Friday, May 20, 2011

Firsts Fridays with Agent Gone Writer, Lora Rivera!!

I am more than tickled pink to introduce this week's 'Firsts Fridays' interview!

Most may know Lora Rivera as a literary agent, but staying true to her heart, she has decided to focus solely on her writing.  I think her insider experience in the writing biz as well as her writing skillz can be especially beneficial to us, so without further ado... 

Give it up for Lora Rivera!

I hold an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Arizona, Tucson, where I live with my husband, who is active Air Force working with the 55th ECG at Davis-Monthan AFB.

After three years working for the Claire Gerus Literary
Agency, first as assistant and then as fiction associate (2 years), and finally as literary agent (6 months), I've decided my tastes lie on the writer's side of the desk. I'm ever-grateful for the wonderful experience I gained working with Claire Gerus and for the fantastic writers I met. I'm a better writer, editor, and even human being for my time with CGLA.

DB: Since you have recently decided to focus on your writing.  Would you mind telling us why, and what you are working on?

LR: Sure, Deana! And before I get started, thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your blog! I’m excited to be so well-received among fellow aspiring writers, even though I’m stepping aside from agenting. The reason? As an agent, my greatest passion lay in finding a manuscript that was still a bit rough around the edges. I loved getting my hands dirty, “massaging” each scene until the book was ready for an editor’s desk. After a while, I realized the job was actually becoming more of burden than a joy. I wanted the thrill of working with characters—my own and others’—without the constant pressure one encounters as an agent. In the end, I found being an agent just wasn’t a fit. I know this sounds selfish, but at some point, if you’re going to be a writer, you have to get a little selfish with your time and creativity. It wouldn’t have been fair to my authors or to myself had I stayed.
I’m currently a few chapters into my middle grade sci-fi WIP (straddling the pantser/plotter divide). I’m also rewriting my contemporary YA and working on adult literary short stories whenever they crop up in my creative stream.

DB: Thank you too Lora!  It sounds like you're staying plenty busy!  And I must say I love that you are being true to yourself, that couldn't have been an easy decision.

Being a writer as well as an agent, what are your thoughts on self publishing as opposed to traditional, and what route are you trying for now that you are focusing on your writing?
LR: Good question. I think there’s definitely a place for self-publishing. You might’ve heard in reference to the sheer volume of literature being published this decade: “There’s no better time than now to be a writer.” This is very true, and we definitely have options. Ultimately, I feel that the real highlights of self-publishing (I’m discussing e-publishing, here) are immediacy and control. You’ll have your book out there right away—no two-year wait time, no fears the company will pull your project. It’s cheap and fast; and if you’re savvy with self-promotion or choose to hire PR help, you can be quite successful going this route. And honestly, going with traditional publishing (TP), you’ll still need to develop platform via social media, word-of-mouth, niche audiences, etc.

Personally, I’m still in favor of traditional for a few reasons. First, I believe the traditional publishers have stronger editor support. I want my book to be in top-notch condition before it’s available to a wide readership, not only because I want to be proud of it, but also because I feel readers need and deserve this kind of excellence. And only a sharp editorial eye can bring this about. Second, at this time, TP does offer a legitimacy self-publishing doesn’t—thinking long term, here. As an agent, unless a book sold like candy at a carnival, I wouldn’t consider a self-pubbed book as pubbed. Plain as that. And from what I hear, most agents are still of this mind. Third, I suppose I’m just still a tad old-fashioned.
DB: Wow!  I love that answer!

You hear about those pesky agents who you should stay away from.  What are the red flags you should look for to steer clear of them?
Reading fees, editing conflicts of interest. (Though I did offer editing services as an agent, if you ever contacted me you know I sent you a huge preamble about my editing work not being connected with the agency, which showed up in the contract, too.) If an agent is interested in repping your work, you shouldn’t have to pay them for critiques. Also, be wary of referrals to freelance editors. Referral to an in-house editor? Run.

If you’re lucky enough to land an agent, make sure he or she is a good fit for your needs and that your personalities mesh. Don’t be afraid to turn someone down if there’s a lack of communication after several attempts or any appearance of unprofessional behavior. And honestly, be concerned if an agent isn’t making sales. PublishersMarketplace.com is good but not perfect at keeping track of these.
DB: Those tips are so important to know for us greenies out there:)

I am a young adult writer as are many of my readers.  Is this a saturated market?  Would you say it is harder than others to break into?
LR: If you’re writing a vampire paranormal romance, then yes, you’ll find the YA market is saturated. But otherwise, no, it’s not harder to break into. It may be a bit more trendy, so you’ll have to be careful you don’t fall into the trap many of us (myself included) have blundered into. Number one writing advice: “Read, read, read,” right? Well, then we turn around and write what we read and find we’re not only producing clichéd Been-There-Done-That books, we’re also two years behind the real-time industry. Agents moved on from our trendy book two years ago.
But the truth is readers of all ages are drooling for YA and thus so are agents, editors, and publishers. It’s always hard to write great fiction. But great books will get you a foothold into what I’d call a hot market.

DB: Did you hear that YA writers?  Don't fall into the trap!

If an agent rejects an ms, should the writer mark them off the list never to return?  What is the protocol for that?

LR: Not at all. How can you know your next book might not blow them away? And especially if they requested a partial or full, they’re worth trying again. Agents DO want to say yes. Oh, they really do.

Now, revisions…. Some agents won’t consider these, and you’ll have to research to find out. In general, only re-query the same book if you’ve made MASSIVE (yes, bold, underlined, caps, and italicized) rewrites.
DB: Good to know:)

What makes and breaks a query letter in your opinion?
LR: Lame or overly-dramatic voice, clichéd plotlines, self-importance (my book is AWESOME), self-deprecation (I know you’ll probably hate this, but…), not getting my name right, infodump, character soup… Um. Right. Those all become rejections. A short-and-sweet, showing-not-telling, voice-accurate and professional query that follows guidelines with relevant bio info will catch my attention.

DB: Is there any parting advice you can give those trying to snag an agent?
LR: Do your homework on the agents you’re querying, and play it safe in your query (unless your homework tells you otherwise *wink*). Always be professional and (yes) upbeat, especially on social networks. FIND A CRITIQUE GROUP. Writing is not a solitary sport J

DB: Okay newbies, you have your assignements.

And just for a little fun…
Can you tell the world something we just have to know about you?

LR: Ooo…. Can I play the “One of these isn’t true” game? If so:
DB: Why, absolutely! 

1.       I can sing these entire Broadway musicals by heart: Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
     2.       I once asked a group of mothers-to-be whether babies had skeletons.
     3.       I sometimes read books aloud and in British accents.

DB: Hmm, I'm going with number 2 NOT being real.  If it is, then...hats off to Lora right!?!  What does everyone else think?

Lora, thanks so much for doing this interview! If I had a cool girl badge I'd give it to you:)
If you agree with me then look Lora up for yourself.  You can find her on Twitter here and on her website here.

Stay tuned next week for the latest deets on the big BLOGORAMA I am hosting in July.  I can give you a hint...Lora is going to be doing something really cool for us during the festivities!

And finally we have winners for Margot Finke's book giveaway!  Go here to find out who they are.

18 comments:

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Wonderful interview, Deana. Great questions, great answers! Happy Friday!

Matthew MacNish said...

Thanks for following my blog, Deana, I stopped by to return the favor!

Deana said...

Cynthia, thanks and happy Friday to you too!

Matt, thanks for stopping by:)

Tanya Reimer said...

Oh great interiew! Can't wait to read your work Claira!!! Good for you.

Anita said...

Fun interview...cool that she spent so much time with us, answering the questions!

Deana said...

Tanya, thanks, I thought she did a great job too...but I do think you meant to call her Lora:) No biggie, she would look like a nice Claira too:)

Anita, no kidding! She is pretty much top notch:)

Fresh Garden said...

The best interview ever!

Anita said...

Excellent interview, Deana and Lora both! ;) So insightful. I mean, how often do you get to meet an agent w/a writer's brain? Hee.

Congrats on your switch to writing full time, Lora. And I so agree with this: "sometimes a writer has to get selfish w/their time." I've recently had to do that myself, and had the amazing support of my blogger pals to back me up. Writers rock!

Also, my guess, I'm thinking #1 is the not true. But if it IS true, you're one up on me! I can only do it w/the Phantom musical. ;)

Great post, and great blog, Deana. And thanks for stopping by mine, too.

Deana said...

Fresh Garden...Yup, that's right:)

Anita, I agree on all points...we do have to get selfish or nothing will ever get done and I think it is #1 too. Thanks for stopping by my blog too:)

Lora said...

Thanks you all for the read and well wishes on my writing!

And thanks, Deana, for some really great interview questions. You're running a fun and informative blog here, and I'll be sure to keep stopping by.

@Anita: I can sing Phantom but only the major Les Mis songs. :) And #2. Yeah, that was a tiny bit mortifying. I was zoned out thinking about writing and about how whenever you see a terrible "ditch full of skeletons" scene (in movies) there are never baby skeletons... Guess it would be too much for most readers/viewers. So I piped up randomly in mid-conversation among a bunch of mommies-to-be: "Guys, do babies even have skeletons?" Eek.

Leslie Rose said...

Loved the interview. Kudos to Lora for following her passion for writing.

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Deana..its nice to meet you. Thanks for this wonderful interview with Lora. I always like to read an agent's perspective on traditional versus self publishing.

Btw...I feel bad about revealing the last Harry Potter details about Snape. I kinda spoiled it for you.

Deana said...

Lora, you are very welcome! I'm glad we could do it!
Yay, I picked right! That is hilarious about the baby question...sounds like writing really is your calling if you get that wrapped up in the story:)

Leslie, thanks for stopping by and enjoying:)

Rachna, I agree and no biggie whatsoever about the Harry Potter outcome...I had a feeling:)

Theresa Milstein said...

Excellent interview. I like hearing from an agent-turned-writer. Writing definitely isn't a solitary pursuit. And I'm still trying to break in the traditional way!

Deana said...

Me too Theresa!

Donna M. McDine said...

Terrific interview. I enjoyed the insights. Thank you for sharing!

Regards,
Donna
Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
The Golden Pathway Story book Blog

Demika Caldwell said...

Great interview and information provided! Thank you!

Deana said...

You're welcome Donna and Demika!