as my agent earlier this year and was thrilled when she sold my next novel, Black Flowers, White Lies (coming Fall of 2016!) to Sky Pony Press. Read on to learn about submitting your manuscript to LRA, Liza's ideal client, and her thoughts on trilogies.
Other than the obvious--strong writing and compelling voice--I like stories that are fresh and take chances. Once any given book becomes a hit, it is inevitable that we get submissions that basically jump on the bandwagon and offer a variation on the same best-selling theme. What some authors don’t realize is that publishers are no longer looking for THAT book, they are looking for the NEXT big thing. It is very frustrating because you look forward to great submissions and at times you are just left rolling your eyes and declining to consider.
2. What’s your favorite part about being an agent? Least favorite part?
My favorite part? Being able to help our clients attain success, and in many cases life-long dreams, is an amazing feeling. I will never forget LRA’s first picture book signing--there was a full display in the store front window--and the look on the author’s face when she got out of the cab was priceless. My least favorite? Sigh. This business is not for the faint of heart. More and more often books are not passing acquisition meetings even with full editorial support. So when a deal is expected to be a fait accompli, but somehow still falls through, the blow is crushing--and being the one to deliver that news is almost as devastating as it is to hear it.
One who shoots for the stars and looks for a window when the door is closed, but who can also be practical when need be. The agency relationship is like a marriage, with ups and downs, and the ideal client is one who can handle disappointment with grace, even when it’s unfair. Comparing yourself to other authors is a huge no-no, and knowing how to accept and appreciate constructive feedback is a must. We look for clients who say “what can I do for me?” not just “what can the publisher do for me?” and since LRA is run like a family, our ideal clients cross-support and share in their agency siblings’ successes. Determination helps too. We’ve sold books right out of the gate, and others in months, one took a year!--you never know--so be in it for the long haul and believe in yourself. Above all--HONESTY, TRUST and mutual RESPECT is key. Prima dons/donnas need not apply.
4. What do you see as the biggest changes in YA publishing in the past few years?
I think YA continues to morph since its formal inception. When I grew up, there was no real YA section--books like FOREVER were considered risky, and now characters have sex with vampires. Talk about change! I think the main thing I would caution authors is that contrary to popular belief, trilogies is not the way to go. Post HUNGER GAMES everyone thinks they need to write trilogies, so they write with arcs that lend themselves to that, and I think it’s a critical error. First of all, as the numbers demonstrate, few books will break out in such a tremendous way. That is not to say they won’t have huge successes, just not necessarily in such a franchising way. Second, and more important to consider, the YA audience continues to grow up. As your readers hit college and adult years, they no longer read YA books. And, as new readers come of age, they don’t want to pick up a book mid-series. So I think it’s really important you write a GOOD YA STORY and worry only about THAT one. Trying to develop a trilogy often leaves the first book falling short, which makes a sale less likely in the first place. One book at a time. Very important in YA.
5. Are you currently open to submissions? How should an interested writer submit to you?
I am always open to submissions, albeit sometimes my turn around is slower than others. Guidelines will be up on our website (launching hopefully by Jan!), but until then, people should send us an email WITH NO ATTACHMENTS since they will not be opened, providing a pitch, a brief bio, along with information about any social/marketing platform they feel is relevant. Unfortunately since we are so slammed, if someone doesn’t hear back from us within two weeks, then that means we declined to consider the work, for a variety of reasons, ranging from we might have something similar on our list to it just didn’t resonate. This business is so subjective, so please remember that a pass from us could very well be a YES from another agency!
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