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Write the story that you want to tell ❤️🔥
Today's guest is associate literary agent Antoinëtte Van Sluytman.
Publishing trends are constantly changing.
For this reason, it’s very difficult to try to “time” the market and write a story just because you think it’s what agents and publishers want to see. If you invest months or years working on a story that fits today’s publishing trends, you may be disappointed when you’re finally ready to start querying agents, only to find that the trends have changed and your story is no longer marketable.
Instead, write what you’re passionate about.
It’s always better to write for the joy of writing. Tell the story you want to tell. Agents and publishers will be able to feel your passion in your work — and that’s what will really make your story stand out.
In today’s interview, associate literary agent Antoinëtte Van Sluytman shares the importance of writing for the love of it, reading widely across different genres, and being unafraid to explore and push the boundaries as an author.
OUR SPECIAL GUEST TODAY IS…
Associate Literary Agent at Irene Goodman
What separates a strong, successful query from one that you pass on?
For me, a strong successful query spends more time showing than telling, while also addressing the important elements that help offer a clear idea of what can be expected. Stakes in queries are very important and often sidelined for world/lore/too much character detail, which can be saved for the sample pages. What do the characters have to lose and why are they the right protagonist for the story? What themes can be expected from the story and the general hook that shifts your plot into gear? It’s always better to go straight into the thick of the conflict/stakes/and character goal and keep metadata/comps/inspirations as brief as possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that ambiguity is the enemy of queries. Having fresh eyes on your query can help make sure there aren't any holes needed to be filled.
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What is one thing you wish emerging authors knew about the publishing industry or the traditional publishing process?
Because the market is constantly changing and redefining new trends, it’s always better to write the story that you want and not what you think agents or publishers are looking for. As an agent, I can often tell when a book is written purely for the joy and love for the craft/genre, which I don't consider something that can be taught. I'm less concerned about how well an author knows comparable comp titles and the audience for their book compared to the passion, voice, and soul that has gone into their pages, which ultimately wins me over in the end. While it is important to have audience in mind, I look for stories with a message as well as a means.
What traits or qualities do you look for in a potential client?
I'm looking for writers unafraid to push boundaries, who have a message to share, and a literary voice that reminds me of why I fell in love with stories in the first place. It’s important to me that a client is passionate about their work because this industry can often be a slow-paced and disheartening process that will bruise confidence and test resolve. As an agent, I can help guide you to the finish line, but I cannot run the track for you. Another trait I look for is someone who is communicative and has a vision for their author career and isn't limited to one idea/book. For an agent to be an effective advocate, it’s important our visions and goals align with the client's so we can help guide it to fruition and not encroach with our own ideas.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a writer who aspires to be published?
Research. Learn the nuts and bolts of the industry and meet other writers. The creative support from critique partners and author groups within the writers’ community can be a great way to foster potential. I've also found that reading across a broad spectrum of genres can bring nuanced and fresh takes to writing craft, rather than sticking to the one genre you write. For example, writers with a background in poetry can bring beautiful lyrical prose to SFF, and a fantasy writer can bring limitless imagination and inspiration to their poetry. Don't be afraid to explore, try new things, engage with writers from other disciplines, and don't feel like you must conform to the current tropes and trends of your genre.
What current trends in the book publishing industry should emerging authors be aware of?
Romantasy is now making its mark in the industry I'd say. Also nuanced dark fantasy with morally gray protagonists and engaging villain arcs. I'm excited to see more of this.