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Special Guest: Literary Agent Eric Ruben

I’m trying to not to double-post… but I couldn’t hold this one back…

As you all know, after umming and ahhing over whether to pursue a traditional publishing deal or go it alone, I finally settled on a compromise: I signed with a small press. For me, it gave me the best of both worlds: a little hand-holding, but not quite as big and scary as the full publishing world. I have got to say, if you can make it big in this world, the rewards are great. I’d love to believe I can, but the reality for many of us is that we’re not gonna shine quite that bright. Even so, we can shine… we can publish, we can be read, we can be loved.

And so I’ve published. I have fans now… really. One or two, anyway.

I’m not going to say I don’t ask “what if”… What if I’d aimed for a bigger deal?

And so, I wonder… what would it be like to work with an agent? What doors do they open? What doors do they close?

To help me, and any other writers curious about such things, Eric Ruben agreed to do an interview with me.

Here goes…

Hi Eric, I’d like to start things off by getting to know you…

So, you’re a lawyer, literary agent, talent manager and a stand-up comic? (Who wouldn’t want to work with you? is my question…). What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?

I remember wanting to be the President, a talk show host, a comedian, talk show host, race car driver, actor, rock star.

You’ve managed to tick a few off that list… Presidency might be just around the corner!

OK. Let’s get down to why I brought you here…

In today’s world, writers have more options than ever before: holding out for a Big-5 deal, approaching small publishers, self-publishing, or serialising their work on a blog. With all these choices, and the chances of acceptance by an agent/big publisher so small, you can see why authors might choose the other channels. In talking to other writers, the biggest disadvantages of working with an agent, and pursuing a big traditional deal, seem to be: sharing a percentage, and the long wait between selling a book and seeing it on bookshelves (vs. clicking “Publish” on Amazon…). What do you feel an agent has to offer in this ever more competitive market?

I help negotiate deals of all kinds. I’ve been an attorney for over 25 years and have a level of business expertise that is valuable across the board. And there is a lot more to publishing, even self-publishing, than putting a book on smashwords, creating a Facebook page and watching money roll in. The internet is full of 99 cent pieces of crap posing as books. How do you distinguish yourself? An even better question is how are you sure your book is ready to sell? Is there a reason you can’t get an agent or editor interested? Maybe the problem isn’t that everyone in the industry is too stupid to see your brilliance. Maybe you really need to rework scenes and dialogue and pacing. And how do you get noticed in that giant sea of self-pub.

There is a large lie growing in some circles that this is a solitary art form. It is not. A smart agent can partner with you to handle some of these issues.

Harsh truths, but ones we all need to hear…

Do you work, or would you consider working, with a self-publishing author? Maybe helping them map their career path without going through the traditional channels? Or do you still think those channels are the best?

I do have some clients that are going the self-publishing route but the reasons are very specific and it’s really a case by case basis.

What about small imprints? Often they’re as eager as the author to get the work out there. Is this the best option for some? And can an agent play a role in this relationship?

I have clients with smaller pubs like Samhain and Belle. No two authors are the same. I’m making Ferraris, not Big Macs. We see where an author is in their career, what they write and how that fits in the landscape of the market. It’s more art than science.

Well, that’s all my self-indulgent questioning out of the way. What about you? Do any of your clients have work coming out (or that’s come out recently) that you’d like to take the chance to spotlight?

Ray Daniel has Terminated coming out next year. It’s the first book in a crime series that takes place in Boston. Jennifer Ryan has a series of Cowboy Romances coming out with Avon and Samantha Kane has The Damsel and the Devil coming out with Loveswept. Josh Roots has Undead Chaos at Carina too. People should feel free to check out the client page on my website and see who I represent and follow their careers.

I see you like a wide range of genres. Taking my own readership into account, what are your thoughts on Fantasy and Horror?

I have clients working on some now and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’ll leave it at that.

You’re based in New York City. Do you work with international clients?

Actually, I’m based wherever I am. I go back and forth between NYC and Boston and will be moving back to NYC full time shortly. Yes, I work with international clients. For example, I have clients in the Caribbean and Australia.

Good to know!

Do you think writers are disadvantaged if they can’t get to conferences?

Absolutely. There’s great networking opportunities there to meet other writers who can be supportive throughout your career. Also, I’d rather meet a writer before I sign them to make sure we have the right chemistry.

Fair enough. And I think this point might be the one that keeps me independent a little longer.

Any parting comments?

Hang out with the positive people, in real life and online. Stay away from the drama queens and negative people.

Always great advice!

With the ever-changing publishing world, it’s more important than ever for a writer to do their research, and I thank you for making yourself available for this interview.

Thank you for having me.

I hope that was useful to some of you. Through my research on Eric, I learned he seems to be a pretty cool guy. If you’re considering the agented route, and he’s open for submissions, then he might just be the one for you!

Check him out in these  places:

His Website

A Writers’ Digest Interview from 2011

An Interview from May 2013

An Interview from April 2013

As someone who wants to do this for a living, I’m constantly reconsidering my options. Shall I switch to fully self-published in future? Shall I look to a traditional deal? Shall I pair up with an agent? All feasible options. I suppose, though, my first task is to finish my first trilogy, which I will continue to publish via Kristell Ink, and go from there!

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