Today we have literary agent Anna Olswanger of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency on the blog. Thank you, Anna, for being here with us today!
Me: A common reason for rejection is not connecting with the author’s characters. What makes a reader care about an author’s characters?
Anna: If the character cares about someone else, even if it’s an animal or a cause, the reader will care for the character.
Me: How can a writer make their characters stronger?
Anna: A character has to want something deeply, so a character who makes choices and takes action in order to get what she or he wants is a strong character. And a strong character drives the plot.
Me: There’s a lot of talk about “high concept” fiction lately. Can you define it for us?
Anna: I’m not an agent who deals with “high concept” fiction because I’m more interested in literary fiction than commercial fiction. I’m especially not interested in the “Twilight meets Hunger Games” kind of description of a novel. I don’t care what a novel is like. I want to know how it’s different.
Me: Do you feel that it’s become more and more important for books to be high concept?
Anna: With some publishers, yes. I don’t tend to submit to those editors.
Me: As an agent, you see a lot of manuscripts from beginning writers. If there was one area you could tell a writer to focus on, to work toward improvement in, what would it be?
Anna: Cut the exposition. It’s boring and mostly unnecessary. And try to cut the prologue. Most prologues are also unnecessary and just keep the reader from jumping into the story.
Me: Does being an author yourself help or hinder you as a literary agent?
Anna: I think that being an author gives me empathy for what my clients go through as I try to find publishers for their work and they have to face rejections. I also think that I’m willing to try publishers and opportunities for my clients that other agents might not consider because I would try those publishers for myself as an author. For example, I might try a publisher who does ebook originals, even if there were no advance.
You can find literary agent Anna Olswanger at:
Anna’s website: http://www.olswanger.com/