383797: Building a Network of Writers, Editors, and Publishers
- Winter 2022
- Section 1
- 3 Credits
- 01/12/2022 to 03/22/2022
- Modified 01/10/2022
Creating a book (whether it be a picture book or an epic adult tome) is a highly complex and collaborative process involving many players. A literary agent’s success hinges in part on their ability to build relationships on either side of the publication process. This includes identifying and nurturing writers through the various stages of their careers and understanding what publishers want and need for upcoming projects. This course gives students an understanding of successful techniques, practices, and philosophies for building these networks. Students leave the course with a clear understanding of how all players in the book publishing industry are interdependent and interconnected and what skills an agent must hone in order to maintain the collaborative spirit and, consequently, produce the best literature possible. Required for the Certificate in Literary Representation.
- Learn the roles of agent, author, and editor and how they collaborate
- Identify your preferences for book genres and author personality types
- Learn about communication and editorial strategies used with clients
- Learn how to research and approach potential editors for client projects
- Understand the basics of networking, boundaries, negotiation, and long-term relationship building
- Learn the dos and don’ts of presenting yourself on social media and in person
- Create your representation wish-list (ages and genres)
- Research and create lists of potential editors for different projects
- Write compelling introductory letters to unknown editors
- Use negotiation skills appropriately when revising a publishing contract
- Create a plan for your professional social media presence
I will provide handouts and links to articles and interviews.
Never Split the Difference
- Author: Chris Voss and Michael Kramer
If you decide to take this course for a grade, your points will be based on participation in weekly assignments and weekly discussion topics. Assignments should be well thought out and free of grammar and spelling mistakes. Each week you are expected to respond to the discussion topic, and also comment on at least one other post from your fellow students.
10 Weekly Assignments 5 Points Each 50 Points Total
10 Weekly Discussions 5 Points Each 50 Points Total
Total Possible = 100% Grading Scale
A = 90% to 100
B = 80% to89
C = 70% to79
F = 69% and below
Inclusive Teaching Statement
I strive to provide a welcoming, inclusive, collaborative, supportive, safe, and open-minded environment for students from all backgrounds and abilities, and I intend to ensure that every student’s learning needs are addressed.
I aim to present information and materials that are respectful of every student, regardless of gender identity, ability, age, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or culture. All ideas and suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you feel that my presentations or materials provided can be improved, in order to better serve you or other students from different backgrounds or perspectives.
I honor the dignity of every student, and respect that sharing unique experiences and beliefs can only benefit all of us as a group, both inside the classroom, and later when you enter the very diverse publishing business.
It is imperative that all students show respect for different worldviews, and refrain from adding disrespectful comments or inappropriate feedback. I expect our interactions to be respectful and civil, and that each student (myself included) practices empathy and acceptance when listening to opinions different from thier own.
Although the majority of the information presented in this course is fairly lighthearted, there may be some areas or concepts that evoke strong emotions, thoughts, or reactions. It is my sincere hope that you feel comfortable coming to me – either by phone or email – to discuss any information that feels troubling or offensive to you, whether it is something I’ve said, or presented, or if the information comes from another student. I plan to process and address all issues immediately.
Finally, we all have different learning styles. If I can better serve you, and improve your learning environment, in any way, please let me know. I’m happy to discuss foreign concepts, or clarify different complex aspects of publishing via phone, or even group Zoom meetings, if you feel that would be helpful. I believe we can all learn a lot from one another, and I look forward to collaborating with you all soon.
Attendance is required and (if a grade is requested) it will be reflected in your grade, as established in the evaluation section of this syllabus. Missing more than two classes will result in a failing grade, except in extraordinary circumstances. Please remember that this class is a community first and foremost, and this means treating each other with kindness and respect at all times. Part of this kindness and respect includes attending and doing the work, as much of the classwork will be collaborative in nature.
Weekly Discussion Topics
Our weekly discussion topics are meant to be springboards for sharing opinions and information and create ongoing dialogue between you and your classmates. Since this course is online, our discussions will help us learn from each other and get to know each other better. If you are taking this course for a grade, your participation in the weekly discussion topics is mandatory (but, I would hope that whether you are receiving a grade or not you would choose to participate!). The expectation is that you each answer the weekly discussion topic as candidly as possible, while also commenting on your classmates posts. You will answer the weekly discussion topic after viewing the corresponding lecture and finishing the weekly reading(s).
Your weekly assignments are meant to serve as tools to get you thinking critically about issues you will confront and policies you will create as a practicing literary agent. These are things that I thought about and discussed with my co-agents every single day. Of course, your answers will change over time, but these assignments will introduce you to ideas that later become the core of who you are as a practicing agent. You will complete the weekly assignment after viewing the corresponding lecture and finishing the weekly reading(s).
Scope of Work for Instructors
Each Writers’ Program instructor has signed an agreement to teach the curriculum in their course, following a syllabus of their own design with approval by the Writers’ Program director. Instructors are never obligated to read, review, critique, respond to, or otherwise address student work that has not been developed for their course or in response to specific assignments in their
course. Individualized instruction like this falls into the categories of Consultation and Mentorship, which are separate services your instructor can provide through special arrangement with the Writers’ Program.
The Writers’ Workshop
Instruction in the Writers’ Program follows the guidelines established by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) guidelines for the teaching of creative writing, which include a “challenging writers’ workshop” as a hallmark. They define this as
…a seminar in which students critique one another’s work under the mentorship of an accomplished writer-teacher. The workshop is writing intensive, offering each student multiple opportunities for submission and revision of creative work. (AWP)
This method of instruction is considered the gold standard for developing writers at all levels of expertise, and workshopping is a key learning tool in nearly every course offered by the Writers’ Program. Workshopping teaches you to read and respond to written work from a variety of perspectives, and hearing critique of your own writing will help you understand how successfully your work achieves your goals. Every student is expected to participate fully in workshopping activities as defined by and guided by Writers’ Program instructors.
As UCLA's principal provider of continuing education, the majority of UCLA Extension courses are designed for the post-baccalaureate professional-level student. Enrollment is therefore normally reserved for adult students 18 years of age and older. The Writers’ Program may consent to enroll younger students based on special academic competence and approval of the instructor. Minors who enroll in a Writers’ Program course without first receiving permission from both the department and the instructor are subject to withdrawal. To request approval, please contact the Writers’ Program at 310-825-9415.
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||Introductions and Expectations for the Class||
This week we will get to know each other, discuss expectations for the course, and introduce the author/agent/editor relationship. We will also talk about the avenues people have taken to become literary agents.
Assignment: What specific questions would you like answered throughout this course? What is it about the publishing industry that intrigues you? What role(s) do you hope to play in this industry?
Discussion Board Topics: Please give us a brief introduction to yourself, including your background, your literary interests, and why you chose to take this course. Bonus question: What would you choose for your death row meal? (I realize it's morbid, but I feel you can glean a lot of information about people through their choice of death row meal.)
||Your Role as Literary Agent and Finding Talent||
This week we will discuss how to find and approach authors, assess what types of people you do and don’t want to work with, and define what your role is before, during, and after an agency agreement is signed.
Assignment: Create a brief description of your ideal client and what your working relationship looks like.
Discussion Board Topics: Ideally, how many clients would you like to represent? What are your overall goals as an agent? For instance, would you rather work with a large number of consistently selling clients? Or, would you rather have only a few high income clients for whom you can provide high volume attention? Or, in what other scenario do you see yourself thriving?
||Publishing Trends and Your Representation Interests||
This week you will identify your age (children’s books and/or adult books) and genre interests and learn how to keep up with what is currently hot (or about to become hot) in the marketplace.
Assignment: List your representation genre interests, likes and dislikes, as you would on your agency website.
Discussion Board Topic: The saying goes, “Write what you know.” I always alter that to say, “Write what you love.” The same goes for representing clients and projects. There’s something to be said for primarily representing genres you love to read. That said, think about a scenario where you have a client you love who writes stellar adult romance novels. He has decided to delve into writing children’s picture books. You know nothing about children’s picture books, and would never know what to do with one. Where do you go from here? How would you guide him?
||Working With Your Authors and Potential Clients||
This week we will discuss best practice when it comes to setting rules and boundaries, establishing communication strategies, and creating expectations.
Assignment: Create your general plan for how you will communicate with your authors. What are your non-negotiable policies? Will you be an “editorial” hands on agent? If so, why? If not, why not?
Discussion Board Topic: What do you think your personal boundaries will be with clients? I have seen literary agents who operate from every end of the spectrum – from expecting clients to communicate through their agency assistants first (booking phone calls and in person meetings) to socializing and becoming great friends with clients, who can call/text anytime day or night. Where do you think you will operate on this spectrum? Along those lines, would you consider representing somebody who is already a good friend of yours?
||Researching and Approaching Editors and Publishers||
This week we will discuss how to find editors with whom you would like to work (at appropriate publishing houses and imprints), and how to introduce yourself while making a lasting impression.
Assignment: Write an introductory email to an editor who has no idea who you are.
Discussion Board Topic: How comfortable do you feel cold calling editors and/or setting up face to face meetings? Do you ever feel intimidated talking with people in positions of power? And, if so, what steps would you take to prepare for a face to face meeting with a high level editor who has acquired a long list of best sellers (who also has very little time)?
||Choosing Houses and Editors for Submissions Lists||
This week we will discuss how to create submissions lists and how to strategize your submissions timeline to fully benefit your client.
Assignment: Create a small submissions list (5-10 editors) for your hypothetical client who wrote a book in your favorite genre. Include a brief note on why you chose to target each editor.
Discussion Board Topic: Mock agent situation: You have signed what you believe to be the next JK Rowling. Her book is complete and polished. She is a dream to work with, and has talent and personality to spare. You are also certain that the book-to-film scouts will be swarming her doorstep momentarily, begging to option her manuscript. What is your submissions strategy for this author? (PS, this is the BEST part of the job, and the most exciting problem to have!)
||Interacting With Editors: Dos and Don'ts and Negotiation Techniques||
This week we will discuss how to navigate the line between professional and social relationships, and learn about effective principles you can use to become more persuasive in your negotiations. We will also talk more about your role as the agent before, during, and after a book contract is signed with an editor.
Assignment: You have received an offer memo from a dream editor for your star client. The offered advance against royalties is $20,000. You were hoping for a much larger offer of between $50,000 and $75,000. What first steps do you take in negotiating to receive what your client is worth?
Discussion Board Topic: Mock agent situation: You are in the hotel bar during a writing conference. Your dream editor (with whom your client is dying to work) approaches you and invites you to join him and his colleagues for drinks. You join the group and soon tequila shots are delivered. Your dream editor appears very interested in hearing about your star client’s adult sci-fi book, set in a world where grasshopper-human hybrids have taken over the planet. When the group disperses, your dream editor invites you to his hotel room to discuss your client’s sci-fi project further.
First, how do you react? Do you accept the invite or not? Second, whether you accept the invitation or not, how do you plan to follow up with dream editor?
(Please remember that there are absolutely no right or wrong answers with these scenarios. These are real situations that you’ll run into often in publishing. A lot of the literary agent’s job takes place in social settings, and you’ll form very close friendships with colleagues. I present scenarios like the one above to get you thinking about where you would like your personal boundaries to lie.)
||Types of Agencies and Building Relationships With Other Agents||
This week we will discuss how to be a good and professional colleague that your co-agents want to collaborate with. We will also learn about the different types of relationships you can have with other literary agencies that are beneficial for everybody.
Assignment: Now that you have learned a bit about the roles of a literary agent, list the characteristics of your ideal agency.
Discussion Board Topic: Mock agent situation: A potential client who writes children’s books (who you have NOT signed) presents you with a new, steamy adult romance that puts all other romances to shame. The writing, plotting, and voice are all exceptional. Romance novels are not your thing, nor do you have solid connections with romance editors. However, you know that this potential client could be the next (clean) E.L. James (of 50 Shades of Grey fame). She’s the next Nicholas Sparks, you are certain of it. This could be huge. And lucrative. You are part of a list-serve of dedicated and hungry newer agents who share information and put the feelers out when they find talent outside of their preferred genres.
How do you proceed with this potential client? Do you sign her? Or, direct her to another potential agent who has experience in their genre? Either way, what is your step-by-step plan?
||Networking and Nurturing Bonds||
This week we will build your networking skills in order to foster lasting relationships and attract invites to speak at writing events (even if you’re an introvert!). We will also discuss how to use (and not use) social media while networking and when promoting client work.
Assignment: Research and list organizations or conferences you think would be personally beneficial to joining or attending as an agent. For example, if you are representing children’s/teen books you will definitely join Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).
Discussion Board Topic: Which social media outlets will you use as an agent for professional purposes? What will be the main focus of your posts/links? Will you merge these sites with your personal opinions/photos/posts or keep it all separate?
||Putting All the Puzzle Pieces Together||
This week we will wrap up by reviewing the roles and interdependence of agents, authors, and editors, and tease out what traits you would like to exhibit as an agent when “branding” yourself.
Assignment: List all the characteristics you would like your publishing contacts (including authors, editors, other agents) to use to describe you as an agent. What does your vision board look like in terms of reputation?
Discussion Board Topic: List a few specific take-aways from this course that will help you in the future. What questions are still unanswered? Did you learn anything surprising about the role of a literary agent?