There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes here at Sub It Club lately. Our blog is getting bigger and better. Today we are very excited to be adding our very first agent blogger — Sean McCarthy!
Sean McCarthy Literary Agency specializes in children’s books of all age ranges, from picture books to young adult novels. Sean represents both writers and illustrators and is a very hands on agent who gives amazing advice. I know, because I am lucky enough to be one of his clients. I’m thrilled that Sean is going to take the time to share some of his wisdom with all of you here at Sub It Club! Today, Sean is here to answer a few questions so we can all get to know him.
Hi Sean! Please tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Outside of my life as an agent, I love to bicycle, yell at my girlfriend’s pet rabbits (mainly to stay out of the kitchen), and complain bitterly about the Mets’ starting rotation. I work out of my home office in Astoria, New York, and have lived in Queens for nearly 10 years. Prior to my career in publishing, I worked as a bookkeeper and music journalist (way back when alt-weeklies were still a thing).
Why did you decide to become an agent?
I took a rather circuitous route to becoming an agent. I knew that I wanted to work in publishing (because I liked reading books and drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and that’s what I assumed publishing people did), but I really had no idea what that actually meant. Fortunately, despite my ignorance, I was hired as an editorial intern at Overlook Press, and that led me to working at Sheldon Fogelman Agency as an agent assistant when my internship ended. When I applied to work in Shelly’s office, I had no idea what a literary agent did (I looked up “Literary Agent” on Wikipedia, and at that time, the only information was “a literary agent is an agent that works on literary properties,” which was basically useless), but he still hired me. Once there, I was able to learn a lot more about publishing and agenting, and I quickly fell in love with the profession.
You get to see submissions from both sides of the desk. How do you feel about the submission process?
For me, going on submission is mainly an exciting time. I know that it takes forever (and I’m particularly slow in responding to submissions sent to me), but it’s the only way to gauge how the trade market is seeing your work. Making a connection (either as an agent offering representation, or negotiating with an editor for a book deal) is one of the best parts of my job, and it’s thrilling every single time.
What are your thoughts on how the publishing industry works as a whole?
As a whole, publishing works very, very slowly, and that’s both good and bad. For example, the way that publishers and booksellers buy and sell books hasn’t changed all that much since the 1920s, and it can be hard to fight against the traditional way of doing things (when that’s the way things have always been done). With that being said, this is one of the most exciting times to be involved in publishing (and children’s publishing in particular) – there’s more ways than ever to get your work out to readers, more ways to connect with readers, and editors and publishers are taking more chances on challenging books that they might not have before.
What can writers and illustrators do to give themselves the best chance at obtaining representation?
It’s going to sound too simple, but I think authors and illustrators give themselves the best chance at obtaining representation when they put their best work forward. I’d much rather see a super polished, super strong manuscript or sample illustration, as opposed to a few good ideas that aren’t quite fully developed. I also love it when authors and illustrators tell me specifically why they think I might be a good match for their work (though I know that does take more time to do), and where they think their work fits in the trade market. I always appreciate it when authors and illustrators approach publishing as seriously and professionally as I do, and taking those few extra steps goes a long way with me.
Stay tuned for Sean’s first post coming this Thursday! Learn more about Sean on his agency website: mccarthtylit.com. You can also find Sean McCarthy Literary Agency on Facebook and you can follow Sean on Twitter @mccarthylit where he tweets client news and illustrations as well as cute bunny pics.