Thursday, July 7, 2011

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Pre-Conference Interview: Barry Goldblatt

Barry Goldblatt
A chat with agent Barry Goldbaltt kicks off my SCBWI TEAM BLOG interviews with 40th Annual Summer Conference faculty!

After years working in the rights and contracts departments at Penguin, Putnam, and Orchard, Barry opened Barry Goldblatt Literary in 2000, and set out to find writers whose work made him laugh, cry, scream and jump up and down. He's has been gleefully signing authors ever since--among them award-winners and bestsellers.

To learn more about him, visit his website or follow him on Twitter. Oh--and you can also come hear him speak at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference! Click here to register.

You've been agenting for more than a decade now. How have the changes in the publishing industry effected your day-to-day work life?
I don't know that changes in the industry have had an impact on my daily routine, but the growth of the agency itself certainly has! Back when I first started, with just a handful of clients, I spent the majority of my time every day just reading--client manuscripts, sure, but also submissions and lots and lots of actual published books, usually as galleys. I needed that to get my feet solidly on the ground, to really know what was out there, what was selling (and to whom) in order to become a good, knowledgeable agent who could actually offer something to writers.

Now of course I spend a lot more time dealing with contract negotiations, royalty statements, and lots of other paperwork, and the reading time is a lot more difficult to come by. I also now have another agent working with me, and a full time assistant as well, so there's a lot more interaction with others on a daily basis as well.

Probably the one significant impact of industry changes on my daily work is the amount of it. The fact is, children's publishing over the last ten years has gotten bigger and for the most part better, and it's meant there are more terrific writers to discover, and more great books to sell and champion!

You're active on Twitter. How does participating in that community benefit you as an agent? Do you think it's a worthwhile for writers to tweet?

I find Twitter oddly entertaining. I tried the whole blogging thing as an agent, and it just wasn't for me. I angsted all the time over what to post, how often to post, was what I was saying of any relevance. But 140 characters? I can manage that, and if no one cares about a particular tweet, they'll just ignore it. But the Twitter community overall, especially as it relates to writing/agenting/publishing is both informative and useful, at least for me.

Is it useful for writers? It is, if you like doing it. I see some writers who are clearly uncomfortable with Twitter (or blogging or Facebook), but feel somehow obligated to do it. It's a tool, just like any other, and if it suits your personality, it's a helpful one. But it is by no means an absolute must. Many of my clients use it, to varying degrees: Cassandra Clare (@cassieclare) practically lives there, Jo Knowles (@joknowles) uses it to complement her blogging quite well, and Robin Wasserman (@robinwasserman) gets to satisfy a lot of her cultural interests and share her idiosyncrasies too (plus it led to her meeting Judy Blume!).

You've got an impressive list of clients (including Libba Bray, Holly Black, Angela Johnson and Lauren Myracle to name a few). Are you open to new clients? If so, what's the best way to approach you?

I am always open to new clients. I don't want to rest on my laurels, nor do I want to feel stagnant, and the best way to deal with that is to keep finding new writers to champion. My website clearly lists my guidelines, which are an emailed query with first five pages included in the body of the email.

You're doing manuscript critiques at the Summer Conference. Could you offer some advice to writers on getting the most out of a critique meeting?
I think the best advice I have for a writer in those meetings is to go in with an open mind and willing to listen. Do NOT go in expecting to hear "I totally want to represent you" as that's extremely unlikely, and will negate any useful information the agent/editor/writer you're meeting with might have to share. Also, remember as always, it's one person's opinion, and is not the be all, end all of the universe.

You're participating in a panel called "Four Agents View the Current State of Children's Books," as well as a breakout session called "What My Agency Does and How We Do It." Can you give us a taste of what you'll cover?

I imagine there will be a lot of discussion about ebooks and the future of print, because that's one of those hot button topics right now. In my breakout, I plan to give a snapshot into my agency's working philosophy, how we go about choosing what we want to represent, and then what we do to make sure those clients have the best careers possible.

Would you offer some general advice (or do's and don't) for writers on interacting with agents in a conference setting?

Remember that we're not scary, and we're not going to bite your head off if you come up and say hello. However, none of us want to be pitched, unless we're in an actual pitch session, and certainly none of us want to be handed a manuscript.


dj said...

Great interview! Thanks!

Hazel Mitchell said...

Looking forward to hearing Barry's keynote :-)

Cheryl Reeves Nelson said...

Thanks for the article! I am looking forward to following your blog all the way up to the conference, where I'll be - living the dream - and anxious to hear keynotes from the likes of Mr. Goldblatt.