Lit Agent, Paige Wheeler: Think Strategically

By Jeff Rivera Comment

In our interview today with literary agent, Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management she shares with us why she says certain negotiations over certain rights with publishers have become even more intense, why she’s looking for more high-concept books and how she still has a soft spot for “wish fulfillment memoirs”. Here is what she had to say:

What’s your official title and why are you the best agent in the universe?

My official title is Managing Member (which sounds rather kinky, doesn’t it?) but basically it means that I’m a founding partner in the agency. I think my approach to thinking long term about a client’s career is a key reason as to why I have such a terrific client list. I tend to push them to the next level and negotiate aggressively on their behalf. Also, my approach to thinking beyond the page has really enabled authors to grow their brand.

What have you done to brace yourself for the economic changes to the industry? What can authors do to avoid eating Ramen noodles and counting pennies?

As an agent, I’ve tried to diversify my list so that I’m not dependent on one particular area. As for my clients, I’ve encouraged them to think strategically about each deal. Is this the best move for me, should I be writing for multiple houses, am I too focussed on one genre, etc.?

What do you think about all these technological changes happening? How have they changed the marketplace?

I’ve done a quite a number of deals lately and have noticed the negotiation over certain rights has become more intense. I think the marketplace is expanding in terms of content delivery and it’s opening up the possibility of “everyman” easily becoming published. That stated, it’s the quality of the work, the ability to get noticed that will become a key factor.

What’s hot now, what are editors looking for? And what type of manuscripts and proposals are you currently looking for that never seem to get?

I’ve been closing quite a number of deals in many areas. Big, brand name projects by people with a platform are still in demand. For nonfiction, platform will remain king, but the platform has really become internet based. YA seems to still be faring well but I’m not taking on very much. I love high concept projects, well-researched projects, and beautifully written projects. I also love wish-fullfilment memoirs (leaving your job and becoming a cattle rancher, for example) but they can be a difficult sell. Ultimately, it’s all in the writing.

What’s the best way for writers to approach you? And what’s one of your pet peeves when writers query you?

Although I’m currently closed to queries until 5/15, I prefer writers to query me via email and for them to include pertinent info such as the type of material (mystery, literary fiction, romantic comedy), if it’s completed, word count, etc. I also like to see the first 5 pages of text and a brief synopsis. My biggest pet peeve is when the author forgets to mention what the project is about…it happens, if you can believe it.

And finally, what is something about you that very few people know?

I was just traveling recently and realized that I really like Cracker Barrel restaurants. Good southern cooking. Deadly, but good.