Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Josh Adams, Literary Agent: An Exclusive Pre-Conference SCBWI Team Blog Interview

Josh Adams, together with his wife Tracey, runs Adams Literary, a boutique agency exclusively dedicated to representing Children’s book authors and artists, including many bestselling and award-winning clients. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Business School, Josh spent years in publishing and media before bringing his editorial and business backgrounds together as a literary agent.

On faculty at the upcoming Society of Chlidren's Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2010 Summer conference in Los Angeles, Josh will be presenting a "Submission Strategies" workshop on Friday afternoon, will be part of the "Literary Agents View the Market Place" panel on Saturday morning, and has a Monday afternoon breakout session called "Agent Secrets!"

I'm excited to hear Josh speak at the conference, and delighted to interview him here in the final run-up to the conference!

Lee: Hi Josh! Thanks so much for agreeing to this pre-conference interview. My first question is about stress. A lot of writers and illustrators stress out about meeting agents at conferences. Any advice for hopeful and stressed out conference attendees?

Josh: Just be yourself. That's what I plan to do. Hopefully you'll see that literary agents are real people, too.

Lee: From your perspective, is a business card something you expect/want when meeting an author or illustrator?

Josh: It's not something I expect, but I'll certainly take one. I don't carry any myself, so don't take it personally if I don't hand you one. At this point we assume that people who don't already know how to reach us will find us at www.adamsliterary.com.

Lee: For an as-yet-unpublished writer, is an on-line presence (a blog, facebook friend count, twitter following, etc...) important to you?

Josh: Not at the expense of the quality of the writing. It's not something we particularly seek out, but if an aspiring author has a site or online presence, we'll definitely check it out and take it into consideration as part of the big picture.

Lee: For illustrators, is there something different that you're looking for in a physical portfolio versus an online website/portfolio?

Josh: I prefer visiting an online portfolio, where it's easier for me to see a full range of work. What I'd look for in a physical portfolio is the texture and media of the works.

Lee: Small versus large literary agency. You and your wife Tracey are closer to the small end of the spectrum. What do you see as the pros and cons of small versus large?

Josh: Tracey and I—and Quinlan Lee, too, who works closely with us—love being a part of what we call a boutique agency. Tracey came from larger agencies before we started Adams Literary, but it has never been our desire to be a large agency. We much prefer working collaboratively with our authors and artists than managing a large staff. I think a boutique agency can offer every advantage of a large agency, with a more personal approach—and, in our case, one that is focused exclusively on the children's and YA market. The only disadvantage—and it's ours, really, not our clients'—is that there is no "off" switch. We are always working, which is why it's good that we're so passionate about what we do.

Lee: There's a puzzle for writers when trying to find that "match" with an agent. On the one hand, we're told to look at the books of an agent's current clients to see if we're 'apples to apples.' On the other hand, if you already represent apples, might you not prefer kiwi, so you have something different?

How would you suggest writers tackle finding the best "match?"

Josh: While I'd highly encourage writers to look at our website and our client list to get a sense of who we are and what literary works we gravitate toward, we certainly don't look for clones. I always hesitate to mention a specific or favorite genre out of fear that I'll be deluged with one type of book at the expense of something spectacularly different that otherwise might not be sent our way. I like to be surprised. What we look for is a fresh perspective, a great voice and memorable characters—writing that draws us in, keeps us turning the pages, and provokes us in a compelling and unforgettable way, whatever the genre. We gravitate toward the timeless, not the trendy. Our first criteria is not "Can we sell this?" but rather, "Do we love this?"

Lee: That's great to know. Okay, "Agent Secrets?" What a great teaser of a topic! If we promise to tell EVERYone, can we convince you to share one secret here?

Josh: All I can say right now is that hopefully people will come out of my presentation with a much better sense of what literary agents do—and how to beat the 1000-1 odds of working with us. Though perhaps it doesn't have as catchy a title, in my "Submission Strategies" workshop, I'll also be sharing some secrets and tricks-of-the-trade.

Lee: Los Angeles. Four Days. More than 60 agents, editors, authors - all luminaries in the world of Children's Literature. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of writers and illustrators, hanging on the faculty's every word... Which refreshment will help keep you talking: Ice Tea or Lemonade?

Josh: Several cups of coffee in the morning, lots of water throughout the day, and a glass or two of something a bit stronger at night! ;)

You can hear Josh Adams in person at the SCBWI Summer Conference, July 30-Aug 2, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA - which is where I'll be! You can still register for the conference here.

Hope to see you there!

Click here (or on the SCBWI Team Blog Logo above) to click over to the Official SCBWI Conference Blog - where you can check out all the amazing pre-conference faculty interviews so far!


C.R. Evers said...

I'll be in LA this year! I'm looking forward to hearing Josh speak! :0)

Martha Brockenbrough said...

Great interview, Lee. Josh seems like a personable, committed agent.

Kristin Tubb said...

Josh is a fantastic agent and a nice person, too! He and the team at Adams Literary are passionate about children's literature. Thank you for the interview, Lee! I wish I could join the fun in LA!

Caz Williams said...

Great questions, Lee. All the things I was wondering, too. Thanks :)

Sara W.E. said...

Especially the lemonade/ice tea controversy, right?
I like his "a little something stronger." Thanks!