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Book Notions interview: Why I Love Being a Literary Agent (and Publishing Advice for New Writers)

Lucinda recently participated in an interview with Book Notions, and here’s how it unfolded.

Q: Lucinda, what made you choose to write Get Signed; why was it the right time to publish it?

 

A: It’s funny you ask because I’m asked all the time: why doesn’t a book like this exist? Of course, there are numerous books on writing and publishing and even querying, but none by an actual literary agent who is actively selling books in today’s different publishing landscape. While I’ve had over a decade of experience representing incredible authors and selling their books to major publishers, this wasn’t enough. Any agent masochistic enough to undertake writing and publishing a book could do so. I brought a perspective, for two reasons.

Reason one, I’m interested in both the editorial and the marketing sides of book publishing, both of which are crucial for a book’s success in today’s market. Get Signed delves into these areas, guiding readers on how to lay the groundwork for a standout book and ensuring it catches the attention of agents.

Reason two, in the unforgettable year of 2020, I discovered that zoom would allow me to connect and educate writers worldwide, in all kinds of genres whether in a beginning or advanced stage of the process. After countless success stories, this suite of classes and coaching services have become The Lucinda Literary Academy, where writers go to get the tools, direction, and support needed to bring their books to market. Speaking with all of these writers, hearing their most urgent questions and most pressing challenges, I realized I had so much advice in my brain and love in my heart to give. I had to bottle it up and put it in a book. That book became Get Signed

 

Q: I know there is a lot of valuable information in Get Signed. In your opinion, what is the most important bit of information you want future writers to focus on when it comes to writing their books and finding the right agent?

 

A: That it’s not you; it’s your pitch. Gosh, rejection can be demoralizing, and silence can be even worse. If you’re facing these challenges, it’s likely because your query isn’t effectively showcasing your abilities or demonstrating why your book is poised for success. “Get Signed” serves as a blueprint for crafting the perfect pitch, one that resonates with agents, editors, and readers alike.

 

Get Signed is the battle-tested model for writing the perfect pitch, hitting the chords that agents and editors and readers want to see—now and always.

 

Q: You’ve been an agent for 15 years. What is your favorite part about being one?

 

A: Can I share 4 answers to that question?

 

Being an agent combines my passion for craft and communication with my business acumen. I’m thrilled by the discovery of new talent, which is why I want writers to remember that it may not seem so at first, but we rely on you. Be fearless in your outreach. Our success and very livelihood depends on you just as much as yours depends on us.

 

On par with my zeal for discovery is my love for deal-making. I see negotiation and sales, in work and in life, as a communion, collaboration, and growth experience with every deal (which is the subject of my next book).

I relate to the ever-querying minds, ambitions, and insecurities of the authors with whom I work; I love to fight for them. I relish strategizing about their larger careers. I think there’s nothing better than to sculpt and promote a book on its rise to stardom before the world knows its name.

Let’s not forget that authors have been my greatest teachers. I’ve learned an immense amount in so many subjects of interest to me.

 

Q: What is your advice for anyone wanting to be a literary agent like you?

 

A: Persistence, of course! Find your way in, somewhere, somehow. Never underestimate the power of finding and entering through the side door. I certainly did. My training was unconventional, and my resume is a scattering of non-commitments that has only served me as an entrepreneur. All of that was achieved through an early love of being the mentee (and later the mentor); networking and putting myself out there, always, making sure I was grateful and reciprocating in return.

All art is imitation. (It’s certainly what I’ve found to be true in the book business.) I’ve learned by imitation. Write the words your boss, your colleagues, or your clients write, and you develop muscular memory. Do the same with how you speak. Learn the template from the best in the field; then add your unique twist.

 

Q: You’ve worked with so many authors. What are some of your best experiences or memories of those authors getting signed?

 

A: Jake Wood, Dr. Mary Anderson, and Jayne Allen are prime examples of clients whose journeys I’ve had the privilege to witness.

 

Jake Wood, (Once a Warrior; Penguin)

Former marine Jake Wood was still picking up the pieces following the loss of his best friend and traumas he experienced during his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was devastated when no publisher would buy his book, and he couldn’t make sense of the rejection. I looked at his proposal and diagnosed the issue: Jake was still fearful of being vulnerable and raw. I taught him how to open his heart and share his story. In his words, she “encouraged me to drop my insecurities and write a book that was more raw and introspective than I ever would have otherwise written.”

Dr. Mary Anderson  (The Happy High Achiever; Hachette)

Psychologist Dr. Mary Anderson spent years trying to break in as a first-time author, taking every class and reading every resource under the sun. She was finally making progress and had attracted an agent’s attention! But then, her father died, and instead of taking a meeting with that agent, she found herself on a plane halfway across the country to attend his funeral. It took her time to recover from her loss, but she didn’t lose sight of her dream to get published. It was something her father had always encouraged her to pursue, and now it became as much a part of his legacy as hers. Serendipitously, now she was getting back to her writing, she took a chance on attending my Get Signed Course. We signed her, and her book was sold at auction to a Big Five publisher. It’s coming out this October!

Jayne Allen (Black Girls Must Die Exhausted; HarperCollins) 

In 2018, self-published author Jayne Allen had been told by agents and producers that “there wasn’t a market” for her romantic comedy series featuring contemporary Black women. But in the fall of 2020, a friend wrote to me to say that Jayne had just visited her book club on zoom, and she was blown away. When I asked Jayne to query me, it was an instant love connection, and I had to sign up the book! Within just three weeks, we sold the series to Jayne’s dream publisher, HarperCollins, in a multi-book deal, with a TV series on the way.

 

Q: Are you currently writing another book? If so, is it another nonfiction book like Get Signed or will you try your hand at fiction this time?

 

A: Oh, that’s flattering that you would ask about fiction! I’ve always had short stories dancing around my head. But writers—and businesspeople—should at least consider living by the rule of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Get Signed opened the floodgates, quite literally, to the gatekeepers. Seeing how writers have been motivated by the book, even if just to finish the books they’ve been writing, has been enormously rewarding. From our own slush pile, I’m seeing higher quality pitches than ever before—because writers are following the 6-Step Get Signed model. I imagine other agents are seeing this too. All of this to say that a second book for writers seems the natural progression and what’s needed from my audience. I’m eager to hear ideas from your own readership below! 

 

But I’m also, as previewed above, even more passionate about a general audience book that goes beyond writers, intended to inspire confidence, motivation, and self-advocacy much in the same way as Get Signed. On a fundamental level, this book is about recognizing the value of rejection and difference of opinion and getting back on your feet. I’m pretty sure writers need that, too. 🙂

 

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