Friday, November 9, 2007

Agent Interview with Lois Winston

I’d like to welcome our guest agent today, Lois Winston of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

Can you please give us a little information about your publishing background? Who many clients do you have? How many agents? And how many of those agents represent romance? What other genres do you represent?

I began my association with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency as a client. Carolyn Grayson is my agent. Two years ago Ashley and Carolyn invited me to join the agency as an associate. I began as a reader and am now an agent and still a client.

The agency has been around since 1976. There are four agents. Carolyn Grayson and I represent all the sub-genres of romance, women’s fiction, and mystery. Carolyn also handles women’s oriented fantasy, horror, and children’s books. Ashley Grayson handles literary and commercial fiction, historical fiction, dark fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and humorous or edgy children’s fiction. Denise Dumars handles horror and dark fantasy fiction, offbeat literary and women’s fiction, and multi-cultural fiction. The agency also handle some non-fiction.

The agency represents approximately 100 authors.

What fees (if any) does your agency charge? What is your agency’s commission rate?

The agency does not charge any fees. Agency commission is the standard 15% for domestic sales and 20% for sales to international publishers.

What’s your response time for queries, partials and full manuscripts?

I try to read queries the day they come in. Most are read within a week. Partials, up to 6 weeks; complete manuscripts, 3 - 6 months.

What new author have you recently signed?

In romance the agency has recently signed and sold Jill Myles (Pocket), Michelle Willingham (Harlequin), and Nicole North (Red Sage).

What new project made you grab for that hidden piece of chocolate in your pencil drawer?

I fell in love with the voice of an author who pitched to me at RWA. She’s not quite “there” yet when it comes to plot and character development, but I see a lot of promise in her writing. Although she’s not a client at this point, I’m hoping she’ll be able to take her work to that next level where we can eventually offer her representation. To that end, I’ve been working with her and encouraging her.
What can an author do to grab your attention?

Write a compelling, unique story in a captivating voice. And if you can also make me laugh, that’s a definite plus.

What houses have you recently sold to?

The agency has recently sold romance, women’s fiction, urban fantasy, and mysteries to Pocket, Harlequin, Grand Central, St. Martin’s Press, Red Sage, and Dorchester, and children’s books to Little Brown and Feiwel & Friends.

What do you love/hate most about being an agent?

I love discovering new talent; I hate that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that I’d like to accomplish, and I really wish I could read faster.

What trends do you see for the future of publishing?

Trends are cyclical. Not too long ago authors had a hard time selling paranormal manuscripts. Right now paranormal, erotica, and erotic paranormal are the hot sub-genres. Eventually, there will be a glut of these books on the market. I’m already hearing editors say they’re not interested in seeing any more vampire books, but they’re still looking for non-vampire paranormals. Urban fantasy is hot. There also seems to be a lot of interest in romantic fantasy; dark, sexy thrillers; historical fiction (as opposed to historical romance); and emotional women’s fiction.

Any other chocolate nuggets you can give authors looking for representation?

Don’t try to write to the market. Unless you can write so fast, something that is so perfect for the market, by the time the book is written, the trend may be waning, and your manuscript will be a hard sell. Don’t forget: the books you see on the shelves today may have been bought by editors two years ago. If you write a book that really pushes the envelope to break out, you might just find yourself at the forefront of a new trend.

Thanks, Lois!

The Agency website is under construction; in the meantime, check our page at Publishers Marketplace:
Authors can query me via email at:


mizging said...

Hey Kim,
Loved the interview questions for the agent. If I wasn't so gun-shy I'd submit my latest manuscript, but I'm through adhering to guidelines, making sure all my I's are dotted and my T's crossed only to receive a generic 'no thanks'. I think author's should be able to set up guidelines for if I spend all that time, how about at least addressing the form letter to me. *lol* Sore topic with me...can you tell? If not for the great reviews I've received, I think I'd give up writing altogether.

Jenny said...

Great interview. Thanks for doing it and getting the word out.
Great information. Thanks for answering the questions. Definite food for thought (oops, cliché) er, definite good nutrition for pondering writing career:-)

Jennifer Ashley said...

Hi Lois!! (waving). Excellent insights on the market, thank you! I wish you best of luck in your new career.

Lois also writes fun books.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone. Thanks for posting your comments. Ginger, don't give up the dream. Jenny, :) Jennifer. I ditto what you've said. I've read both of Lois' books and have enjoyed them tremendously.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks Kim and a great interview with Lois Winston. I think its interesting that she started as a client. I think that has happened more than once and a great experience to have in a agent because they know both sides.

Is Lois answering questions because I was wondering if she is open to children's picture books. Thanks again. Sandra