This morning I bring you Eric Ruben, who is an agent based out of New York City. We have never met, even though the city is a small town (really, it is). I found Eric through his participation in a Twitter group, #AskAgent. This is a group of agents, who, on their own time, get on Twitter and take questions from aspiring writers. They are a wonderfully helpful resource, and if you haven’t lurked and/or asked questions, don’t be afraid. Eric and all of them are thoughtful and helpful and most of all, not scary!
In a addition to his ask agent tweets, he also has the hysterically funny #tweetsfromwholefoods. They tend to brighten up my day. I’ve started looking at shopping at Trader Joes in a whole new way.
Let’s meet Eric and find out what he has to say.
Thanks for having me as a guest.
1. You once said you felt like John Lennon at the height of Beatlemania when you walked into a Romance convention-why is that?
It was in NYC RWA, the first RWA I attended as an agent. I’d been to plenty of them before when I worked for a NY Times bestselling author. But now that I had an agent badge, suddenly there was a lot of attention on me. People knew me and knew I was approachable before. Now that I was an agent, they were more interested than ever in talking to me. I wasn’t used to getting that much attention in one time and place. Some people actually started to touch me without permission. That was a little scary. Luckily, I was able to duck into a men’s room.
2. For those who are not aware of what services an agent performs for their client, could you give a brief rundown?
It depends on the agency, but for me, I sell my clients’ work to publishers, negotiate deals, and assist in the planning of a client’s overall career. I sometimes help clients solve creative problems including restructuring a book. Other times I act as a buffer between a writer and people they deal with but don’t want to upset. I can be the demanding one so they can remain the nice creative person who would love to do something but their agent/lawyer won’t let them. As a lawyer, I sometimes bring a little something extra to the relationship.
3. What do you feel is the most important thing a writer can do today to succeed in this crowded market? For example, is just writing a really good book enough anymore?
Actually, that is STILL the most important thing. I see a lot of writers spend a lot of time on gimmicks or becoming the most popular tweeter. For me, the tight market means, no matter what the genre, the best written book will be the one that sells. I’ve never been asked by an editor “how many Facebook friends does your client have?” Does it help once we’ve sold the book? Yes. But right now I have an author with great sales with a major publisher who only recently created a Twitter account.
4. What is the biggest mistake you see writers make when they query you and do you have any idea why they continually make it?
Not having their manuscript in the best possible shape. Grammar or spelling mistakes are bad, but worse are underdeveloped characters, strange point of view changes and other bad writing problems. The query itself doesn’t matter as much to me because I don’t sell queries, I sell books. That being said, being cute or strange isn’t great either. What I want, in the query and the manuscript, is professionalism. I think mistakes continue to be made because they just get rejected, not corrected.
(Nancy- Oh I can so relate to THAT! I committed the cardinal sin of thou shalt not submit until edited and will never do so again, no matter how tempted I am. Trust in what Eric says.)
5. How do you think the self publishing industry has upset the traditional publishing world, and do you think it will continue to make inroads?
I will talk more about this at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention and future speaking engagements. However, I think the big pubs are nervous that known, big name authors don’t need them. Still, there’s a lot that big publishing does for authors and readers. And the self-pub phenomenon is, in my opinion, in its infancy. There’s a very crowded field, technology is changing rapidly, and anyone who claims to know what will happen next is, in my opinion, suspect.
6. In your opinion, how long should a writer continue to query after receiving rejection after rejection?
They need to go with their own gut. It’s not for me to say. However, that being said, they may want to talk to a professional editor or some critique partners.
7. Writers and agents are so involved with social media; Facebook, Twitter, blogging these days-do you think there is any downside?
Sometimes people forget the need for personal boundaries. Also, I think that there’s some bad advice out there that people are taking at face value because they don’t really know who people are. Writers should do more research and not assume that info on social media is accurate. Also, people assume they really know each other based on conversations in cyber space. We’re all more complicated than that. Additionally, some people will say or do anything to get attention. However, there’s also a lot of great information and some very nice people, so it’s like anything else in life and show business: be careful, take your time and do your research.
8. Ask Agent is so big on Twitter, but do you ever feel as though people just don’t listen sometimes?
Writers are people. Some listen, some tune out info that doesn’t match what they think they already know. I have no illusions. I look at Ask Agent as a way to give back to a community I enjoy. Also, I hope it makes everyone better. It also reveals that I don’t know everything and that helps take the pressure off of me.
Eric W. Ruben, Esq., President
The Ruben Agency
I want to thank Eric for being such a great guest and such a help to aspiring writers. I know I have taken his advice seriously and I am grateful he is there as a resource.
Eric is also participating in an auction to benefit the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. If you go to http://crowleykt.blogspot.com, you can bid on a First chapter 10 page critique! A great opportunity for a great cause.
Thank you Nancy, for that very informative interview! AYL readers can click on the link at the top of this post to visit Nancy's blog, follow and read many more of her amazing posts. Enjoy!