Monday, November 19, 2012

Notes From Literary Agent, Laura Bradford's Workshop

November: Literary Agent Laura Bradford  

I had the opportunity to attend the Las Vegas RWA (Romance Writers of America) workshop where Laura Bradford spoke candidly about what agents and editors are looking for. I was really impressed with Laura's easy-going style and  her willingness to answer all questions. Here are some of my notes:

Editors are looking for stuff that will sell (I'll get to what's hot and what's not later):

  • They want a fresh voice that leaps off the page--The same enough, but different enough...but not too different (this is a very fine line).
  • They want authors with long, robust careers.
  • Due to the economy, editors are presently risk averse.
  • Editors must comply with publisher mandates.
For a Pitch, she recommends:
  • Give the agent/editor what they want - work to BE what they're looking for.
  • Be aware of how you're pitching (what you sound like)...Though it is OK to be nervous.
  • Do some general research about the market, the editor and/or the agent. You can google their names and find their websites and interviews. Follow them on twitter. Sometimes editors will make a comment about something they'd like to see on Twitter.
  • Another good place to get information is writer blogs and Publisher's Marketplace (you can get the free Publisher's Lunch to avoid the $20 per month membership). Take note of deal postings--these will show you what agents are selling and what editors are buying.
Avoid themes/settings that "seem" like they would do well, but are too much of a risk in this economy. Note, editors may like something they can't buy:
  • Beta heroes
  • Italian set historical romances (she recommends sticking with the United Kingdom).
  • Romantic comedy
What's hot and what's not in Romance?
  • Contemporary romance is coming back.
  • Historical romance is doing well
  • Erotic romance is having a resurgence thanks to 50 Shades, and readers are finding skilled writing.
  • Romantic suspense is out
  • Women's fiction is saturated
  • Paranormal Romance is in glut
  • New Adult is coming back.
One thing that she noted with romance is that romance readers read a lot, and they are looking for books in the $5-$9.00 range. Romance readers are not going to buy a book for $15 to $18 because it eats up too much of their book budget.

What did Laura say about queries?
  • Firstly, she receives 800-1000 queries per month, so she needs you to get to the meat of the story as quickly as possible.
  • It needs to be about the material.
  • Be brief about yourself, and DO NOT talk about your husband and kids or family.
  • Brevity and pithiness & "sound bite quality" are important.
  • Red flags are "it took me 3 years to write this MS," or an outlying word count (either + or -)
  • She asks for the first chapter to accompany queries, and the most important part is your writing.
  • If you want to know what she represents, look at the AGENCY BOOKSHELF tab on her web site:
  • One good piece of advice she had: "Go with the idea that someone else has sent the agent a query for the same thing. You have to make yours stand out."
  • Always check out the submission guidelines on an agent's website because they change. Query Tracker or any other agent listing could be out of date.
There were a lot of questions about royalties. She said that romance is not the highest paying in royalties ($6-$8000 is good), but it's not unusual for a book to make $40,000 +.  She mentioned that Brenda Hiatt's web site has a section called SHOW ME THE MONEY where Brenda has collated statistics from anonymous authors: - An interesting fact for me is that New York publishers have migrated to a 25% of net for e-books. She said that's pretty standard.

All in all, I give an A+ to Laura Bradford for taking a Saturday and flying to Las Vegas to speak to a relatively small group. She just climbed up the ladder of awesomeness! 

Write on friends!


  1. Sounds like it was an awesome conference!

  2. Great info for any writer! It's a competitive market out there :)

  3. It was awesome!! I drove down from St. George (2 hr drive), and back late afternoon. I like meeting with a small group. I wish I were a little closer to Las Vegas--I'd join their RWA group.

  4. Thanks for sharing your blessings.

  5. Great advice. Did she happen to mention why NY was taking so long?

  6. Hi Ella - Laura didn't specifically say that NY was taking any longer time than usual, but she did mention that she often has to follow up 2-3 times before she gets a response. Some manuscripts get a speedy reply, but others seem to go through a lengthy process.

  7. Very interesting, Amy. Some of her advice is applicable in a broader context as well. Have a good week

  8. Sounds like it was a great conference! Thanks for sharing the tips. Bookmarking for future reference.

  9. Okay, I won't talk about my husband...

  10. That's a relief, James. Whew, I was getting worried there for a moment ;-)

  11. Very interesting, Amy. Thanks for sharing. But I'm strictly e-book. I have no desire to jump into the print wringer.