Sunday, December 27, 2009

INTERVIEW: Anna Webman - Literary Agent Curtis Brown

Anna Webman began at Curtis Brown working with Elizabeth Harding. She represents a range of young adult, middle-grade, picture-book authors, illustrators, published and new, working to help them build successful publishing careers.

She always is on the lookout for first-time authors and illustrators. Anna's ideal picture book would be a character-driven, energetic story that kids (and their parents) won't tire of reading. She particularly is interested in voice-driven realistic fiction, with both historical and contemporary settings, and would love to find a young middle-grade series. Anna graduated from The George Washington University and lives in Manhattan with her rescue dog Vinny.

Please feel free to query Anna with a synopsis and the first ten pages of your book or the full manuscript text for a picture book pasted (no attachments, please) in the body of your email.

E.I. If an author is a terrific writer and has a voice or perspective or style that's not been seen before, is there a far greater chance the author will have a place in the literary market even though it’s true that first time authors is hard to get a first book published? Will you be able to present the author as a fresh profile to the media provided that you're presenting a compelling read?

AJW: Personally, I am always on the lookout for fresh voices, unforgettable storytelling or what might be the next hot topic. In fact, the majority of my clients are first time or relatively new authors whose work attracted my attention because they offered something different or new. It is exciting to discover new authors and illustrators, and I’ve found that editors and publishers are equally excited to find and develop new talent. Otherwise, I think the industry would become stale and predictable. I’m not sure that you could characterize such an author as having a “far greater chance” at having a first book published, but being able to launch a new author does provide additional opportunities for the publisher and in the media. It certainly is a selling point to be able to say “first-time” or “debut” or something similar. And of course, it all depends on the quality of the writing.

E.I. Is it true that quite a few good prose writers, they are able to create artful shorts--and not have to worry about such issues as uneven pacing or overuse of adverbs--they fumble with the novel hook, setting, conflict, and such as that. Given this circumstance, what MUST they do to get you to read to page fifty and beyond?

AJW: If you want me to ask for page fifty-one, you have to impress me with either appealing characters or a plot that leaves me wondering what comes next. But again, either way, the first thing I look for when reading a partial or complete manuscript is solid writing. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter that you can masterfully write vignettes if the arc of the story is nonexistent, or if there’s gorgeous imagery in your writing, but there are no compelling characters and the story doesn’t progress.

Obviously, I am used to seeing unfinished manuscripts, so if there are flaws in a manuscript, but I love the writing, then I often will send editorial notes to the author with my suggestions and offer to read a revised version. Often, such correspondence leads to more editorial exchanges and it is a very good way for me to see how an author and potential client approaches their work.

Photo of Anna Webman by Wendy Robinson

To learn more about Anna Webman, please visit their website.

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