Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success. ~Dale Carnegie
How many times have you heard someone say, “You should write a book”? Books are a great launch pad for your other efforts. But having knowledge and writing a book about it can be two very different things. And most people need an expert to guide them through the process – everything from writing/ghost writing and editing; to making decisions about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, distribution and more. That’s why a solid literary agent is invaluable.
To sort it all out, I asked my friend, Nena Medonia, a Senior Literary Agent at Dupree Miller, the number one literary agency based on national and international sales. Nena very generously spent some time with me explaining the publishing process and what a great literary agent has to offer. Here’s some of our conversation:
Tell us about your job and how you work with authors.
We manage the literary and publishing process from start to finish; serve as the go-between for the author and publisher; and take a 360 look at what the book can produce. Putting it all together to take your book from idea to finished book is exhilarating, but the real fun starts when the book is published and becomes the platform for everything else.
Authors come to us, mostly by referral, and some times we seek out a potential story. I recently spent two weeks on location seeking out a group of people who made headlines that captured the world’s attention. I love the chase!
So many people are opting to self-publish these days – what do you think of that trend? Is it still worth pitching traditional publishers?
Self-publishing is evolving as a form of reputable publishing, and you can have more control of the process in that space. But it’s a lot more work than you think it will be, and there is still a lot of cache in saying your book is with a major publishing house. Distribution can be a challenge for self-published authors. Sometimes the best thing to do is self-publish first, and then flip it to a top publisher for the second edition or the next book. We work with all kinds of publishers and have great contacts in the self-publishing world and independent bookstores as well as with the top traditional publishers. We work with all of them, but I still believe traditional publishing is best way to go.
One of the areas your agency specializes in is self-help. What are the hot topics in that space right now? Any formerly hot topics for which there is no longer an appetite?
The self-help space has really grown and developed into way more than just helping yourself. Now it’s more about personal development and thought provoking topics.
Tough topics are really selling well right now, as are women’s voices. I am working with an author who was brutally raped. Her attackers were caught because one of them had stolen her cell phone. When he was arrested for selling drugs, the cops took his (really her) cell phone, and tied it to his victim. He ratted on the other two and got 25 years, the other two perpetrators got life. What she believed saved her is simple woman’s shoe. Just before the attackers threw her of their car naked, she noticed the shoe, and couldn’t stop wondering about who it belonged to, and she wanted to help that woman. She has since started a foundation to help women manage the physical aspects of surviving rape. And she has been in contact with the attacker who stole the phone. It’s a much bigger message than just self-help.
Our Christian books always do well. I am working on one with a former ambassador who is Egyptian. She’s talking about how to create religious peace in Egypt.
What are the most important things to know for authors approaching you for representation?
Don’t get stuck in what you think the book is going to be. Listen to your audience. Test your idea with your target market, followers and community first. See if they are really leaning in to your message and get their feedback. Some people wonder who their audience is. If you have social media followers or do a lot of public speaking engagements, you have an audience.
Many of us just know we have a book in us. How can authors-to-be tell when the time is right to tell their story, and what are the essential ingredients?
Of course, content is key, but so are authenticity, unique writing, and an active platform. But timing and patience are critical.
I’m working with Alison Levine, who was team captain of the first American women’s Everest expedition, and went on to become one of the few climbers to complete the Adventure Grand Slam — climbing the 7 Summits and skiing to both Poles. Using knowledge gained from her high-risk adventures around the world, Alison founded Daredevil Strategies, a consulting firm where she teaches leaders how to evaluate risk and succeed in the most challenging environments. Allison even teaches leadership development at West Point!
Today Alison is one of the most sought after speakers for Kepler Speakers Bureau. She always knew she had a book in her, but her international speaking engagements kept her very busy. Still, she kept the book at the forefront of her mind, and never stopped speaking or gaining experience and insight. She knew that the content would continue to develop and if she kept her head down, the timing would become clear. Ten years after the idea was sparked, Alison got down to writing. Her first book, On the Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership will be published in January 2014, and it was well worth the time and patience it took to bring her idea to fruition.
What makes Dupree Miller so special?
We help emerging thought leaders spread their message. We work with integrity and gusto, and the bonus is that we have killer negotiation skills! We understand timing. You may have an incredible story and feel rushed to get it out, but we can help you know when you’re really ready to tell your story.
To learn more, be sure to follow Dupree Miller on Twitter.
Nena Medonia is a powerhouse in the publishing world. I am grateful for her time and honored to call her a friend.