Part Two of my Skype interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh. If you missed part, one follow the link and get caught up on Mark’s views on queries.
Part Two of my interview with Literary Agent Mark McVeigh focuses on the market.
Me: “I’ve written a couple folktales and was wondering how marketable they are.”
Mark: “I’m assuming you’re referring to folktales in picture book format. Picture books, in general, are a hard sell right now, and folktales are not as sellable as they were in the 90’s. You might query a small house. Schools still buy folktales, but the major houses aren’t selling to school like they were fifteen years ago. If the current administration pumps money into schools and libraries as they are promising, like they did in the 60’s under Lyndon Johnson, it would affect the publishing industry. But right now the consumers are kids and they don’t have as much disposable income as they did five years ago.”
Me: “What do you think about EBooks?”
Mark: “EBooks are going to revolutionize the industry, and I do think do for publishing what ITunes did for the music industry. Anyone interested in being a writer needs to follow the digital revolution closely.”
Me: “Do agents look at small market publishers?”
Mark: “It depends on the material. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.”
Me: “Do agents try to maintain contacts with editors at all houses or do they cultivate relationships at specific houses?”
Mark: “A smart agent tries to get to know every major publishing house. I’ve worked many publishing houses. I’ve been in the business for over 10 years, and I’ve lived in New York for almost twenty. You get to know people. New York is a big city that works like a small town and publishing is like a gated community in that small town. It’s not so hard to get to know people.”
Me: “As a former teacher and Golden Books editor, do you gravitate to picture books or pull back from them because of the current market?”
Mark: “I’m very selective about picture books. There will be resurgence, but right now I have to be selective when bringing picture book writers on board.”
Me: (All doom and gloom) “So I’ve written a historical fiction picture book, should I just hang it up?”
Mark: “No, not at all. Just do your homework. First, make sure the topic hasn’t been covered too extensively. For example, MARTIN’S BIG WORDS is a gorgeous picture book and in many ways the go-to book when classrooms are studying Martin Luther King, Jr. The house that published MARTIN’S BIG WORDS probably wouldn’t publish another Martin Luther King, Jr. book because it would detract from the sales of this gorgeous book that continues to do well. You have to give publishers something new and of interest.”
Me: (Big smile) “If God or Heaven are mentioned in a picture book, does that make it only marketable in the Christian market?”
Mark: “It depends on the taste and interest of the editor and much those topics are discussed. There are so many picture books of prayers for children that are perfectly marketable.”
Me: (Huge smile! I had a great vidoe chat with Mark. I truly learned a lot about queries and about the current market.)
I truly appreciated the opportunity to talk with Mark. Often, as writers we get the sense that agents are sitting on pedestals looking down on us. My Skype chat with Mark helped me see that agents are people too. They are not just their jobs…Just like we are not just writers. What we do plays a part in who we are, but hopefully we are more than just what we put on paper. If you missed out on Mark’s Fifteen Minutes Contest , he’ll be having another one during the first week in April, so make sure you keep an eye on his blog.