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!!!
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?