As a writer, it’s all good and fun to image becoming published one day. Personally, I am a writer and think about this day often. A beautiful gown, long nails, hair done up with small ringlets falling around my face. I imagine myself smiling as people comment on my book, how they love it.
Then I think back to the reality and consider, how do books even get their way to publishing houses?
I’ve heard plenty of stories of writers sending out their work, and never hearing a reply. I’ve heard of them getting letters, of spending hours searching for a firm that might accept their work.
A literary agent, defined by Merriam Webster dictionary, is a professional agent who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers and others involved in promoting the author’s work. Literary agents are the angels sent from the depths the clouds to ease the pain and suffering a writer endures to get their work seen by others.
As a college student, I don’t have the funds or the time to go off seeking my own literary agent to possibly get my work published one day. I barely have the time to edit my own work (except for the essays upon essay and other types of work that I sometimes edit for classes).
I had the luck to be in Donna Steiner’s Literary Citizenship in the Fall of 2016. Donna is a fantastically clever woman, and one of the biggest perks of being in the class was the honor to be added to the exclusive Facebook group, Literary Citizenship. It is private except to anyone who had been in the class. On that Facebook group, she posted:
I thought, why not? He’s free, and I have always wanted to get my work out there.
And that’s how I met Brian Usobiaga.
He wanted to become a literary agent because:
The field interests me because it exists as sort of an intersection between my professional experience in sales, and my love of writing. As a career, I’m not sure how viable it is, but the process of getting to know authors, their work, and helping them find platforms for it, has, to this point, been extremely rewarding.
My initial experiences with the publication industry are probably a lot different than the ones a young author would have today. Back when I used to submit work, you still had to query editors by post, the internet wasn’t such a powerful tool, and literary agents were basically the only way to navigate the landscape.
Today, I think good representation is still important, but the internet has streamlined a lot of the processes. In that regard, authors can really do a lot of their own grunt work, which could perhaps partially explain why the field isn’t as prominent in the minds of younger writers.
Duotrope, Submission Grinder, Writer’s Market are a few resources that he uses to find publications looking for work.
Brian says that the best part of being a literary agent is getting excited about good writing. Most of the same thing, as I believe, the other writers get excited over too, “While that may sound trite,” (Trust me, it’s not Brian.) “I think it’s essential because when the person who is representing your work is genuinely enthusiastic about it, they can be your best champion.
Brian is also a student, and is actually losing money by being a literary agent at the moment. He told me that building relationships and acquiring knowledge is what it is all about at the moment. He’s happy just to help facilitate people’s literary goals. This still blows my mind and reminds me how grateful and lucky I am to have met Brian.
His favorite genre to publish is YA.
Researching markets requires a lot of reading, and not only do you have to get familiar with the work that is being published by different editors, it’s also integral to be able to evaluate the work you’re submitting against it. This basically means don’t just assume a fantasy piece should be submitted to all fantasy magazines. Work hard to understand and articulate how each submission you make best represents the themes of the publication and fits within its scope.
Of the pieces I’ve been working with, I’m a bit more familiar with the YA genre, so it’s been easier on a whole to discern where it may fit and who best to submit it to.
As he is more comfortable with Young Adult, he finds poetry more difficult to publish because he is less familiar, therefore more tougher to handle, and finding the right markets become more difficult to judge.
As Brian is a Business Admin major, I asked him if there was any specific business classes that help overly with this pursuit?
Communication classes would be good. Being able to represent yourself professionally through e-mail and other online interfaces can help you succeed. The faculty at Oswego has done a tremendous job adapting the curriculum to reflect this shift to a virtual space and there are many courses which can help refine your online presence.
Also, I would also recommend marketing classes. Many authors are responsible for their own publicity and learning to amplify yourself through social media can be a great asset.
Brian is a good soul, a person like him that we need more in the world. So don’t be afraid to try something new and do a little or your own researching every now and then.