Today I’m thrilled to have Alex Slater here. He’s been working in foreign rights at Trident Media Group and has been promoted to a literary agent. He’s building his children’s, middle grade, and young adult author list.
Hi Alex! Thanks so much for joining us.
2. Sounds like you have built up great experience working in the literary agent field. Let’s start out by talking about foreign rights. What authors have you represented and what did your work entail? Is it any different than representing them with US publishers?
At Trident I had the privilege of representing some of the world’s biggest authors overseas. Helping to expand their business on an international scale was thrilling, and I did so by selling rights for both their backlist and frontlist titles. Some of those authors include Louis Sachar, L.J. Smith, and R.J. Palacio. I worked very closely with their agents to submit their properties, and then I would negotiate, close, and follow through on book deals. The agents nurture and grow the author’s work and business domestically, and as a sales agent, I would keep that influence growing into new territories.
3. That's so awesome that you got to work with these authors and it sounds like a great way to work with authors in general. Not all authors are able to sell their books internationally. Are there certain genres that are easier to sell internationally? And do you have any advice to published authors regarding expanding into the foreign markets?
Indeed, some American genres are more quickly accepted overseas than others, but that also depends from country to country. Generally speaking, the erotica boom at home was also very popular in most countries abroad, however countries like France have had erotic literature in their canon for years, so publishers there were less anxious to follow suit. It’s hard to pinpoint why certain stories travel better than others, but my advice to published writers would be to recognize first the importance of growing your business internationally. It takes dedication and persistence sell translation rights, and neglecting them is an unfortunate misstep in your business.
4. I have a lot of followers who are self-published and/or published by smaller presses. Do you have any advice for them if they’re interested in trying to sell their books in other countries?
My biggest piece of advice would be to continue building your writing to a point where an agent would be attracted to participating in your business. If self-publishing is your only interest, it’s very difficult, and expensive, to have your work translated, have meta-data prepared, craft appropriate country-specific artwork, and release a work all on your own. Agencies like Trident have the connections and expertise to manage all that for writers, and self-publishing platforms overseas are still a very fluid and evolving part of the marketplace.
5. That's so interesting about self-publishing being in such a transition oversees. Sounds like an opportunity that self-published authors should try to explore through an agent. So you’re building your domestic list now. What are you looking for as an agent? Any genres you are looking for and/or prefer?
I am interested to continue working in the middle grade and young adult markets, as I was doing in the foreign arena. I’m looking for strong, voice-driven fiction, and stories that demand that I continue turning the pages. I tend to lean towards more dark, offbeat themes and characters, while also finding fresh air in contemporary coming of age stories. I’m fond of telling writers to send me “Coen Brothers-esque” fiction, as I feel their wide range of stories connect with bigger-than-life characters and dialogue. At the moment, I would love to see more historical magical realism and stories that involve Dead Poets Society type of worlds.
6. Are there any genres you don’t want to represent or don’t think you can sell right now?
I would not be the right agent to represent high fantasy or paranormal romance. Personally I think anything can sell if it connects with enough hearts, but obviously we’re seeing a downtrend in vampires and dystopias. Or at least, I like to tell myself we are.
7. I'm sad there isn't a market for more dystopias now because I still enjoy reading them. Are you open to representing authors who have self-published or been published by smaller presses? What advice do you have for them if they want to try to find an agent to represent them?
I’m interested in representing authors who have built a foundation of self-published work and who wish to continue to grow with new and unseen material. It will be difficult for authors to find an agent who wants to take out previously published work, unless it’s sold into very high quantities. I love small presses, and have clients who have published with them. If these authors want an agent I would recommend they highlight their past success if it’s relevant, and continue to build their appeal with readers, especially by publishing stories in journals.
8. So good to hear you're open to self-published and small press authors. Share a bit about what you’re looking for in your clients and whether you’re an editorial agent.
I am an editorial agent and as such I look for clients who are open-minded and willing to work as a team. I seek talented writers who respect my time and their time, and who understand this is a slow industry, and the best things are worth waiting for. I like communication lines to be clear and easy, and for either one of us to feel the safety and trust all successful relationships demand.
9. Do you have any specific dislikes in query letters or the first pages submitted to you? And what’s your response time to queries and requests for more pages of a manuscript?
I like to get back to queries and solicited manuscripts in about 3-4 weeks, but sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done. In the queries, I dislike it if I am addressed as, “Ms. Slater,” simply because it shows immediately just how much research the author did on me. I also do not like queries that begin with background information about the writer. I want to know about the story from the first sentence, and if I’m hooked, then I’ll scroll down and read your bio. With fiction, story is always most important.
10. With all the changes in publishing—self-publishing, hybrid authors, more small publishers—do you see the role of agents changing at all? Why?
I see the role of agents growing more and more each year. Writers need the space, time, and independence to do what we all count on them to do: create. There would be no industry without those “luxuries” for our writers. Therefore, an experienced, trustworthy, and likeminded agent will continue to be a necessity to manage the creator’s career and to ensure that the art continues. To be a guide, editor, and pep talker. There will be more and more changes to come to publishing in the years ahead, and having an agent to steer you through the jungle will be essential.
11. That's great you see the agent role expanding in these changing times. Any other advice you’d like to share that we haven’t covered?
Just to write, every day.
Thanks for sharing all your advice, Alex. You can find Alex at:
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. International entries are welcome.
Here's what's coming up:
Next Monday, I'm interviewing debut author N.A. Traver and giving away DUPLICITY, her YA cyber thriller.
The following Monday I have a guest post by debut author Stacey Lee and agent Kristin Nelson with a query critique giveaway by Kristin Nelson and an ARC giveaway of UNDER A PAINTED SKY, Stacey's YA historical fiction novel.
Wednesday that week I have a giveaway of FLUNKED FAIRY TALE REFORM SCHOOL, a MG fantasy.
And the Monday after that I have an interview with debut author Erin Entrada Kelly and a giveaway of BLACKBIRD FLY, her multicultural contemporary MG novel.
Hope to see you on Friday!