Friday, June 26, 2009
Paige Wheeler on What's Happening in Publishing
ROBERTA: Today Jungle Red Writers is delighted to welcome literary agent Paige Wheeler, a partner in Folio Literary Management. I was lucky to sign on with Paige almost ten years ago, and since then she’s sold eight of my mysteries, five in the golf lover’s mystery series and three advice column mysteries.
Paige, if you don’t mind, let’s start with the big question on all of our minds. What do you see happening in the publishing business right now?
PAIGE: It's been a crazy year. Due to the economy, we saw a number of publishers tighten their belts in October and December of 08 and again in the early part of 09. The belt tightening included some layoffs, book cancellations, decreased advances, as well as a few publishers going out of business--Arcade being the most recent. That said, I can say after so many years in the business that the only constant seems to be change. So, it's imperative to be able to adapt to the shifting publishing landscape. Editors are still buying, but I have seen promotion budgets shrink tremendously and some editors have been avoiding making risky buying decisions.
ROBERTA: What tips do you have for authors to adjust to changes in the climate, both newcomers and writers who’ve been around the block a few times?
PAIGE: I'd say you have to be adaptable to change. Even long term, it's vital that an author be able to roll with the punches. Ultimately, it's about perseverence and patience, for both newcomers and established writers. Thinking out of the box in terms of marketing is also helpful. With the shrinking promotional budgets, authors are more and more responsible for getting the word out about their upcoming book. For newcomers, I think the ability to write a terrific, commercially viable novel is still key. That hasn't changed at all.
ROBERTA: You moved from being a solo agent in New York City to a multi-agent business. Tell us a little about Folio and what you do differently from other agencies?
PAIGE: I formed FOLIO with the intention of really being a full service agency. Although our core business is selling books, we really try to manage and author's intellectual property-and grow his/her career. To that end, we've had Kate Travers on board--she's our marketing director. She provides guidance to our authors about marketing their upcoming titles. We've had a speakers bureau that we've been trying to build, but that's on hold for the moment as we reconfigure the structure of the department. We also have a terrific foreign rights department, headed up by Celeste Fine, as well as an association with a major licensing company. And, of course, we have ties to major Hollywood film agents. Ultimately, I think we are really trying to be proactive in building an author's career.
ROBERTA: Before we open the floor to questions, what kind of book or proposal might come across your desk today that would really excite you?
PAIGE: I'm looking for fresh ideas driven by a powerful voice. It's that simple. As most of you know, I handle commercial and upscale fiction as well as narrative and prescriptive nonfiction. The writing should be strong and vibrant, I like to be transported by the story and unable to put it down. If I read well into the night, it's a good sign. I'm often surprised at how I respond to material. I recently read a gripping submission of historical fiction (1700s) that I couldn't put down. Another project was a contemporary piece that was lively and fun. Since I read so much, I really want the story to stick with me days and even weeks later.
ROBERTA: Thanks so much for your visit! Questions anyone?