Fizzy Fangirling – An Interview with Brooks Sherman

Hello my super awesome reader peeps!

I have to say, I caught a little bit of a bug when I interviewed Vicki Lame last week.  It was too much fun.  And plus, I like to be nosy and ask people questions, so this has given me an inkling to INTERVIEW ALL THE PEOPLES!!!

Today I am privileged to offer up a chat with Mr. Brooks Sherman of FinePrint Literary Management.

Brooks is very good people and is one of my favorite agent-y type persons.  He’s an excellent one to watch on Twitter to learn from, and in fact made my list of Awesome Agents You Should TOTALLY Be Following.  I met him in person at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop this last year and had the honor of witnessing him blush all the reds while reading my query, and the even more spectacular moment where I watched my very own top notch agent, Sarah LaPolla, damn near knock him over while racing to get to a seat.  Good times.

1. Tell us, good sir, how long have you been an agent?  What made you decide to take on this crazy job in the first place?

I’ve been working at FinePrint Literary for about a year and a half now, and I’ve been open to queries (i.e., looking for clients) for just over a year. My road to the agenting life has been a long and winding one. I have been an actor and a writer, a minion to Barbara Walters, and a cog in the Hollywood machine. I also spent a couple years with the Peace Corps in West Africa.

I finally came to agenting through participating in writing workshops. I found I was enjoying working with other writers–helping them hone and strengthen their manuscripts–more than I was enjoying working on my own material. And something clicked. I took a calculated risk and quit my then job to take an unpaid internship with a literary agency. Within a month of working there, I realized I had finally found what I wanted to do. I love storytelling and storytellers, and being able to work closely with both on a daily basis is such a rush!

2.  You are a fairly new agent, yes?  I believe that a new agent is a hungry agent, and this equals all kinds of awesome for a writer.  Am I right or wrong on this belief?

I am a newer agent, yes, and you are definitely right that those agents beginning their careers are often the hungriest. We need to build our respective lists of clients, and we want to make those first crucial sales that will make us “legitimate” in the industry. I’d say that, when looking for an agent, writers should seek that perfect balance between enthusiasm and knowledge of the market. You want to work with someone who’s excited about your work, but you also want them to be in a strong position to help you on a professional level.

3.  What genres do you represent?  Do you have a “pet” genre?  Are you a genre stickler, or if you are blown away by something outside that box, will you go for it?

My list is pretty open at the moment, although the majority of writers I represent are currently writing children’s books. I will tell you this: I am not the right agent for women’s fiction or romance. I’m not slamming them as genres, but I don’t read widely in them, so I don’t have a strong knowledge of the market in those areas.

I also don’t have a pet genre, per se, but I do have a pet category at the moment: middle grade. I’m looking for fun, adventurous, and even creepy projects directed at readers between ages 8-12. Simply put, I want to discover the next Roald Dahl, and I want to sell this generation’s The Witches.

I am a genre stickler simply in that you need to understand the rules before you break them, and if you do break them there should be a very good reason why. Another balance that professional writers (and agents!) need to keep in mind is the one between creativity and the marketplace. I want you to write something amazing and new, but I also want to be able to sell it for you.

4.  How important is previous industry cred to you?  Do authors with no writing history scare you off, or is it all about the manuscript in the end?

I love working with debut authors! I think you’d be hard pressed to find an agent who isn’t looking for an amazing new talent. Personally, the prospect of working with a first-time author and helping them build their writing career is my ideal. That’s not to say that I won’t work with someone who has already written other books or worked with other agents–one of my most amazing clients is someone who came to me after her previous agent left the agenting side of the business.

5.  Do you have any stories that are now, “The one that got away”?  If so, did it change the way you looked at manuscripts from then on?

Just recently, actually. I offered representation on a middle grade project that another agent (whom I respect a great deal and am also friendly with) also offered on. I spent nearly two hours on the phone with the author, giving notes on how to strengthen what was already a very promising story and explaining how I’d move forward with the book once it was ready. After several days of deliberation, the author ended up signing with the other agent. She wrote me a lovely email explaining what a difficult decision it had been for her, which I did appreciate. What I took away from this experience was reinforcement in the knowledge that you have to hustle to find a good project… and then you have to hustle even more to land it!

6.  Tell me something awesome you are working on that has you all a-flutter.  

Oh, this is a hard one, because I have several projects I’m very excited about at the moment! I’ll talk about two, because I’m eagerly awaiting revisions (any day now!) for these. Both are middle grade novels, and the first one is about the daughter of Captain Hook, who is charged with avenging the death of her father. It’s got a narrator of the Lemony Snicket variety, in that he is VERY present in the text; he’s a retired pirate who hates children, so it’s such a joy to follow the story along with him, as he casually and hilariously insults the reader. The other is a dark, atmospheric fairytale, set in a creepy version of Victorian London. It has a much more classic tone to it, the kind of book you’d read late at night in bed or by the fire on a cold winter day. It also has clockwork dragons.

No, I lied. There’s one more I want to rave about. I’m on submission with it at the moment, so I don’t want to jinx it. I’ll just tell you the premise: the main character is a boy who is literally allergic to being good. Like, deathly allergic. So he has to commit bad deeds in order to stay healthy. How cool is that?!

Well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t wax enthusiastic about Otter. I found this lovable character on Twitter–proof that agents and authors can connect with each other in the most unorthodox ways! (As you know.) Also, I’d love to direct everyone to the Otter Toast Tutorial, as I firmly believe everyone should learn the best way to make toast.

7.  Since you are on my blog at the moment, I will need an embarrassing or hilarious tale.  No pressure.  Any wacky industry moments you would like to share with the class?  

Hmm. The question here is: Which wacky moment to share? I could tell you about the time a writer got aggressively drunk at a conference, who, after failing to successfully pitch me a book, tried next to awkwardly seduce me. (Note to writers: Don’t do this. And don’t lick my ear.)

Or I could tell you about the time my mentor and I had lunch with a famous writer and her famous actor friend in the actor’s apartment, and we accidentally put salt in our coffee. Neither of us wanted to make a scene, so we swallowed it down without comment… I asked for a raise during the taxi ride back to our office. (The full story for that is here.)

Okay, Fizzy here again.  1. I read that salt story months ago and it is friggin’ hilarious.  Seriously.  So much win.  And 2. DAFUQ?! SOMEONE LICKED YOUR EAR!?!?!

I never thought it needed to be said, but uh, yeah, if an agent rejects you, don’t try to seduce them and lick their ear.  Unless they give you permission to.

All righty, that brings this fiesta to a close!  I hope you enjoyed getting to know our dear Mr. Sherman!  Leave him all the love in the comments!  He has blog stalking down to an art, 😉

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and Ear Licking?

43 Comments

  1. Hysterical. Especially the ear-licking. (Also, ewwww.)

  2. This interview makes me want to write middle grade just you can rep my book! You’re awesome. Or at least Fizzy makes you sound that way 😉 fun, fun stuff!

    Also – Fizz, excellent use of the Bateman gif after today’s Twitter convo! I’m breaking out my business cards and Huey Lewis now.

  3. Oh Summer and Brooks, I don’t even know. I am happy this happened.

  4. I have read that daughter-of-Hook tale and it is GOLD.

  5. I’m glad Otter got a mention. I love Otter. Also the dancing gif. I could watch that all day. 😀

  6. Oh my, ear licking is not a good tool of seduction. EVER. Gross, gross, gross.

    Now that I’m done freaking out: This was a great article! I wish I wrote MG now. It looks like there will many great middle grade books coming out soon. I read the salt story over on Query Shark and it still makes me giggle. So does all the dancing graphics in this.

  7. I, too, have read that daughter-of- Hook tale and it is PLATINUM. So there. Pamela. Ahem. Also, writers should not drink around ears. Too much temptation.

  8. I agree with Angi above; suddenly I want to write a middle grade piece.

    Hey, don’t look at me like that. It could happen.

  9. The ear licking is the epitome of all the “LET ME LOVE YOU” gifs. How tragic and sad and hilarious. And sad. 🙁
    Great interview!

  10. I too have read that daughter of Hook tale and it is TITANIUM!

  11. Such a great interview! Thanks for doing this both of you. And the ear licking is nasty. I have an ear licking story that involves a country singer of some notoriety and, it doesn’t matter who it is, it’s foul. It’s worse when said person is acting out due to professional rejection. But, I am glad for the instruction on what not to do at writers’ conferences. And congrats on the fabulous projects!

  12. I wrote that daughter of Hook story and…I am blushing.

  13. This was completely full of win! Excellent GIFs. I’m looking forward to all the projects mentioned — and I promise not to lick anyone’s ear. 😉 Thanks for doing this!

  14. Ok…am I the only one who has to go back to the drawing board with their seduction techniques now? I thought ear licking was “totally fetch”. I swear I saw it in a commercial once.

    NOT. Ewww! (Although umm…I still think it DID see that in a commercial once, just saying. Or maybe it was on the CW. Same thing.)

    Such a cool interview, and yes, now I too, wish I wrote MG and had already read that Hook story.

    Just discovered your blog and your twitter…and now I have a new source of awesomeness and inspiration in my life. Thanks for that. 🙂

  15. I’m absolutely loving these interviews Summer. Please keep doing them!

  16. Ewwww, ear licking. That is really low.

    Great interview!

  17. Summer, I’m teaching a class this spring called “Literary Citizenship.” http://literarycitizenship.wordpress.com/ Going to teach my students how to be social media tutors at MWW13 and try to show them how to start building a literary life for themselves by blogging, interviewing, reviewing, etc. I’d love to show them your blog as an example. I think they can learn a lot just by watching how you do what you do–and if you ever have advice to share, feel free! Thanks for interviewing Brooks. I loved meeting him at MWW12. And I’m happy you found your agent at our little conference. 🙂

  18. I so can’t wait to see the Captain Hooks daughter story ….I could say its for the boys right? I’m just reading it first to make sure they will get it . right?

  19. He sounds like so much fun! He’d be an awesome agent, but also someone great to just be acquainted with!

  20. Thanks for this Fizzy! I love agent interviews. When you’re looking for agents to query, their track record, years in the business and the agency they work with are all very important. But there’s another side to a professional relationship that has nothing to do with an agent’s specs.

    It has to do with the person they are. And Twitter isn’t always the best measuring stick for who an agent really is. Everyone is trying to be funny, or clever, or relevant on Twitter. The problem is those Twitter personas are usually only a part of the individual. These interviews are painting a much clearer picture of agents as both real people and professionals. I think they’ll help writers find a good fit.

    The interviews with Brooks and Vicki have been great. I feel like I have a basic picture of them both now, and any authors would be lucky to work with either of them.

    When are you interviewing Sarah? 🙂

    • As soon as I work up the nerve to ask her to let me, lol.

      And thank you so much! I hope people find these helpful! I would love to hear great connection stories even!

  21. Ear licking–licking of any variety really–is never a good method of seduction. I once had a gentleman–who I barely knew–lick me from jaw line to hair line on the side of my face. His stock immediately plummeted and, needless to say, he went home by himself.

    Brooks sounds like an amazingly awesome agent and a real genuine person. Re-thinking that potential middle-grade story!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Horror Q&A Series with Brooks Sherman | Catherine Scully - [...] In a recent interview, you mentioned wanting to sell this generations THE WITCHES in a recent interview with FizzyGrrl…
  2. Literary Agents Seeking: Contemporary YA — Kim GraffKim Graff - […] website, twitter, 1, 2, 3, 4, […]
  3. Literary Agent Seeking YA FantasyKim Graff - […] Interviews: website, twitter, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.