Greyhaus Literary Agency
WG: Hello! Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
SE: I opened Greyhaus Literary Agency in 2003 here in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. At that time I decided to focus exclusively on the romance and women's fiction genres. This was after several years teaching English. I hold a BA in Literature, a MA in Literacy and a MA in Creative Writing.
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?
SE: This was really a situation of being in the right place at the right time. I had always been interested in either editing or being an agent. After my son was born, my wife and I looked at our careers and realized now would be as good a time as ever to make the move from full time teaching to running the agency and some adjunct teaching on the side.
As far as the "steps I took to get where I am today" I would say it is constantly an issue of always learning and always working with other editors and agents. This business is always changing and the more connected we can be, the stronger force we can play in the lives of writers.
WG: What genres/lines do you currently represent?
SE: As I said, I represent only romance and women's fiction. I love this genre and certainly most of the sub-genres under the two areas.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
SE: I have toyed with the idea of using my interest and involvement with USA Swimming and working with professional swimmers to write, but at this time I haven't made any moves that way. Other than that, I am sticking to the areas I know and love.
WG: Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
SE: Single title inspirational, erotica, science fiction, steam punk, fantasy (again, I am talking the sub-genres in romance here!), and YA.
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?
SE: No. See above
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
SE: I have had huge success with my historical writers. I love this sub-genre and have been lucky to find some fantastic authors. As far as change goes, I find that I am becoming VERY picky about historical romances. This is due to the current economy and the slowing in buying from publishers; but also, and more importantly, I have great authors and new authors have to beat them.
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
SE: NAL, Special Edition, Source, Mills and Boon, Kimani
WG: Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?
SE: I have about 18 right now and we are at a little over 50% who are published
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
SE: I am currently looking, especially in the area of contemporary romance and the other Harlequin lines. Authors need to demonstrate to me they aren't "one-hit-wonders." I want to see team players, people willing to learn and work hard, as well as people who can take advice and be independent if they need to be. Stories with gimmicks just don't work for me.
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?
SE: I am a very hands-on agent depending on the authors. I want to work with authors from the beginning of a project to the end. I certainly will suggest ideas for projects but I also like to make sure my authors are making the right decisions about their careers. I cannot plan their career, but I can certainly steer them in the right direction, or away from a potentially career ending decision.
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
SE: I love reading the new projects from authors, especially the ones that we have worked on already and I can see the growth from that first idea to the final project.
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?
SE: I say this all the time to authors. I have to love a project to want to market it. If I am not mad for a project, it will always get slipped to the back burner.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?
SE: As soon as I found out about the status of a submission, I let them know immediately. I will often forward the email to them directly or give them a call. I am sorry to say this, but I have always felt the agents who only send out quarterly reports are not helping their authors. We can always make tweaks and adjustments to projects if we see trends coming in from editors.
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?
SE: Every project is unique. I personally do not send out projects to EVERY editor out there that accepts a particular genre. The voice of the author has to be a match with the publisher. Depending on the editor, I will often call first and discuss the project, I then send the project to them.
Iwill also encourage my authors to pitch projects to editors at conferences. When we do this, I will call the editor and discuss the project. The author can then spend the time getting connected to the editor on a personal level. I then follow up with another call after the conference before sending out the proposal.WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
SE: I see no problem with this.
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?
SE: I try to keep the business relationship with the editors separate from the creative side. This is an area where the editor and the writer can be the best team. With that said, I do put in my input when needed.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?
SE: Writers need a team behind them when they are writing. They need to know there is someone watching out for them along the way. They need to know there is someone there to talk to. All of my authors know they can call me at any time to discuss projects. That connection is certainly one of the strongest attributes I bring to the table.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
SE: Writer's conferences are great assuming that the conference is bringing in qualified individuals to teach sessions. These conferences are great for increasing the lines of communications between the professionals and the writers. We aren't making huge deals but we do get a chance to simply talk. This is the best part!
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?
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
SE: I respond to everything generally within a month. I never exceed 3 months.
WG: Do you feel an agent based in New York has a significant advantage over one who is not? Why or why not?
SE: No, simply because communication and technology is so available. Think of this list and tell me why NY is important: Laura Bradford, Natalie Fischer, Natasha Kern, Nephele Tempest, Deidre Knight, Kristin Nelson, Rachele Gardner and myself. What does this say?
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?
SE: They believe agent equals automatic sales. They believe we are miracle workers. They believe agent equals huge sums of money.
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
SE: This all depends on the genre they are writing in. I would say, however, that you should never start looking until you are fully ready to make a career move to professional writing. I would also say that you have to have at least one project ready to go and several more planned or in the works.
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?
SE: Do your research. Make sure you know the business and you are ready to work!
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?
SE: I see contests as being similar to Beta-readers. It is your first glimpse into what other people have to say. My biggest issue with most contests is that coordinators have uneducated people in terms of writing making decisions about book. These are people who might not have ever finished a book. Ugh!
Yes, I have acquired from a contest. Helen Lacey for her Special Edition books.
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?
SE: I do visit my own author's websites every now and then. I rarely visit other author's sites. Websites need to be active and have a focus. Websites need to not be full of mindless chatter. In other words, if you don't have something good to say, then don't create a website.
WG: How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? Is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?
SE: In the end, you are likely not going to be single-handedly moving your book up the sales charts. You can, however, keep your name out there. The more people see your name, the more likely they will remember you when they are looking for a new book.
Giveaways and blogs I still feel are the best, assuming you have something worthwhile to give away and you are on a blog that gets a lot of traffic.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
SE: Gordon Gekko from Wall Street "Information is power!"
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
SE: I made the decision to enter teaching when I was 11 yrs. old. I did consider entering the Clergy at one point, but this was mostly due to my Grandfather (see my book of poetry, Pulpit to Poem: Grandfather to Grandson.)
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
SE: I love cooking. But I also stay fairly busy with my three kids. They are all on a competitive USA Swimming Team (King Aquatic's Club), so I am frequently working at a swim meet as a Stroke and Turn Official. My middle daughter also owns a horse and she rides competitively in English Hunter Jumper. And my youngest does Ballet.
As a family, we also love to travel.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
SE: Historical romance.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
SE: Movies: Wall Street, Lawrence of Arabia, Before Sunrise. TV Shows: I love everything on the cooking channel, especially Anthony Bourdain and Iron Chef. I also love HGTV and watch a lot of House Hunters
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
SE: Not really.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?
SE: I want great writing. I am not looking for "the easy sale" or mediocrity.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?www.twitter.com/greyhausagency www.facebook.com/GreyhausLiteraryAgency
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.