Today, we have literary agent Carly Watters of P. S. Literary Agency on the blog. Ms. Watters has a highly successful blog that has been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest magazine for both 2013 and 2014. Thank you, Ms. Watters, for being here with us!
AN: How did you become an agent?
CW: I started researching publishing when I was looking at grad schools. Once I decided publishing was the field for me I looked into the different angles of the industry. As soon as I learned what an agent’s role was I was hooked; I knew it was the job for me! I did my MA in Publishing Studies in the UK and worked in London at the Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency as an Agency Assistant. Working under some great commercial agents there gave me the skills so when I came back to Toronto in 2010 I was ready to start my own list. I’ve been at P.S. Literary ever since.
AN: 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?
CW: I can speak to my relationships with my authors. I am very hands-on. With some authors I’m emailing them many times per week to update them on deals, submissions, cover design, marketing etc. An agent is a sounding board, a reassuring figure, a fighter, a manager, sometimes an editor, and an expert in the field that looks out for you. Find one you can trust and that you respect.
AN: 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?
CW: I love commercial, women’s fiction, and upmarket fiction. I’m looking for books with a strong narrator that has a memorable voice (like Liane Moriarty), a compelling plot that makes me turn the pages (like Joyce Maynard), and characters that have secrets they slowly reveal to the reader (like Maria Semple). I am looking for original stories told with great writing.
I am getting too much derivative YA right now. I have a great list of YA authors at this time so I’m being choosy about what I request and am being very selective.
AN: You’re a Canadian based agent. How will that affect writers from other countries who wish to query you?
CW: That’s a great question. This industry is borderless. So think of me as any remote agent not working in New York. I make two trips to NYC per year to pitch project and catch up with editors. I represent authors all over the world, many of my fiction authors being American. I wrote this blog post a few years ago that I still refer people to: http://bit.ly/17hboLu. So please think of me for all your work, no matter where you are!
AN: What is one thing about you that a writer would be surprised to learn?
CW: I live my life somewhat wide open on Twitter (https://twitter.com/carlywatters) so I don’t know if there’s much people won’t already know. One thing might be that I’ve never ready Harry Potter. Never watched a movie either. I prefer contemporary stories, generally!
AN: Best piece(s) of advice you can give a writer we haven’t talked about yet?
CW: Read everything. The best teachers are books already on your shelves. Read for pleasure, but also read to dissect what works and what doesn’t.
AN: Are you open to submissions? If so, how should a writer go about submitting?
CW: I am open! Always looking for quality writing. Please send a query letter only (no sample pages or attachments) to firstname.lastname@example.org and mention my name in the subject heading.
You can find Ms. Watters’ award-winning blog here.
You can follow her on Twitter here.