Interview of Jeff Herman, Author of Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents 2011.
About Jeff Herman’s Agency: http://www.jeffherman.com/
Welcome, Jeff Herman. Thank you for participating in an interview for my blog. I am honored because I am impressed with your book and by the active steps you take every day to help writers achieve their publication dreams.
Welcome, Readers. Thank you for visiting my blog and reading my interview with Jeff Herman.
Below you will find my ten questions I asked and Jeff’s answers to them. I hope by reading them you will become further convinced that his book, “Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents” contains useful information that could get you published. I hope that you will be encouraged so much that you will never give up. I hope that we inspire you to take the next step toward your goal.
- Who and/or what circumstances helped fill you with the most confidence? How do you keep positive-minded? For me, confidence can be a zig-zagging process, though my bottom-line confidence level seems to progressively improve with experience and maturity. I have learned that the lack of confidence is the most common reason for not trying to do something, but that confidence without knowledge and leverage can be useless. I try to avoid reasons why something won’t happen while focusing on strategies to make it happen. Success builds confidence, but that can also be a trap because new situations may require new methods, and it takes discipline to avoid complacency.
- What are three of your favorite books? Why? Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, because they helped make me a reader. Bonfire of the Vanities, because I still think about it 20 years after reading it.
- What inspired you to write the “Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents?” I needed to collect the information anyway for my own purposes, so I figured why not package it for sale. When I started out as a young agent it struck me how many aspiring writers were clueless about how to get published, and I personally resented that so many editors wanted to be invisible and inaccessible. I believed, and still do, that opening the gates is what’s best for everyone. Publishing is like a public utility and no one should be prevented from being given a fair shot.
- This is the 21st edition of your book. It explains the differences and changes in the mega-publishers, independent publishers, and university presses. The symbols you use for the different genres are very helpful: Romance-heart, Children-school bus, Religious-Cross, etc. In your next edition, are you planning to add symbols to agents pages? Is there any chance you might add a symbol for publishers who accept email submissions or accept unsolicited manuscripts? I like the symbols and think they should be expanded, but I must confess that they were entirely my publisher’s idea.
- Why do most mega-publishers and many independent publishers only accept work through an agent? How does an agent help a publisher? What is an agent’s job with a writer? In fairness, editors need to shield themselves from being overwhelmed by unsolicited submissions; there just isn’t enough time or staff to review the vast majority of them. The agent is crucial because she is the screener, and is unlikely to present anything to publishers that’s mis-directed or unworthy. When projects arrive from credible agents, editors figure it’s not a waste of time to take a look. It follows that a writer’s most effective route to getting access to a bona fide editor is to be represented by a bona fide agent.
- Your book lists the history of hundreds of literary agents, what they are looking for, and how to contact them. As an agent, you represent clients who write adult non-fiction. What steps can writers take to become your client today? How do you know when a writer is the perfect client for you? How many possible publishers do you have to see flashing across your mind before you sign a new client? Good questions can be hard to answer. I know it when I see it, and sometimes I don’t know it when I see it. Agents and editors are right and wrong all the time, which is why writers must never throw in the towel. I simply need to intuitively feel that I can sell the project somewhere. Without that feeling, I’m not the right agent, but it still may be a darn good project.
- What’s your advice for writers who want to become published? know that no one owes you anything, but that it’s ok to ask for everything, though you shouldn’t expect to get everything. Giving up is failure. Rejection is eventually followed by success a lot of the time. Love the writing and tolerate the publishing.
- What mistakes do writers make in their query letters and/or proposals? What can they do to correct them? Poor expression. Boring. Unclear concepts and thoughts. Self-defacing. Resentful and negative. Too many words. Overly derivative and unoriginal. Just avoid these characteristics and you will be above-average.
- Self-Publishing has a better reputation than it did six years ago. What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing today? Self-publishers don’t get distribution; have to pay for everything themselves, and lack brand credibility that comes with having a bona fide publisher. However, they manifest the product and could potentially sell a lot of copies for a lot of money in a lot of ways that don’t require bookstore support.
- The iPad, the Kindle, Sony and similar electronic readers have opened an exciting new way of viewing books, magazines, and newspapers. Children’s picture book applications for iPad and iPhones are animated and fun for both adults and children. Digital magazines are becoming interactive with statistics that updates as you read it on the internet. This is indeed a fascinating medium for distributing and viewing written material. What advantages and disadvantages with electronic publishing do you see emerging for publishers and writers? How would a good contract stipulate electronic rights? Compare the cost/selling price/profit for hardbacks, paperbacks, eBooks, and eBook applications for iPads and iPhones. Digital formatting will dominate market share in the near future, and will further enable self-publishing. The jury is still out for how this will financially affect typical writers, though my hunch is that it will be positive by generating more revenues in general. Borders will soon be a memory. Barnes & Noble will be forced to reengineer what it does by selling a lot of non-book products, while the independents will manage to find sustainable niches same as they do now. Amazon knew 10 years ago that they will have to sell almost everything and be a commissioned broker for third-parties, and their model is working out. Corporate owned publishers missed the boat by failing to invent their own ereaders. They will continue to be exploited and disrespected by their owners, meaning even less diverse and more bland vanilla front lists. Boutique houses will make a come-back and will profitably publish great books.
Thanks again, Jeff for taking the time to answer my questions to keep writers informed and help me and other writers get published. Do something good for yourself today.
My humble thanks to Beth Pehlke, Jeff Herman’s publicist for inviting me to interview him and review his book on my blog and for donating three free copies of his book for the contests below. I am very honored that she chose me.
Thank you for reading my blog.
The contest is over. Three winners were chosen on January 19, 2011.
I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share a link to my blog with others. Use email, Facebook, Twitter, or other means to share.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright 2011 Joan Y. Edwards. All rights reserved.