Today, we have literary agent Joanna Volpe, president of New Leaf Literary and Media, on the blog. Thank you, Joanna, for being here!
Me: How did you become an agent?
JV: The old-fashioned way! I interned, then was an assistant, then junior agent, then agent. It’s very much an apprenticeship-type training, learning so much on the job and from the amazing mentors I had. I’m so glad I made the decision to take an unpaid internship, even after I had a salaried job for a couple of years. It was the best decision I ever made.
Me: Joanna, I know that you represent Veronica Roth, who recently had her novel, Divergent, made into a movie. What was it like to see a book that you had worked on take that journey?
JV: Seeing the Divergent movie come to fruition has been a very exciting and humbling experience. I grew up in a movie theater (literally), so it’s always been a dream of mine for one of my books to hit the big screen. But it’s also been a fear that it would fall short in some way. I love, LOVE the books (obviously), and it’s a lot to live up to! In the end, I think Neil Burger, the cast and creators nailed it. I’ve seen the movie 9 times already, and I love it more each time. All of that being said, having a movie made doesn’t change anything for me either (well, except for adding a bit more work to my plate). I got into the business of books, and that’s where I am happiest. So now I’m evaluating how I can learn from this experience and turn this success into more success for the rest of New Leaf’s agents and clients. We have a lot of amazing books on our list, and I have high hopes for all of them!
Me: Many of my readers are aspiring authors and are actively looking for their first agent. Can you tell them a little bit about what the author/agent relationship is like? What can they expect after they sign with an agent?
JV: Every author-agent relationship is a little bit different. Depends on the people involved and what kind of projects they work on together. That being said, the consistent parts of the relationship are the parts that really feature the partnership and collaboration. Personally, I work with my clients from the very early development stages all the way through to book publication and beyond. We strategize about the client’s short term and long term career goals together. We’re a team.
Me: What are you looking for right now in fiction submissions and not getting? Are there any subjects or genres that are near and dear to your heart? And on the flip side, what are you getting too much of?
JV: More horror! That and dark fantasy and literary fiction. I’d love to see more of these genres. I’m still getting way too much paranormal and dystopian fiction. I like those genres, too, but my list is already full of them.
Me: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?
JV: That I used to query, too. In college I wrote two middle grade novels and queried to find an agent. I got a ton of rejections. I went to conferences and pitched—and got more rejections. Then I later discovered that I was much better at editing others’ work than writing myself (thanks to my critique groups). Two totally different skill sets, ya know?
Me: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
JV: Just keep at it. Every single one of my clients have unpublished manuscripts sitting on a hard drive or in a drawer somewhere. Not everything you write will be publishable, and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean it was a waste. Each project you complete takes you to the next thing—and each time you’re learning, honing your craft, and growing as a writer.
Me: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
JV: Yup! Our submission guidelines can be found here: http://newleafliterary.com/submissions.cfm