In the seventh episode of This Podcast Needs a Title, Peter and Erica talk with literary agent Natalie Kimber of The Rights Factory about bringing experimental literature to the mainstream, authors' perception of agents, snacks, and her work with the Weehawken Writers and Artists Studio. PLUS Natalie and Erica correct Peter about his wrong opinion on Halloween.
Corrections coming soon!
TPNAT ep 7 Nat Kimber - 7_27_21, 3.25 PM
Tue, 7/27 4:00PM • 1:00:29
work, writers, books, agent, people, authors, literary, writing, presses, manuscript, query, read, indie, editors, feel, podcast, chapters, submission, proposal, judy
Hey, everyone, welcome back to this podcast needs a title. I'm Erica Davis. And I'm Peter Malone. Eliot. And this is real talk about writing, publishing and everything in between. In just a couple minutes here, we're going to be talking to our amazing guests, Natalie, Kimber, and literary agents at the rights factory. But first, Erica. Yeah. How are you?
I'm good. Good. Today feels a bit like Friday to me. It's not. Thanks. You're welcome. Oh, you know, it just feels like Friday, because Fridays are usually my organizing day. And I spent an hour before we logged on here, organizing the bookshelves behind me. And my mind went, Oh, great. Tomorrow, Saturday, and now it's only Wednesday, which is great, because that means it's podcast recording day with you. And speaking of you. How are you doing, Peter?
What a transition? Oh my god. Good. Wallace. I'm good. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, this this week has been good. I have gotten some good writing done in the past couple of days. I dayjob stuff is going well. I took a nice long bike ride through Brooklyn this morning, which was very relaxing. And I maybe got some exciting career news that I don't want to divulge yet. Right. Now. I got it yesterday. No, no, I cried was just an adjacent thing. I also did. Excellent. Yeah. So So thank you. Yeah, fingers crossed that that all works out. Okay. So yeah, I this has been a pretty good week for PD. Hey, does the good news Ryan with
commotion? No, that's too bad. Yeah. Well, not really, because it's probably even better than that. Cuz you're giggling like a weirdo right now. And I'm glad for you. Okay. Oh my god. That's really exciting. And um, did you wear a helmet on your bike ride?
No. I showed up but I Daredevil. Yeah, I know, mom. If you're listening, I'll get a helmet. Now. Well, I'll get a stupid helmet. There's stupid. I'm just being cranky. Oh, Erica.
Let's check in about our accountability goals. How
did Shelly do if you guys remember that she was hoping to finish one last stop by Casey McQuiston. She did it. And she wrote and I quote, hey, I finished the book. It was fantastic. And quote, so shall we.
Go, Shelley? Absolutely. How about you? How'd you do on your goal? I see I accomplished my goal. My goal. I was reaching for the book, but it's not by me. My goal is to start the next book that I'm going to be revealing for the BP website. The disappearing act, and I did about a third. Wow. almost almost halfway through. I read very fast. And it's it's delightful. It's delightful. Good. I'm enjoying it. What about you, Erica? How's your preview review on preview review, preview review on the what is it again? The disappearing act?
The disappearing act? That's really cool. Let's see, my goal was for me to finish the next was at two chapters. Yes. Yeah, because I write short chapters. I think I'm avoiding writing the actual chapters. But what I did do was I revised the outline, like I sorted Lehigh. Last time I checked in with that synopsis. I rewrote my chapter by chapter outline from scratch. And just to see what I was remembering about it, and it took, I mean, maybe five, six hours to just go through it at my own pace. I don't mind that. I didn't do the chapters. But I can see your work and happening here working I was still working. But it's so much just big picture. It's just so much better as a young adult versus middle grade. Yeah, I just I can go so much darker, good,
darker, the better on your, on your, on your horror on my horror or about Nat introduce net that do it. So Natalie Kimber is a literary agent at the rights factory, where she is inspired by bringing experimental risky and thoughtful new literature into the world of traditional publishing, that looks for writers who unveil meaningful new ways to see the world and ourselves in it from exploring history untold to retelling timeless tales with a twist. I'm so excited to have her as a guest and let's bring her in. All right, Nat. Hi, thanks for having me on today. Oh, so
much for comedy. And on the record, I want to tell our listeners Nat told us that she would also be in pajamas, so I am dressed appropriately for pajama day on the podcast, but she is not. She's dressed very professionally. So I feel a little awkward but not that awkward enough to change my Halloween not so sure. Grab a hoodie or a cup. Okay. That makes me feel better. I
also I put my dog panda pajamas and now No one's matching with her and she's
Halloween. Get excited about Halloween. No, if you look right behind me. I have Permanent Halloween collection happening right there. I love Halloween. Is it? Is it weird? If I say that I don't like Halloween is let's talk about that deep. That's actually why not and I called you here. Okay, intervention intervention cool, Coco.
What don't you like about Halloween?
Um, it's not that I don't like it. I just I don't understand why people get so excited about it. It's it's kind of like a manufactured holiday for people to eat candy and scare each other. I don't get it. I'm not hearing the problem. I'm also a cranky 76 year old secretly. So there you go sign that. Yes. Welcome to the podcast. And we're so happy to have you here. Because you're one of the awesome agents who chooses the kind of rap a little bit more, quote unquote, risky authors, you you take tend to take on authors that write more left to center material. And I think that's awesome, because not a lot of people do. And I just kind of want to know, like, a, what prompted that? And what do you love about that genre.
So, um, I guess, when I became an agent, my whole thing was just really trying to help authors make it and see themselves as printed, you know, published authors out in the world, I think something that's so special about being an agent is being the first person to look at material by an author and possibly being the first person that says, This is really good stuff, this is going to make it and then we need to take it a little farther, we are going to, you know, we're gonna get it there. When I talk about books that I think are risky, it's not necessarily in the content that they contain, like, like a good example would be like a book by a sex worker, which you know, would be cool. But that's not the kind of risk that I'm necessarily talking about, like sexuality, or nudity are things that people you know, subject matter that people feel is, you know, is edgy. But I think that it's about books that have a genuine soul and their genuine creative expression of human character. I really feel like from the beginning of agenting, when I started as a literary assistant, it was about 2007. And back then I felt like my heroes were the people who were publishing risky literature, and back then that was LGBTQ works. That was books that are for young men, and like the, you know, certain people, I think, you know, were my idols back then first person that comes to mind is Richard Nash, who started the imprint soft skull. Yeah, Oscar has gone on to do so many incredible things. But back then I was like, wow, he's my hero. He's doing this stuff that nobody else wants to do. Oh, wow. And I feel like, you know, the smaller presses. And these indie imprints have kind of always been around for that sort of thing. And I'm seeing them grow. And I'm seeing them finally get credit where credit is due for publishing great works. And then hopefully, you know, once once they're winning awards and going on, they get bigger distribution. And then of course, they get bigger readership. But mostly, I just want to see that authors are able to genuinely express what they want to. And the way that that looks right now, I think is in books that have creative form, I always, you know, talk about creative form and how I love experimental forms. But what I mean by that is like hybrids, books that could be literary thriller, write an agent to look at something like that, because when you take it out, the literary presses are going to be like, this is a thriller, we don't do this. And then you take it out to the thriller process, and the thriller process or like, this is really literary, this is not what we like. But I think that more and more writers are writing in those spaces where they're covering different areas of form and Korea. And that's how they feel most comfortable, you know, expressing their story. And I think it's really important to let them do that. I think some of the best writing that I'm reading now is taking those risks. Yeah, books that are really artistic books that blend form things like novellas, micro fiction collections, new adult books, and that's something where a book may sit in between the spaces of like Hawaii and an adult novel. Yeah. You know, a book that I am working, actually a series that I'm working on right now is a literary thriller that progressively gets told in more and more poetic prose. And at this point, and like, you know, we're nearing the author's nearing the completion of the second book, his character, you know, it's like speaking in these poetic riddles. And it's so fascinating for us to get to go into the manuscript, and work on exactly what the phrasing is saying. And if he's being too cryptic, or if he's telling a good thriller story. Oh, wow. And it's things like that, where, as much as I know, it's going to be a difficult book to sell. On the back end, when when I'm working with the author with it. I really feel like in the zone of creativity, sure. The Zone of story telling that he feels as true to the character. Yeah. And it's Yeah, it's fascinating. It's really great to be a part of that whole process, really letting people know that, however crazy, you want to tell this story, it's it can work, and it's going to work. And if it expresses a story that is close to your heart, then I think it needs to be genuine. Yeah. I guess what I feel I might bring this up again later is that there's so much in publishing where something works. And then you have the slew of people who want to just publish the same thing. They're like, Oh, you know, Harry Potter worked. So now let's have five to seven years of just nothing but witches, warlocks, vampires. Right. Right. Right. Yeah. I mean, and thank god that's over, right. Like this idea, not even just a rebooting, which is huge in Hollywood, and I'm sure you guys yeah, you know, we're all like, some, some reboots for like, woo and other things, you know, everything needs to get remade. No
CDs, great books that are on the bestseller list or in the book clubs. It's kind of like, you always have editors in meetings telling you Well, I just want something like that I want something that's going to be the next girl on a train or the next, you know, American dirt. What have you. Right, right. And, um, and so it's kind of funny, like, when I work with writers who have gone out there and showed their work to publishers, sometimes agents they'll often hear, well, your book is kind of like this one. So maybe you should just make it more like that, that you just wrote a story that aligns with this other book that did extremely well, but wasn't genuine.
Right, right. Right. Right.
And so I always try to caution authors, you know, if you're being told that your book is something that it's not, or that it should be something that it's not, you need to go over. Or, you know, if somebody tells you that your book has certain things that's wrong with it, because it gives you a chance to defend what your creative choices are. Yeah, ultimately, I think it's always funny when some of my clients say, hey, Matt, I have a new project, but you're not gonna like it because it's not saleable. Know Me, like, this is what I want, the weirder the better. And I mean, that's not to say that I won't represent commercial fiction or, you know, a nonfiction book that I feel has like a massive audience. Sure, sure. Sure, sure. But I do think that authors need people to fight for them in this face. Yeah. That's what was it that brought you to agenting. To begin with, I actually stumbled into the job. I had just moved to Washington, DC. A Danby going back to school in my, you know, mid to late 20s, sort of as a non traditional student. Yeah. And I actually found this literary assistant job on Craigslist. And I talked to a few people. And they were like, no, the publishing industry is amazing. And you get to work with authors. You get to travel around, you get to, you know, do a lot of parties and lunches and meetings. And, you know, and it's an exciting job. And that was appealing. But I think when I really figured it out was you know, I went to the interview, and I started working with an agent Muriel Nellis. She is based in DC, and she runs literary and creative artists Incorporated. And she actually purchased the house next to hers in northwest Washington, and that was her office. So it was always Oh, cool. Kind of a non traditional job. Like we didn't, I've never really had that straight up nine to five office environment. And like a commercial space, right? Um, but so I went in and talked to Muriel and her assistant and we just talked about books and what things I like to read. I've always been a voracious readers since I was a little little kid. I mean, I was chomping at the bit for my mom to teach me to read when I was like four years old. Oh, um, and so once I, you know, once I figured out what it was what agenting was, and I think before I hadn't really known that agents were out there. It kind of hit me like I was I was describe it as like 1000 light bulbs going off at the same time, kind of this hallelujah chorus. Like I think what draws me to it mostly is that supportive element of supporting creativity because the way before I became an agent, I always knew I wanted to be involved in creativity, but kind of on the background, like the production, okay. Right away. Yeah, not the artists myself. And so being that I loved books, and I love literary history. I like everything from you know, The Epic of Gilgamesh all the way up to the monitor. It kind of hit me like a job that was going to be supportive to creatives, that it has this massive level of intuition in your area. So I'm definitely not a black or white person. I'm a spectrum, gray area. There's never one right answer. That kind of thing is is something that's just clear in my life all around. Yeah, I ended up studying literature and theology in college because I'm always asking tough questions of what is and what isn't, and kind of trying to explore the space. And so agenting for me was always about getting to be, you know, in that gray area. kind of sense. Does, yeah, yeah, really having to follow your heart, but also having the dignity to find and recognize great talent, and then support it and see it come into the world. Something I also always tell people is that, you know, books are magic. Like, I feel like for a lot of books to come in to the world, they have their own story, they have their own life cycle. And it's like the stars have to align. Many people and things kind of have to, you know, come to the book and come to the story. Yeah, different times. There's so many points where people have to say yes, and make an impression. And for me, that's like, you know, the stars with the planets aligning. Yeah. And then at the end of it, you get this book, and you're holding in your hand, and you're like, I was in touch with this, you know, when it was just an idea. Yeah. And I think there's like a lot of nobility or dignity or some kind of magical grace. Oh, all of that. Oh, I
love that. Yeah, seriously. Cheers to that. Yeah. So much of that echoes with me. And I'm sure Erica, too, I mean, to be able to look in between the black and the white and look into the grays, like you said, What is your What did you do when you signed your first client?
I guess it was, it had been in the works for some time, because once I knew I wanted to be an agent, I was already in touch with several different writers. When I first started working for Mary on that list, the first thing I had to do as literary assistant was go through the backlog of queries, and look at all of them and make some manuscript requests for full, you know, and genuinely just review them and tell them when I found one that I thought was great. And I recall, the first time I was reading a manuscript that I loved, and it was a historical novel, set in World War Two in Germany about the painting blue horses. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And right now, I can't even recall the name of the artists. But it was kind of this mystery literary historical novel. And it was by UK writer, I recall reading the first 70 pages and then running up to Marios office and being like, I will not read another page of this until you read it. Because I love it. So much, has so much heart into this. And I already know that I think it's good enough. And I recall Muriel reading it. And she was like, you know, it's good, the guy can definitely write. But I don't think this one is for me. And an agent like Muriel who's at that late stage in her career, she doesn't actually have to take on new work, she doesn't have to take on, you know, something has to be like extra special compelling for her to want to do it. But what happened is that through the course of my working with her, I reviewed a ton of different manuscripts, and there were probably six or seven that I loved. And when I saw a different manuscript altogether get published, I recall thinking, Well, what happened to the other books that I love. And so I went after that book, blue horses, and I found the author online. And I contacted him and I said, I read that manuscript a couple years ago, and I loved it. What's what are you doing with it now? Did it ever make it? And he wrote me back? And he said, Actually, I have an offer for it right now. But I don't have an agent, would you want to aid in it for me? Oh, my God, wow. I wasn't really ready to jump into agent Ting, but it's not me. Yeah. I was really excited. And I was like, gosh, can I can I do this? Can I pull it off? So I went to my mentor at Georgetown, Carol Sargent, and said, Hey, will you kind of liaison with me, helped me Look at this contract, and you know, make the right choices for it. And she did kind of, you know, gave me a little worried about it. And that was it. That's what's amazing. And so for the first few years, as an agent, I just worked with the small group of others that I really loved the books that I felt, were just really important. And writers I wanted to see make it and that was, you know, not a lot of clients. And I wasn't going out there already. Kind of trying to make a ton of meetings. I just learned as much as I could. And I worked with, you know, I would say six or seven authors in this first few years. And I'd say at least four of them are still with me today. That's why
I really want to read that book. I'm a huge world war two history geek. So
I actually have to see if it's still in print. But it was published as the crooked cross by this writer, Michael Dean, okay, actually written about Spinoza. He's published a number of different things over the years, but all historical literary stuff. And man, he has a great heart. So yeah, it comes out.
I said, we kind of touched on this, like earlier in the conversation, but you mentioned the rise of indie houses and smaller presses in the last few years. And I was just kind of wondering, how do you think even post pandemic, the rise of indie houses will continue and if so, how is that offering more opportunities for writers and is it shaking up the industry in a good way? Do you think?
Well, first of all, there's less gatekeepers with indie presses how much of them you reach or submitted to without an agent. And so that definitely helps people out. I think if you, if you're a writer who's kind of starting out and you're not represented, you can definitely take your work out there. And if you get an offer from something like an indie press, they will definitely help you secure an agent. So there's that. I mean, it's sort of an accessibility thing. But I definitely have always thought you know, that more experimental, slightly riskier. Books are usually done by the indie presses. But Right, right. In that way, I mean, they're doing the works that I think are the most genuine literary kind of like higher form, new writing, and they're getting well awarded for it. Yeah. Which is just awesome to see. Now, I think the big news that's on everybody's mind right now is if Simon and Schuster is going to be acquired by Penguin, yeah, well, what a huge chunk of the market there. Yeah. And just, that's going to mean that every other you know, every other big press in New York is going to have to fight so much harder to get the books that, you know, Penguin, Random House, Simon Schuster are going to be able to do with all that money with all of that, you know, space and talent. They're going to be sucking up so many of these, you know, what, what they would call like, the super hot properties, bestseller books, or you know, books by celebrities. All that said, it's kind of an exciting moment, because indie presses are really going to have to challenge that indie presses are going to have to go out and find the authors before Penguin Random House works with them. Right? No indie presses are going to have to work to get the distribution so that their books are on the award lists, and that, you know, people can find them and that readers can find them easier, right? And you know, just looking at Reese Witherspoon's book clubs. So yeah, I mean, I feel like it's a big opportunity right now. I love indie presses in the sense that it's almost always people who, you know, are, I mean, I would say this about about all publishers, but it's like heart and soul, I mean, blood, sweat, and tears to run a small press. Yeah. And you know, you really can't be doing it. Because you're, you're trying to make the big money, right, most of the books are, you know, you're going to be giving them a life, and only a few of them are going to be the ones that get well awarded, or that do so well, that your press can run for years and years, based on Sure. One of the titles, that's something that you know, as an agent I look at is the books that are going to, you know, make my career and give me, you know, an operating income for a period of time, that's going to be one or two books, as compared to me working with the other 25 sure, they're all incredibly special.
It's, it's interesting, it almost sounds like kind of using a film and TV comparison almost sounds like kind of like the birth of the streaming thing like, you know, five to seven years ago in the sense that there could be like, potentially, an arms race of like these indie presses trying to figure out how to, like supersede the studios. And like you said, it could be a really exciting time. So that's interesting,
right? Well, ultimately, they have to get their books to the contests and the reviewers, or they have to start the contest or the reviewers or be funneling their books through film and television. Nothing more, I think, I mean, you guys come in. And so, you know, what is it about book pipeline that that came about to want to be the connection for these writers? Oh, great question. Wow.
Okay, reverse in the script, book pipeline existed before I came the pipeline. That's, you know, it, Matt started in 2014. But when I came on board in 2019, it was basically an opportunity for people that had self published or published to submit, you know, to us to try and get, you know, adaptation consideration, right. And when I came aboard, I think there was a big gap of opportunity to try and make an unpublished contest and find writers that weren't represented, and were working on their first novel, and connect them with the book industry, quite a number of success stories already, which I'm happy to say,
what you're doing is, is an incredible service. And there, we definitely need more of it, which are, you know, the people who can function as sort of middle middle middle ground, which mean, you know, the high the high gatekeepers of New York publishing, and all the writers that are out there that are
sure, once we select the winners and runners up, I will work with them, each of them to, you know, make sure that their synopsis and sample if there's any tweaks that needs to be made before I send them out, we'll do that first. And then I will, I will hand, cultivate, tailor make a submission list for each person. I don't just blast out every single, you know, winner to everybody because that's not going to accomplish anything. And then I send I send them out, I send them out to agents and I send them out to editors. I've submitted some things Do you not? And you know, it's I'm, I'm really happy to be that bridge for authors. It's it's something that brings me a lot of joy finding the the diamonds in the rough in that contest reading, and it's like you said, it's when you find that, that just undeniable manuscripts, you know, amidst the 1000s and 1000s of not so great ones, it's you feel like this triumph.
I know that like film and TV, book scouts are becoming, you know, there's a lot more positions opening and companies are creating these roles. And then, you know, of course, there's a lot of production come coming up a development companies that are going to move projects along, you know, and that's all just, that's all fantastic, because it can't always be just, you know, some best selling author that's been around forever. And so it's great just to have the space. And just to think about how you guys are going to grow in the next, you know, several years.
Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it's, it's, it's a really exciting time. And I'm happy to play a part and book pipeline expansion, rock and roll
to circle back now, is there something more that you would want from a company like pipeline? Like, is there something else we can be doing to make more space for previously underrepresented authors or
having a podcast and talking with agents and editors to kind of open up the process is, you know, is a huge service to people in general, you know, people just get more information about, yeah, what's expected. In general, we all need to be giving writers more information, I feel it's the gatekeepers in this industry, have kind of held on to the you know, the information so strongly, of course, there's always ways to get in your community and start a group. If somebody you know, is approaching the querying process with a lot of fear, the best thing you can do is like buddy up with other writers to do it together to sit down and do your submissions together to look at your query letters or, or to invite an agent or an editor in to talk about what makes a, you know, a good pitch, because we certainly have to do our own level of pitching and our own level of submitting as well. Right. So yeah, I mean, I think just, you know, demystifying publishing, yeah, for people in general is really needed.
What do you think is the most mystifying part of it for first time? querying authors?
That's a great question. Um, it's trying to figure out who's going to be the right agent? Yeah. Yeah. Because you can go and you can get a database like publishers marketplace. Hey, my books about a dog walker, I'm actually using something in mind from, you know, years ago, but my Walker by core and overhead, you go in and you know, and you you look up, well, who does? Who likes pet books? Who likes, you know, dog books? And then you could find somebody who's done a book or two like that, but if they've just done it, then you don't necessarily want to compete with them? And, you know, I guess in general, it's, it's finding the agent that's doing the kind of thing that you're that you're working on, you know, people are kind of just like, well, who's going to take it? Who's going to look at it? And so kind of making their submission lists better is, is would be a huge help for most people. But that and you know, the general what makes a good query? Sure. I actually think that writers must have learned over the years, because the queries I see now seem to be just across the board better than what they used. That's really nice to hear are getting a lot of help out.
Yeah, I kind of following up on that. I mean, I'm sure writers listening to this podcast out there have a lot of maybe frustrations with how long things take and perceptions of how agents and editors do something, I'd love to kind of talk about the flip the script and kind of talk about your perspective and why writers maybe shouldn't have those frustrations. If you can shed a little light on that. Well,
yeah, um, there, there seems to be a lot of fear around the submission process in general. And I remember my mentor Carol Sargent talking about it as, as when I was working at Georgetown, we were submitting to both presses and agents. And we would occasionally get back these kind of nasty grounds. Whether it was an agent or a press saying, you know, you didn't really follow our submission guidelines, or what have you, or, you know, just kind of being rude about process. And I remember my mentor saying, this whole submission thing is it's just it's kind of wild that we are that we use that word in general submission. I mean, it involves us kind of getting on our knees and offering up our creative work. Take me like, please, any, you know, anything. And there's this idea that the minute you get a great agent, or the minute that you get an agent period that you're going to get published within that first year. And so it kind of seems like this holy grail and we're there's all these writers out there, kind of, please, please, please take me. I think you know, demystifying the publishing process is so helpful. Because agents, agents sort of need to be able to tell people but that we're in it, because we absolutely love this business, not because we're out here to try to make as much money as we can off of people's creative works. Um, there's, there's a lot of perception that I think comes from the fear of submitting that. Agents are predatory. And then, you know, I've heard, I've seen, you know, tweets talking about agents being blood sucking vampires, you know, these, these crazy things. And while I see that there are some people who may get into the, you know, Agent team, without the right things in mind, or kind of the right, you know, heart that said, Those people are going to be so few and far between, you know, the rest of us, there are things in place to identify predatory businesses, like say, somebody just sets up a quote unquote, agency. Yeah. And they're taking, you know, manuscript submissions for $25, a submission, red flag, and then, you know, yeah, that's a red flag. And there's usually those places are found out and stopped, you know, on an early stage, the thing about agents is, we care, almost more than anybody would think about you know, about the books and about the life of the book and getting it to the right possible place. For us, we have to go and do the same submitting and get way more rejections, then. Yeah, we'll get you know, then people nodding, furiously. Yeah, yeah. I mean, the submission process for us is actually very similar. It's nice to know, when you go to editors that as an agent, you can be sort of taken seriously or prioritized. Yeah, I'm sure. However, you know, it's a, it's a long process for us, too, we do so much waiting around. And we only get usually that one shot, when we do go out. And it's great to be you know, to have an agent, because they'll understand how to make that one shot the best possible, you know, the best possible shot and the right timing and the right. Getting it to the right people? Of course, yeah. Yep. But yeah, I mean, really, like we handle just as much or more rejection than any, you know, single writer can ever imagine. And, and we do feel it, we do feel the stress of taking on the responsibility of other people's creative works. and sending them out there. And so, yeah, I mean, agents are, are angels, you know, not necessarily blood sucking vampires, they're really out there doing, you know,
really ask kicking angels. Not kidding. I think that's another piece of the puzzle that is not talked about a lot is how much you guys go through you being an agent, mentally, physically and emotionally. Because as a writer, I don't think about that when I'm when I have my list of 10 agents who are up next on my query list. I'm not worried about their emotional well being if my stuff doesn't sell for them, because if that's my burden, I feel like
hundreds or 1000s of hours working with an author or a book, yeah, you know, may not sell. And as agents, you know, we we don't get a penny if we put in all that work, and something doesn't fly. But for me, I think it's great to be on the other side of it where I can only I only take on the projects that I am absolutely so inspired by and writers who I think usually are writers for life, or they have some sort of like great life's work that they're doing. They're not an inherent, you know, writer for life type of person. Do you consider yourself an editorial agent? It sounds like you are? Yeah, see? I really love working with writers who are not, you know, who haven't made a big yet I like helping them find their way. And I would actually say that I don't, I don't always favorite doing a ton of things to any manuscripts. And I never take on a manuscript and immediately think, what am I going to change about this? If something is working, and it goes straight to my heart, and I'm turning the pages, I usually feel like that author has, you know, has done their job. Yeah. And I also like working, you know, within an agency where we can bounce ideas off. And, you know, I can go to Sam Hyatt and say, What do you think this needs, and he'll usually tell me right away what he thinks, and sometimes they'll be like, No, that's too big of a change. They can't change their whole title. Character girl, and then you know, later on, I'll find out that he was totally right. For time, I will get better at that, you know, big contextual editing, but I have always worked when I approach or take on a manuscript, I will develop it to be the best it can be for sure. I know I'm not on the nonfiction side that goes for proposals as well. I mean, it it is a curiously like nail biting head pounding process to create a proposal. And percent that can take weeks to months. Oh, yeah. pulling it out of the writer, but developing proposals is really where it's Because, you know, writers aren't, most people are not built to write that kind of pitch material. It's a completely different skill set. It is a different skill set. So rather than waiting for, you know, projects to cross my desk that already have a fully developed beautiful proposal, I definitely will take on clients and help them create that. So even if it takes a year, you know, oh my god,
that is so good to know, two years too late. I had to teach myself how to write a nonfiction proposal packet because I have this hilarious nonfiction humor, not memoir, but just sort of guidebook for quitting. Excuse me quitting graduate school, based on true experience. Wow, awesome. It's it's really funny, it makes me laugh. And my mom thinks I'm cool. And I got that first draft out and the second draft out and it just flowed, float, float. And then I'm reading agents requirements. And they're like, Oh, yeah, query and have the full proposal ready. And the proposal I finally figured out like a standardized everything I research is like these seven to eight chunks, and only one tiny part of it is maybe the first one to three chapters. Yep. All right. And it was a really good learning. Exactly, exactly. But now I get to pass that those savings on to our clients, if they use our email services, we just opened up the nonfiction one we haven't. Yes. And it's, it did sing for my soul, from my academic background, writing, writing a proposal like that it was adjacent to it. So it didn't hurt as bad but I can absolutely imagine a fiction writer who has a great nonfiction promise idea gets smacked in the face with this proposal that they don't know how to write and I did not know any agents out there were okay with that, you know,
the writer or the project it like how much do you really want to work on it? I'm sure. Like, a good example is a book that I have out in the market right now called girl power. And the author is not really like a writer type person. Um, she's she goes out all over the globe and talks to you know, the United Nations and the Biden administration and the Department of Justice and United States about uplifting girls girl empowerment, Mack awesome thing. Awesome. And she's such a candy person. And when I told her initially, you know, this is what a proposal requires, okay, take a stab at it and send it to me. Yeah, it's kind of funny, you know, and this is so common, you'll tell a writer or a project, you know, what you need, like, here's the bullet points, here's the sections. And this is what they have to cover. And you usually get something that's like, 10% effort of what you will need, you know, go back and say, Okay, I need more out of this. Yeah. So for the writer of Girl Power Gen n, you know, her and I would have these, like, weekly meetings, where we're going in and just looking at it again, and going through the sections and deciding what else you know, what's the next part? What's the next part, but um, but it's exciting, because I love I'm, I love everything that she's doing and working on in the world. And I know that that that particular book, however it comes in to form however it manifests is going to have such an incredible impact on the world. So it still feels like it's important. That's awesome. Developmental part of it, you know,
yeah, it's completely true for fiction writers, too. I mean, like, I read so many authors where their sample, you know, or their prose is, is phenomenal. It's great. And then you read the one three page synopsis. It's like, somebody else write this. And but like, did a helping develop that? It's like, like we said, it's two completely different systems. Totally. Speaking of submissions. Hey, Nat, is there something that you're dying to get that you haven't seen yet? Oh,
yes, actually, I've always had a project for years, I've had a project in mind that I still haven't quite found the writer for. But if they're out there, and they're listening to me or bro, please, I would love to have a general audience book on sustainable living. And that is, you know, everything from recycling, to creating a rain catch for water to disaster preparedness. I realized there's a lot of books out there in the prepping space, right. I'm actually didn't know how huge these these books are until I went in and looked at it, you know, some couple years ago, um, but there's any you know, there's an enormous amount of space of people writing those books like disaster preparedness, this is what you need to create a bunker and fill it with all your ammo, ammunition and you know, water, cisterns, etc. But how about just for, you know, the average bear, I'm just whether you're living in enormous city like New York, that or Miami or some, you know, someplace that's vulnerable to superstorms disasters that could be you know, that could take away our, you know, our clean water and our electricity for more than just a couple days or being in a place that's vulnerable to forest fires, things have like the whole entire western United States, I think about, about ecology about the environment and sort of circle of life. But just all of those, you know, easy ways to make your life more sustainable. even thinking about the green movement, you know, growing your own food, living off of the land, kind of, yeah, but also having that sort of, what do you do if you are, you know, in a city like New York, and you know, half of the city floods, and, you know, where do you go? How do you? Yeah, how do you band together with your closest friends find a rooftop and start growing your food or, you know, getting clean water, that kind of you're sure writers book on sustainable living, and disaster preparedness. When fiction nonfiction, I'm guessing nonfiction, nonfiction, and it's great. I actually signed the client who wrote the disaster novel, most I have always wondered, you know, what's going to happen if New York gets another super superstorm? I actually moved here right after Sandy. Yeah. Oh, geez. And so I, you know, I had a lot of friends who went through that, but the writer Alex defrancesco, queried me, you know, about almost a year and a half ago, and they said, you know, I've written this book called all city and it's about when the superstorm hits New York, and I was like, wow, that's totally a book that I've wanted to read. And you know, the plot that I've wanted to read and so I ordered it right away and read it and fell in love with Alex's writing, and represent them now. And they're nice, awesome. Not so awesome. So the book all city has that great plot of what happens when a superstorm hits a town like Brooklyn, and transmutation is Alex's story collection that just came out so
Oh, and he preferred site to purchase it aside from
Amazon. I'm sorry, Amazon always go, you know, to indiebound or,
yeah, what is it? bookshop.org. I just discovered they have my credit card on file. Now. It is dangerous. Oh, my God, it's so good. We have one more question on our list here. Okay. I have one in my hand, and there's one on the list. So I'll start with this one. Can you tell us a little bit about the Weehawken writers and artists studio?
Sure. Um, so the Weehawken writers and artists studio is actually where I live. It is an art studio that was built by Judith wadiya. Judith was a multiple disciplinary artists, she did everything from painting to stained glass works to huge scale mosaics and public transit ports around the tri City area, and some other like large public artworks. And so Judy built the studio as her workspace in the 90s. And she sort of designed it, it says, it's a square house with the sloped roof, really high ceilings, and she built in living quarters. Okay, so there's kind of a little lofted bedroom that's over the closet, you know, the huge art closet, and then it has like a galley. And, you know, kind of cool micro kitchen kind of thing. And I moved here in 2017. And my landlord is Judy's a husband, who's still around, he actually just turned 92. Fair, Oh, my God. No. He said, Well, one way that you can make the astronomical rent happen is by you know, hosting, you know, hosting workshops on art and getting people into teach them how to do stained glass and that kind of thing. And I was like, Well, I'm already working with writers. So why don't I use the studio as a space for writing workshops. So amazing. I banded together with Jeff Barkin, who's sort of a partner in all literary things, literary and creative things. Um, he founded the journal monologuing.org that I also co edited with him. And then we started bringing in artists and writers and hosting, you know, workshops on whatever we felt like would help demystify the process of the publishing for for writers and we started it on meetup.com. So where are we? How can writers and artists studio on meetup and pretty quickly we got a few 100 members, and basically over time we we've hosted workshops, events, we've done gallery shows book launches. And the studio also holds the family's collection of all of Judy's artwork. Some of the paintings go back to the 60s, and the 70s when she lived in Florence, and casually up through like the 90s whether these paintings with mosaics. And I guess what I also want to say about Judy, was that she worked tirelessly for her community. She was actually known and we happen to be at the mayor's office, you know, late nights arguing with him about how to do things in the town. That's the waterfront of Weehawken was created. Most most people are like Weehawken. What's that? We often is the neighborhood that is directly across the Hudson River. Oh, from Midtown Manhattan. Okay, it's good to know, I didn't know that Lincoln Tunnel, north of Hoboken. And it's bordered by let's see, West New York, New Jersey is neighborhood worth of us. And then just to the west is Union City. And when these developmental condos are being built, Judith wadiya, was the one who made sure that she banded together with the town to, to put in a building ordinance. So those buildings could not come, you know, could not rise above the level of the palisade and take away the view ran. Also, she made it so that those buildings have to have like green, like grass and other things built on the roofs. Wow. of all those condos. Oh, that's amazing. We Hawkins still has this incredible view of the river and the city. And that's so much in part due to Judy's work. Awesome. That's awesome. did all kinds of things with the community and with hearts and so it's kind of in her spirit. Really so cool. Here's the Judy, here's the judy is doing. For me, the best way to sort of honor her life is by just having more creative works and doing more things. So it's,
it's very clear, that is what you're doing. And not only that, but it's very clear, it hits you at in your soul level. Yeah, I think we need more agents, like, we need more agents like you. And actually speaking of needing more agents like you, how can listeners who may want to query you, what's the best chance to find your submission guidelines,
my submission guidelines are on the rights factory website. And I really like to keep things simple. All you have to do to query me is email me with your query letter and with three chapters, or, you know, a small selection from your novel, um, you know, first 50 pages, or first three chapters, all right, um, as an attachment, hopefully in doc or PDF is okay. Um, and that's it, you know, always tell me more about yourself, I get a lot of queries where people don't describe what they're doing. It's really just the story. And here's the project, right? And then I'm like, well, who are you? You know, what, you do want a little bit of a bio to Yeah, always want some, some kind of bio, but I, but yeah, that's how that's how to cram me, I don't actually give any sort of response time. But I do say, haven't heard from me in a period of time, and you really want an answer, feel free to email me after a couple months, okay. And see, if I get those follow up emails, then I will go make sure that I, you know, review things as quickly as possible. I don't always like just saying, sending out rejections for everything. Because it could be something that comes around to me in a few months, where I say, Oh, I remember that project. Is that still out there? And I think that, you know, a lot of times writers just want the answer. They just want to be filling their Excel spreadsheet, yes or no. And they don't like being sort of left on read. But really kind of sometimes no news is good news.
So I have a follow up question on that I, I'm, I'm a writer, myself, too. And I I'm really, I'm really old secretly, and I don't want to do social media. I have no interest in doing it. But I've heard multiple people say, Twitter, for authors, is that something that I need to do? Do you said you should.
I believe that Twitter is you know, it's a virtual community of writers. And I think being attached to a community is the most important thing. If you're doing that outside of Twitter, if you if you have the community around you, or you're able to go to conferences like a WP or writers, other writers conferences, yeah, yeah. So that you're making friends with other writers, then maybe you don't need Twitter, but it's, it's just so important to engage with what else is going on out there with what other, you know, other people's process and what they're publishing. I always think it's really important, especially for fiction writers, to establish some kind of platform in publishing small pieces, and that flash fiction or short stories, um, if but if you have, you could be the like, most incredible novelist, and I'm actually thinking of somebody who I didn't actually go forward representing and part of the reason was, was this is that the writing is absolutely incredible. I mean, it just bends my soul. I just, you know, I'm obsessed. But the writer is an island, and they're not connected to other writers. And they're not kind of putting themselves out there. And how can that ever be attractive for a publisher? Right? No, well, it's not it's not sort of the middle 20th century anymore. You have to be you know, you don't have to have a ton of followers on Twitter, but you have to be active on Twitter, and it's helpful to show I can use this platform to publicize my books. And if you choose not to, that's definitely okay. But find a way to do it elsewhere. Even if it's a difficult thing. I want to speak to accessibility Because not everybody is really able to I know a lot of different people, whether they're, you know, neurodivergent, or they have other accessibility issues that may not be able to be on Twitter all the time. Sometimes it's, it's really an emotional thing for people and they want to avoid it because the stress is just enormous. Sure. And then I completely understand what I think is exciting is we're really finally learning that tweets, don't sell books, but tweets will find readers because people will be engaged with you. Sure. And you know, you'll be making more friends and more community. Absolutely. And something that I wanted to point out is, as far as like, rejection goes, I mean, we all go through it. But check out for writers check out the website called literary rejections. It's all these incredible stories of, you know, huge books, and what process they went through how many times they were, you know, rejected before they found out. I want to caution writers not to do the thing where you say you have an offer of representation just to get a quicker answer. Because don't do that. Do they do people? I was gonna say, Do people really do? I think I think people really do that. Yes. People that send those, it almost seems like you can always the ones that are bluffing. Yeah, that's good that if we sent things out on submission, and then went out to everybody and said, Oh, we have interest. Do you want to make a counteroffer? Then something that didn't have an offer on the table? I mean, we would be banned. Yes. Yes. I feel like that's, that can be you know, a quick way to just get past to just get to know is Yeah, really? Say I need an answer now. Well, then Peter, out of superstition, would
you ask her my final question? I can't I can't do it anymore. About I have to ask your your we have to ask it because maybe it'll be different if you Okay, so last question for you that
so Erica has asked this is the the penultimate question of the podcast, she's asked this question of our last six guests, and she's over six. So I will ask you that? Do you snack while you write? Or work? Or work? Excuse me? Yeah, yeah, while you work? Oh, my
gosh, absolutely. I do I have. Whoo. Boy, I can only accomplish a good hour or two of intensive work without needing brain food of salt. And usually, that's the form of like potato chips or almonds, or, you know, something crunchy about the cry. I feel like I could not be a great agent without potato chips and Diet Coke. Oh my gosh. I remember talking about this with different people, but whatever helps your brain function at its best level. Sure. Something that you know, is so great about the pandemic is that it's given people this ability to work from home and work, non traditional work hours.
I think that that's kind of like a punk rock side that of, of the industry that is finally becoming like, Okay, as you know, not to have the traditional nine to five, right? Okay, I'm sorry. I recall, around last December, an editor being sort of freaked out at on Twitter, because they mentioned that an agent sent a submission at 10pm on a Friday night. It was like, Oh, boy, oh, my gosh, how dare you. And all these kind of people, writers and other other agents, you know, some, some editors supported. The other editors saying, you know, that's, that's legit. And most people came in and said, you know, we have so many different demands on our time. Yeah, it's the right time to send the query is Friday night at 10pm, then do it. You know, the person on the other side is going to get to it when they get to it or they're going to see Yeah, yeah, I always like to tell people that the first agent, I worked for Muriel Nellis, she had a very, you know, on non traditional work hours, she would actually come into the office at two or 3pm. So I know she would get up around like 11 or 12, have her paper, have her breakfast, do her kind of slow rise. And then she'd walk into the office at about two or 3pm. And she'd stand in the doorway of the kitchen and our desks in the living room and talk to us for hours about not even just the publishing industry. Amazing. And she would Yeah, she would smoke those really long cigarettes. And just sit there and chat with us. And she wouldn't go up to her desk, sometimes till 530 or six, at which point she would probably work, I think until like two or three in the morning because I'm getting a lot of the forwarded queries at that time of night. And I always thought that she was just so cool for that, you know, you Whatever makes you work best. Yes. Whether that's working at two in the morning or Yeah, you know, or 7am you know, and other prodigies say that they would write while they walked in their head. I know people say Wallace Stevens used to walk you know, up and down Manhattan to to and from work every day and he did his best composing as he walked in his head, but so you know, whatever puts Are you in the zone? If it's potato chips and Diet Coke like me snacks, we got to have snacks. What do you guys?
Okay, ready? Here we go waiting for this. I've recently realized it's not that I need to snack while I'm writing and I agree with everybody that it does interrupt my flow, but I can't be hungry like you were pointing out like I'm, if I'm hungry I'm miserable on a good day and so for me if I need a real kick, it's those dark chocolate covered espresso beans. I just bought some a couple days ago and they are in my belly now and they're so good honestly, usually just comes down to apple slices or just fresh fruit or just something ahead of time. Just power up if I'm not having a lunch and kettle chips. Yeah, any flavor. Yeah. Oh, pickle flavor. Dill Pickle chips. Oh, what's it pickle flavored potato chips? Yes. Yeah. Get the dill pickle, Lay's man. Those are not bad. The kettle is even better. Is it Cape Cod or kettle? I can't remember. But the deal is so good. And I never like pickles as a kid. Not the vinegar, but it has been an acquired taste. It's so good. Don't look at me like that. Peter. What's your what's your stuff that gets you through the day.
I don't eat while I'm working sometimes, like if I need to. I'll eat lunch while I'm working just out of necessity. You know, but I do drink a lot of coffee. I mean, I drink like three double espressos a day. If I'm left to my own devices not working though. I will like go through a whole bag of kettle chips by myself. So I'm with you there. I love flavored kettle chips. Regular just regular good old fashioned kettle flavored potato chips.
That's all we got. We got
we don't. So now we do this thing where we set accountability goals for each other. Would you like to join us?
Yeah, sure. Okay. I would love to actually just get a little bit more scheduled time for social media. I I feel like I'm just not quite on it enough in sort of a productive, proactive kind of way, rather than just sort of passively scrolling in the middle of the night or when I first wake up in the morning to actually take some time out. I know my colleague, Stacy komla, who is a fabulous kidlit agent. She also represents a lot of adult stuff. That's cool, too. But um, Stacy just went in and I recall her saying something about following all of the clients of the rights factory on Twitter and then making goal for herself to tweet I think five retweets a week or five retweets a day Africa. Oh, that's cool. Oh, yeah. Hey, Erica. Yeah. What's your accountability? Go
to write the next two chapters of my ya horror, horror, horror, or horror, sci fi horror. It's getting late. I'm hungry. I need to hang up. Holy cow. You're gonna have to ask me what my accountability goal is. What is your accountability goal? Nice. Thanks,
Matt. NAT, coming up in the clutch. My accountability goal for two weeks from now, which is when about when we'll record the next podcast is to write chapter 13. My novel actually did last time I said I hadn't written chapter 12 actually just finished it yesterday. Oh, great. So chapter 13. Is the accountability goal. Nice. Very good. Not Thank you so much. This is what a lovely,
thank you so much for listening to my senseless for Alison. Oh, no, it was not senseless on the rambling the rambling part is our favorite part. So it's really fantastic to get to speak to why I do what I do. And and, and then the inspiration that comes with it. And what you are all doing is fantastic. And really being another connection and demystifying the process and helping you know the best producers find the best content, the best promo we could ever. Thank you so much. Is this your first podcast? Let's see. I want to say no. This is my first like hour long. Oh, cool. Hi. Have you no longer form things? Great. I guess I just lump this in with all the types of you know, speaking about agenting and yeah, shopping and awesome. Speaking gold. So yeah, actually, the rights factory is doing a podcast soon. So are your followers if you follow the rights factory and look out for that on social media in the coming weeks, we have a producer and Andrew Kaufman, who's one of soundbites clients. And so I feel it's I'm almost like cheating on the rights factories podcast right now. I am but I told Sam you know, I promised this before I promised that one and so this has been really awesome. And maybe we'll bring you guys on to that, please.
That'd be lovely. Oh God, I feel so weird and nervous now, right. Hey, thank you now thank you today for an awesome today. And that concludes Episode Seven, man haven't Yeah, we did it.
Next episode. Neither Peter nor I know who we're going to ask to be on yet we don't feel too rushed. So let's call it surprise guest TBD, TBD.
And if you have any questions, rants or raves about writing or you want to learn more about us or pipeline please visit Pipeline Artists calm and follow us on Twitter at the podcast title and on Instagram and Facebook at this podcast needs a title by