Staying passionate during a slow process 🐢
Today's guest is senior literary agent Hannah VanVels Ausbury.
Getting traditionally published is a waiting game.
Authors who pursue traditional publishing will spend a lot of time waiting — waiting to hear back from agents, waiting while their book is out on submission, and waiting some more for their book to be released to the world. It’s a slow-moving industry, and when you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul.
But publishing can wait for you, too.
On the flip side, there is good news: because publishing moves so slowly, you have some breathing room to take breaks when you need to. When you find yourself getting overwhelmed or losing your passion, time is on your side. Publishing isn’t going anywhere, and when you’re ready to get back to it, the industry will still be there, waiting for you.
In today’s interview, senior literary agent Hannah VanVels Ausbury talks about the slowness of the publishing industry, the mindset shift authors need to make when they pursue publication, and the importance of nurturing your passion while you wait.
OUR SPECIAL GUEST TODAY IS…
Hannah VanVels Ausbury
Senior Literary Agent at Belcastro Agency
Hannah is currently open to queries via QueryManager.
What separates a strong, successful query from one that you pass on?
A strong query letter is fairly formulaic, which makes it easy to read quickly or skim through. It includes a metadata section with information about aspects of the book such as audience, genre, word count, and comparable titles; a paragraph or two about the main events of the book; and an author bio. It's helpful to remember that a query letter is meant to *sell* your book, not *tell* every detail of your book. It's similar to jacket copy in that way because it gives just enough details to pique interest without giving away the nitty gritty. As agents read through a lot of query letters, sticking to the formula works in your favor as it allows agents to move more quickly through their submissions.
What is one thing you wish emerging authors knew about the publishing industry or the traditional publishing process?
The path to publication is filled with a lot of waiting. Many writers spend a long time querying and then a long time on submission and then a long time waiting for their book to come out. I've sold books that don't come out for another five years yet, and I think it can be challenging for many people to understand that the general slowness is part of the industry, not a reflection on the creator or the quality of their work. In a culture of urgency, it can be hard to sit back and wait. As an agent, I try to prepare my clients for this to help set their expectations accordingly and approach the industry with a healthy mindset.
Can you share a client success story or a motivating anecdote for writers who feel may discouraged about publishing?
Related to my point above about waiting, this is a success story where the waiting paid off! We were on submission with a book for nearly a year and had exhausted most of our submission list. We sent out one final round to a last batch of editors and had an offer within a week from one of them. It definitely shows the power of finding a good match and being in the right place at the right time.
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What traits or qualities do you look for in a potential client?
A potential client's work is always going to be the first thing I'm looking for. My client list is incredibly diverse and they all have a different approach to writing and their stories, but the consistent factor is that their stories are strong. I love seeing clients (both current and potential) who have a strong writer support network with critique partners who can help them with their stories before it even gets to me. In potential clients, I like to see an awareness of why they are pursuing publication. While we can romanticize writing the story of your heart, when a writer chooses to pursue publishing, they've chosen to make their writing a business, one intended to make money. It's a small but important shift in mindset to approach your story as art versus a product, a product that a corporation intends to sell because they think they can make money doing so.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a writer who aspires to be published?
A book deal is not a reward for hard work or an acknowledgment of talent. It is a corporation offering to sell your intellectual property because they think they can make money from it. It's similar for an agent with offering representation. An agent might pass on a book that is truly strong because they don't know how to get it to the acquisition table. The fact that publishing isn't a meritocracy can really mess with a writer's head, so that's why my biggest piece of advice to those seeking publication is to write for themselves and when they find themselves losing their passion, then take a step back and take a break. Like I mentioned above, publishing is extremely slow-moving and will always be around. You won't be "missing out" on anything if you take some time to rediscover your passion and love for storytelling.
I was disappointed that the interviewee is closed to submissions. I'm looking for an agent for a romance novel. On Alyssa's blog it says the agent is open to queries via Query Manager.
Thanks for the advice! I'm starting to enjoy my "slow down" process and I am now revising the libretto I wrote for a musical years ago. I find that I can pace myself better just knowing I'm not under pressure to get it out there. Creative writing is a pain for me but it gives me a great feeling when I get it right.