Do you have questions for a Literary Agent? #agentchat #amwriting


I’ve been away for a while– traveling and recuperating,  but today I’m back with my  writer’s guest post series in this blog.

It is with great pleasure that I now present Andrea Pasion-Flores from the Jacaranda Literary Agency. She’s a joy to talk to, extremely kind and helpful, yet a thorough professional– a spirit that is reflected in her answers below:

1. You’re both an author and a literary agent. How did this happen, how do you balance the two roles, and how do they affect each other?

For Love and Kisses: Andrea Pasion-Flores

For Love and Kisses: Andrea Pasion-Flores

It’s difficult, but I try to make the time. I’m also a mom and a college teacher. But I find that my many roles feed on each other. My teaching (it helps that I teach literature) and my being a writer certainly help me spot a good story and allow me to help the writers in our list improve their writing.

2. As an agent, what are the sort of books are you looking for?

I’m looking for the distinct voice, fabulous narrative, mastery of language. It’s hard to describe. I guess I want to be blown away.

3. As a reader, who are your favorite authors, and why?

There are so many! At the moment Aravind Adiga, Junot Diaz, Mohsin Hamid, Chimamanda Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Gilda Cordero-Fernando, Kerima Polotan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Jose Y. Dalisay, Sally Gardner, Zadie Smith come to mind… so many!

4. What was the last book you read as a reader, and not an agent?

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner–fantastic, young adult dystopia. I want to buy all her books!

5. What book, published in recent times, do you think should be more recognized, and one that you think is overrated?

Haha. This is a trick question! I think Asian lit in general should be recognized. It’s sorely underrated and not as widely available. I think most of the independent presses, carried by the indie bookstores, are doing a lot of good stuff. Unfortunately, we’re all used to going to the mainstream bookstores to buy what’s pushed by mainstream media–especially the kind with the movie tie-ins. The answer to the second part of your question is hinted. But, having said that, the “overrated” have their markets–and they do serve an important purpose: they get people into the habit of reading! Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a quick read or two now and then? I certainly do. So I say the overrated books are great. I’d love to pick some out and push them myself.

6. As an author, what is the aspect of writing that interests you the most?

I like discovering where a story will take me, each story being different from the past stories I’ve written although in some sense the same. When I wrote the stories in my book, I didn’t quite realize how easily they fit into each other when I put them together years after they were written.

7. As an agent, what is the one concrete piece of advice you would give to an aspiring fiction writer?

The real writing happens in the revision. One of my creative writing teachers said this to me. The more painful the process, the easier it reads. The first draft shouldn’t be given to anyone, so don’t give them to me. If you let an agent read a first draft, and it’s not great, you’re not likely to be taken on.

8. Tell us something about your latest publication. Where can readers find the book?

Ken Spillman’s blurb reads thus:
“Andrea Pasion-Flores unpacks the black boxes of everyday disasters. Among the casualties are women burned by men and children bruised by the turbulence of relationships around them. Among futile love affairs, irretrievable marriages and unspoken loss, we are brought face to face with hungry ghosts and consuming frailties.”

It’s a collection of stories written over a 10-year period. That span of time yielded many other things for me aside from stories, such as a government job, three kids (two of them twins), etc. So it does feel like a slim volume, given the amount of time it took. However, there was also that feeling that I have to bring out the best of what I’ve written thus far so I do feel those are seven good ones (with varying length and styles to show a range). In Singapore, there are a few copies at the moment with Closet Full of Books.

——–

Andrea Pasion-Flores

Andrea Pasion-Flores

Andrea Pasion-Flores  is the former Executive Director of the National Book Development Board of the Philippines, where she was known for her pioneering work introducing high-impact literary events to the country. Andrea is also a copyright lawyer and teaches English at the University of the Philippines as a member of the faculty of the Department of English and Comparative Literature. She brings her experience in these fields into her role as an agent with the Jacaranda Literary Agency. She is also a Philippine contemporary author in English, and the author of bestselling book Have Baby Will Date, as well as her recently published short story collection: For Love and Kisses.

Dear reader, Have you read any of the authors Andrea mentions? Are you looking for a literary agent? Do you have any questions for Andrea Pasion-Flores? I’ll be randomly choosing one reader from the comments below, to receive a gift copy of Andrea’s book– so fire away!

 

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65 thoughts on “Do you have questions for a Literary Agent? #agentchat #amwriting

  1. This was a very interesting article. I’m working on the second draft of my novel now, but haven’t talked to any agents or publishers. It was nice to hear some thoughts from an agent.

  2. As a young aspiring writer, this post was very Insightful! I have a question for you as a writer- Do you plan your book before you write it, or do you delve straight in with only a brief plan in your mind and see where the story takes you?

  3. I’m reading Marques, One Hundred Years of Solitude at the moment. I’ve read and loved books by Mohsin Hamid, Chimamanda Adichie, Zadie Smith, and Salman Rushdie. The others are new to me; so much to look forward to.

    • Hi Hilary. You’ll find that my preference is rather literary though I love reading commercial fiction, too.

  4. What a great interview. Loaded with exciting and inspiring information. Thank you for sharing this to us. Andrea Pasion-Flores isn’t only an author and a literary agent in the Philippines, she’s also very active volunteer for a Social Welfare Program called ‘Bantay Bata’ which caters to the needs of disadvantaged and at-risk children. I would like to meet her one day (since we live in the same country) and I will pick up her latest book.

    Among the authors she mentioned, I love the works of Gilda Cordero-Fernando and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I am sure they’ll come handy when one begin discussing books with with her.

    I guess my simple questions that I’d like her to address are: what exactly does a literary agent do who is also an author? how can she help aspiring authors/writers?

    Thanks again Damyanti for sharing this. Much appreciated.

    /Ron/

    • Hello, Ron! I wish there really were more hours in a day to do all the things one can possibly do. My day consists of reviewing contracts, whether they be between Jacaranda and a new author, between our authors and their would-be publishers, pitching work to publishers, reading manuscripts, talking to colleagues via Skype or email. In between that I have family, friends and writing. When it’s not the summer break, I teach. So it’s always a full day for me. Writing I constantly think about. Someone told me to write a paragraph every day. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but I think that strategy might work. I find myself thinking about a story then writing something that might be related to building that story, such as thinking about the character, or plotting the narrative, the first sentence, an event.

      Now I’m wondering if your question meant, do I sell my own stuff as an agent? The answer is no. I suppose it’s like a doctor unable to operate on next of kin, you would botch it up. I can’t. I would need someone else to tell me the stuff I’m doing is worth selling, that I’m on the right track, that it’s any good. I want feedback, crave it–the way a writer needs a reader. :)

      • Hi Andrea, thank you for your reply. Wow!!, you have yourself quite heavy and hectic schedules. Your time must be spread very thin, and still (or yet), you are always and persistently thinking about writing. I guess that’s where and how your passion for writing becomes handy.

        I like your analogy of doctor-next of kin (agent-story). It afforded clarity. Thank you.
        Now that you are much occupied with Jacaranda (plus family and friends and colleagues and answering crazy questions from people like me :) ), are you still with NBDB?
        When does working relationship between a literary agent and an author begin? (after the author submitted his /her work? or earlier than that? or anywhere in between)?

        /Ron/

  5. Very good advice. I want to thank you for liking three of my post from published books on writingiam.wordpress.com. As you probably noticed when reading them they are from 2 different publishers. Thanks again and Aloha – pjs.

  6. Thanks for bringing guests and topics for discussion to your posts. Always interesting and helpful. Love the cover of “For Love and Kisses,” btw. Makes me want to pick it up and read it.

    • Copyright is not bought. It comes with a natural person’s act of creating a work. (Yes, there is an “unnatural person”–such as corporations. Your own creation is your property

  7. That is a dramatic blurb by Spillman. I look forward to reading Andrea Pasion-Flores sometime.

    Hemingway has famously said, ‘The first draft of anything is shit.’ That may not necessarily be true for everything you write. But I do have this urge of editing something every time I reread a piece.

    • I love being an agent because it allows me to read all sorts of things from people everywhere! I also get to meet a lot of people who have the same passion for books and reading as I do.

      I don’t think I’m influenced by a person’s activity in social networks. I am greatly impressed (or unimpressed) with the writing though. I think what we all have to understand is people we want to help us publish our stuff have read so many things out there, so it gets more difficult to get the attention of agents and publishers. So it’s an unending search for stories and the re-learning of ways to tell stories (where craft comes in).

  8. What a wonderful interview with thoughtful questions and beautiful answers. I suppose my biggest question for Andrea is this:

    What are the biggest downfalls to self-publishing that a literary agent can counter-act?

    Also, thank you for the tip toward Maggot Moon–I’ll be sure to check it out!

    • I am not quite sure if this observation is correct. I am thoroughly intrigued by it actually so here goes: there is no difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, there’s just good publishing and bad publishing. Whenever you put something out there, you want to match the writer/the written work with the right reader. So look at what you’re writing, where is your audience for it? How will you get the right reader for your stuff? Would you get it through self-publishing or through traditional channels?

      That said, if you feel you want to get published traditionally, our experience is, it gets difficult to sell something you’ve already published–and distributed–online. That removes a substantial part of the market for a publisher who is looking to invest in the author. This might be putting it simply, but see the publisher as an investor who puts his money in an author, why would a publisher want to invest on his competition? The publisher invests on editing the work, designing the package, marketing the product, and making it available through distribution channels, then someone else benefits from all that because it’s distributed or made available online. If the writer has done this already and wishes to show me something already published online, my first instinct is to say, “Can I see new work?” :)

      The flip side to that is you, the author/publisher, generated so much interest online that people want to buy it as an object (a book in print). So you have publishers running after you for it. There’s a story like that happening everywhere. Ultimately, as with most consumer products (which books are–aren’t they, though so much more?), it’s the market that determines whether you will be the next online sensation. So if you’re self-publishing it, digitally especially, it would be great if you have gazillion followers. :)

  9. Great post! I adore Garcia-Marquez, Diaz and Rushdie – so I will have to try some of the other writers Ms. Pasion-Flores recommends. I think my TBR list is about to get much longer.

  10. Great interview. The revision part is so true. As writers we often are unaware of how our words are being interpreted by the readers. We are so close to the story, we know what we mean, even if it isn’t abundantly clear.

  11. I’m still learning how to write, but I can see some fantastic pointers in this blog to help me in the present and future. Thank you for sharing this.

  12. This got me thinking. Why do you think there is so much American and European literature in the international marketplace, but so little Asian literature available in American and Europe? Beyond the obvious cultural differences, of course.

    • Oh there’s so many possible answers to this question! How about I try out one answer: our mastery of the English language and our familiarity with Western culture and the West’s unfamiliarity with ours.

  13. I’m fascinated by this article, but Pasion-Flores is right: Asian literature is almost non-existent in the international market. I confess I’ve never heart most of the authors she mentioned nor read any of their works.

  14. I love posts on these, introducing authors and individuals from the literary world that I do not know. Love the book cover–definitely something that would grab my interest :)

  15. I know everyone thinks the book they have written is the best. But, that said, how does anyone, who actually thinks they have a great book, get anyone such as yourself to actually read it. I’ve sent copies of my book out to producers and directors etc and they come back unopened. Without having connections how does any normal person who may have written a great novel get noticed?

    • You have to realize that people you want to get your work read have read so much, are reading a lot, and are looking for something that will make them sit up. This means the elements of a good story must be present in your work and, more importantly, it must be written in language that sings. :)

      • Send it to the the entity that matches what your writing. Look at the submission guidelines: usually a short bio, synopsis, chapter-by-chapter description, compelling first three chapters or irresistible first 50 pages!

  16. Great post. I’ve been revising my book and have made half a dozen drafts of my query letter but seem to be frozen. Instead of a question for Ms. Pasion-Flores, I’d like to have a conversation with her, or another agent, on how to get agents to read my manuscript.

  17. Hi, this is a really great post. I have a question for Andrea. Has being an agent helped you improve your own writing? If so, how? I liked how she mentioned that Asian literature is often unnoticed or undderated. I think that’s very true in today’s literary scene that Asian lit is often pigeonholed as “ethnic” writing and not given the attention it deserves.

    • Yes, it has. It has made me very conscious of what it’s like to be a reader. It makes me aware of what works and what doesn’t because I would quickly lose interest if I were the reader of the particular work I’m reviewing.

  18. My question is: As an agent, what is your reaction to self published works and independent publishers actively saying “No agents”? What are the benefits of working with an agent, in your opinion? Thank you.

    • It’s really the writer or the independent publishers’ call to prefer to have an agent or not. I think, for both sides, an agent makes sure there is a win-win situation for both writer and publisher. Publishers who prefer to work with agents like it that the work has been previously vetted, that there is a something worth looking at in the work because an agent took the time to vet it. So it would less likely to be a raw first draft. When an agent sends a work to a publisher, the agent is actually staking his or her reputation on the work–which means she believes in the work enough to push it. I think publishers want to see that too, that there are people who are rooting for the work other than just the writer himself.

      There are publishers who won’t want to work with agents, they want to deal directly with the writers. I understand that perfectly. Sometimes, the agent can be annoying. She’s always negotiating on behalf of the writer: revising provisions in contracts, asking for advances, deadlines to be moved, sometimes for marketing strategies, for statements of account. The writer probably won’t do that for herself. ;)

      • Thank you so much for replying to my questions. Your answer was thought provoking and informative and I appreciate the time you took to answer. :)

    • 1. Turning unfinished work for consideration; 2. Grammatical/typographical errors; 3. Awful query letters (yes, that’s how you’re first evaluated!); 4. Inability to take criticisms/suggestions. When you get a reply with reasons for its rejection, be grateful. Think whether the suggestions will help you improve your work. If you don’t acknowledge the reply but ignore it, you probably won’t get feedback for your next query; 5. Thinking that you’re the greatest thing that has happened to writing/publishing so you think yours is the only opinion that counts. This tells people you might not take to editing when all people want to do when they make suggestions is help you make what you’ve written even better.

  19. This is a great post and I love her answers! I think the question my partner (father) and I would like answered in the future is something along the lines of : “how likely are you to search through for an indie author’s work in a certain genre, as opposed to reading the perhaps more mainstream and certainly better publicized books of the company published authors?”
    To go along with that, “as an agent, would you suggest an indie author become agented and go for a deal or just keep trucking along in the self publishing world?”

    I know I have a lot to learn, but posts like this help me know the next step and my books will only get better from here! Thanks!

    • See, though I “search for stories” I am also sent a lot of stuff, which means I have to read through a slush pile that’s thankfully digital or I’d live in a fire trap. So if you feel you have something good (after re-writing it many times), I’d send it out to contests, magazines, anthologies. In other words, I’d build a track record. Show people that you’ve been validated by others. I don’t have much time to spare, so I’d read stuff that other people have “marked” as good, which also means I would search for stories from sources I know I can rely on, people I know to have written good work previously, perhaps with a publishing record, a contest winner somewhere, a fellow of a writing workshop, etc. If you’re doing commercial fiction, I’d look at sales, too. That said, I am now considering a novel sent to me through the slush pile. It’s fantastic plot-driven, commercial fiction. Test for commercial viability: I can’t put it down.

      • Thank you very much for taking the time to reply! I haven’t ever been given any major ‘bad’ critique of this particular work, which started as a contest entry, but I am planning on a full revamp of the cover art, back cover, etc. soon. I will definitely be keeping your advice in mind as I go back through the story. Being completely self done through Createspace I have no idea about the sales aspect so I will be researching that some more now as well…and actually advertising might help at some point.

        Thank you again!

      • I’d like to add to my answer to assure you that Jacaranda agents read as variedly as we can because of the variety of publishers out there who are looking for all sorts of stuff. We read realism, fantasy, sci-fi, commercial, children’s lit–from picture books, middle grade, YA, sports, memoirs, general nonfic. We have a graphic novelist in our list! We like finding new talent too, which means debut writers are interesting, too. The queue is very long though. So you must be patient.

  20. Bloody good post ! – you have NO IDEA how I have longed to be able to address a literary agent with a couple of questions that are really pertinent to me as an author.
    This one reads like an actual human being, which is fairly weird: Downunder they’re just like actors’ agents – unattainable …

I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

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