June 7, 2014

Romance Festival Live! Agent Q&A With Carole Blake

by Kiersten Hallie Krum Lady Smut is here to guide you through Romance Festival ’14 the first online romance festival. Drop by Lady Smut every hour to find HarperImpulse author Q&As as well as:

  • What just happened at the romance festival & what we thought about it
  • What’s coming next
  • Where you can find it online


  • 6 PM  UK/1PM EST U.S.—Tips on working with a literary agent Twitter Q&A with Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann. Mention @caroleagent and use #Romance14 to ask your questions.

Literary agent Carole Blake handled a swift-paced Q&A with tasty tips on working with an agent from how to query to how to manage your relationship. And it is a relationship, she says. In fact, she has several clients whom she has represented longer than most marriages. It’s all about teamwork, which is the essential ingredient of the author/agent relationship. Agents, Ms. Blake says, don’t only sell an author’s work to a publisher. They also give long-term career advice on manuscripts, genres, finance, tactics, promotion, pretty much anything their authors need. Writers must know what they want out of their career so they can be sure they’re with the right agent—that they have the best fit. Agents can almost always steer an author well and manage any problems they may have with their editor or publisher or the publicity department. “Publishing is a communication business. Good communication between author and client is absolutely vital…author-agent-editor-reader [is a] vital foursome. Forget any part: disaster.” Agents are the authors’ advocates. A successful agent/author relationship is one that is like a friendship, where “personalities must mesh.

People who like each other. Being able to laugh. A good author/agent relationship can last for decades. Publishing is a communication business. Good communication between author and client is absolutely vital…author-agent-editor-reader [is a] vital foursome. Forget any part: disaster.

Ms. Blake recommends writers approach an agent when a full manuscript is completed and preferably when they know what they’re going to write next. One of the most common mistakes she sees is writers who don’t do enough research before submitting. “So much information is on our website, as with all agencies. No excuse.” Beware of high-traffic submission times too, like just before the Christmas holidays or the height of the summer holiday season. Apparently, getting a break from everyday life spurs the creative muse.

In addition to writing well, Ms. Blake believes that, in order to succeed in today’s publishing climate, writers must have a professional outlook, be good at multi-tasking, and remain calm in the face of problems. A manuscript goes through as much editing as she and the writer think it needs to get it submission ready. Sometimes this means many drafts. Agents say they want original stories, yet it feels as though we keep seeing the same things on the shelves. “It’s about the voice,” Ms. Blake says. “The way they tell the story and manage the characters.” However she advises, as have many other agents I’ve heard speak, that writers should not chase trends. “No point following trends. By the time they’re obvious, it’s two years after that manuscript was written. Chasing trends is reactionary. Prefer my clients to be original—start trends!”

When it comes to submissions, Ms. Blake believes the first chapter is the most important, “because I know so many authors hate writing synopses.” True ‘dat! She’s also looking for a calm, sensible letter without too many grand claims for the manuscript. She advises writers to make sure they have a clear-cut method of release in the contract before signing with an agent. That is a must. Also, “Agents must never charge an author for anything—money always flows from the agent to the author!” An important reminder as many “slush” agents are identifiable by their insistence for the author to pay initial costs. She works with several clients to make their back list available as e-books. Her recommendation is that authors only self-publish after careful thought and consideration as to how the can and should handle the marketing. After good writing, this is the most important component to self-publishing success, which I think is a key point as the self-published true success stories I’ve been privileged to hear turn on the marketing investment made by the author. “There are so many more routes to market,” Ms. Blake says. For instance it’s, “Easier to reach readers through social media. Exciting! But equally scary too. So much is demanded now in addition to…er…writing.”

Finally, Ms. Blake concluded with these final words of advice:

“Don’t give up. Polish your writing skills while submitting. Get a writing buddy who will critique honestly. Talk to authors who have agents. Go to author events. Read dedications. Research agency websites. Edit. Re-edit. Read it aloud. Put manuscript away for some weeks – edit again. Waiting time is work time.”

Want to know more about Romance Festival and get your own schedule of events? You can register for free HERE.  Or stick with LadySmut today and tomorrow to find out what’s going on.

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