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INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT

JUNE 2010 SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW

ERIN NIUMATA
Agent, Folio Literary Management 

 


WG:      Hi Erin! Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.

WG:      To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.

EN:      I've been with Folio Literary Management since the beginning - since 2005. Before that I was an editor for 14 years - I was with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and editorial director of Avalon Books. I represent many different authors: Discovery Communications, Buddy Valastro - the Cake Boss, Jeremy Wade (River Monsters), teen advice guru Josh Shipp, Artist Knox - the Beverly Hills Groomer, pet writer Sandy Robins, lifestyle guru Susan Mattews of QVC, historian and romance writer Elizabeth Mahon, and fiction writers Julie Hyzy, Carolyn Brown, Lynda Simmons, Holly Jacobs as well as many others. I graduated from the University of Delaware too many years ago to mention. I grew up in Nassau, Bahamas and moved to the states for school, again too many years ago to mention!

WG:      Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took to get you where you are today?

EN:      I was happy as an editor but after the birth of my daughter I wanted flexible hours. Running the editorial department of a publishing company did not leave much time to myself so I decided to jump ship and become an agent.

WG:      What genres do you currently represent?

EN:      I represent a lot of non-fiction: self help, memoir, pets, cookbooks, pop culture. I also represent fiction: romance, historical, mystery and thrillers.

WG:      Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?

EN:      I'm happy where I am but if something came across my desk that I thought was exceptional I'd jump on it.

WG:      Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?

EN:      Paranormal, poetry and sci fi - they are just not for me.

WG:      Do you represent any authors of non-fiction? If so, have you been successful in selling their projects? If not, is this a market that interests you?

EN:      My list is 75% nonfiction. I sold the Cake Boss Book, Morbid Curiosity by Alan Petrucelli, Martha Brockenbrough's Things That Make Us [Sic], The River Monsters book, etc.

WG:      What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?

EN:      So far this year I've sold both fiction and non-fiction equally. That will change over the summer as I have mostly non-fiction going out.

WG:      What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?

EN:      Perigee, Berkley, Da Capo, Sourcebooks, Free Press (Simon & Schuster), Medallion, St. Martin's Press, Unbridled Books, Bow Tie Press, to name a few.

WG:      Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?

EN:      28 clients - so far I have an 85% success rate.

WG:      Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?

EN:      I've sold 12 new authors in the past year.

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

EN:      I am. Someone with a new idea and great writing is always a find. Anyone with a great platform for non-fiction is good too.

WG:      How would you describe your agenting style? What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor interface?

EN:      It varies from author to author - some need major hand holding and I'm happy to do it. Others like to work by themselves and have me just sell the book and negotiate the contract. I'm happy to work with each author in whatever style they are most comfortable.

WG:      Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?

EN:      I like the prepping and selling of the manuscript or proposal best. It's the most exciting part - where the possibilities are endless. I just love to get the offer and then calling the author to let them know the deal is done.

WG:      Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?

EN:      I have to like the work or I can't represent it. If I'm not excited about the manuscript how can I sell it effectively?

WG:      How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?

EN:      I let my clients know what is happening from the minute the proposal or manuscript is out. Each pass, every interested email or call, etc. I let them know what the editors say - if it's harsh (which it never really is) I'll soften it but often times I'll forward the actual email to the author so they can see for themselves.

WG:      What is your process for submitting work to editors?Is this different if the editor is one you've had no prior contact with as opposed to one you've already built a working relationship with?

EN:      When I'm reading something for the first time I'm building an editor list in my mind. Then I'll write it down and do a little research to see who's still looking for what, and if anyone new has popped up in the market. I always call first and then follow up with the email submission. Then it's usually emails back and forth until offers come in or an auction is happening. I have great connections with editors in all the major publishing houses and if someone is new I'll call and introduce myself before giving my pitch.

WG:      How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?

EN:      I always send to multiple houses as the same time. If it's a great project the houses can fight for it. I love a good, meaty auction!

WG:      Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for the book?

EN:      I work with the author and publisher to make sure that both are on the same page with marketing and promotion. We have meetings with each department to get an idea of who is going to do what. Sometimes an independent publicist can be hired by the author and I often help with that as well.

WG:      What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?

EN:      Having been an editor for 18 years I know a thing or two about the process. Understanding the process helps me as an agent - I can better explain things to my clients and give them a real assessment of what's going on at any particular time.

WG:      Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?

EN:      I've found quite a few of my clients through conferences. I think they are very important for writers to attend. The workshops alone are worth the price of admission! I've also met many editors through workshops and have made sales because of that connection. In my eyes, conferences are a very, very good thing for everyone.

WG:      Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or did you work with someone more specialized in this field?

EN:      Folio has a foreign rights department as well as a subrights department that includes movie rights. As an agent - my clients have been sold in foreign languages. No movies rights yet - lots of inquiries though. As an editor I did movie -tie ins, etc. so the process is not entirely new to me.

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

EN:      For queries 7-10 days, partials 3-4 weeks, full 6-8 weeks. My plate is FULL.

WG:      Do you feel an agent based in New York has a significant advantage over one who is not? Why or why not?

EN:      I'm based in NY but I live in London. I moved here three months ago. It has made absolutely no difference to me at all. However, having lived in New York for many, many years made the transition over seas a lot easier.

WG:      What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?

EN:      Many authors blur the line between agent and friend. Even though I'm very friendly and I adore most of my clients - it's a business relationship. In addition to that I've had to have a few uncomfortable conversations to draw lines in the sand. Once an author was upset with her publisher and wanted me to push them on a particular problem, which was highly irregular and not even in my power to ask. I knew it would upset her editor and refused to do it. Her response: "It's your job to protect me. They cannot be upset with me but it doesn't matter if they hate you." It is absolutely not my job to make a publishing house angry with me. I have many clients and if I alienate myself from one editor - it effects not only all of my clients, it effects Folio as a whole. Most of my clients are reasonable, delightful and professional. Thank goodness!

WG:      In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?

EN:      When they have a completed, edited, vetted manuscript. That's when you look.

WG:      What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering approaching you (or any agent) for representation?

EN:      Do your research. Make sure I represent the genre you're writing. Make sure the agent is accepting queries and new clients. Know your audience and your genre. Don't, for heaven's sake, say how much your mother/husband/daughter/sister loved the book. That just smacks of newbie writer.

WG:      Do you think contest credits help authors further their career before and/or after making that first sale? Have you ever acquired a client that you discovered via a writing contest?

EN:      Contests definitely help writers grab the attention of agents. I've snagged a few contest winners in my day, the contests were the draw.

WG:      Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering working with? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?

EN:      I troll web sites and blogs daily. I've taken a few blogs and made them into books. If the subject matter is unique and the writing is top notch, or if the idea is just cute and I love it - I'll contact the owner of the site and state my interest.

WG:      How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? If so, is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?

EN:      Self promotion is the key to success when you're starting out. Social media is HUGE and the more you can do for yourself the better. Publishers look for someone who is a promotion dynamo because budgets for promoting new authors are not big. If you can't promote yourself - who will?

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

EN:      I have two kids: 3 and 6 months. I have very little time for fun. I love doing crafts with my daughter and reading to them. But I like to write on my blog: jollyoldengland.blogspot.com, knit, sew, garden, needlepoint. I am also ridiculously addicted to touring historical homes. Good thing I live in England where there is an endless supply of them.

WG:      Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?

EN:      I'm a blog-acholic. I also love Marian Keyes, Phillippa Gregory, Dan Brown, Ian McEwan, Mary Kay Andrews. I'll read anything that is fun and entertaining.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

EN:     The Color Purple is hands down my favorite movie. I just love it. Makes me cry every time. I also love Modern Family, Brothers and Sisters and Frasier - they are my favorite TV shows.

WG:      Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?

EN:     Trinity by Leon Uris was the first 'grown up' book I ever read. I remember my mother lending it to friends and talking it up. My mother's family is Irish so it meant a lot to her. I was only 11 when I read it, so much of it went right over my head but I was very pleased with myself once it was complete. 19 years later I was Leon Uris's editor at HarperCollins. I worked on A Man In Ruins - his second to last book before he passed away. It was a key moment for me the day I met him. It was like my love for books had come full circle.

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?

EN:      For information on the agency, you can visit foliolit.com. To learn more about me, visit my blog at jollyoldengland.blogspot.com

WG:      Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit in this month's spotlight. It was delightful 'visiting' with you here.

 

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