Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interview With Literary Agent Jackie Meyer

Book Marketing Buzz Blog recently interviewed Jackie Meyer, a literary agent and packager. She is the president of Whimsy Literary Agency. She has a finger on the pulse of publishing, having been in the industry for three decades. She previously worked as the vice president and creative director of Warner Books (now Grand Central). Here is what she said, via email:

1.       Jackie, what do you love most about being in book publishing? I love book people. I love learning. Books matter, which gives me a great sense of purpose. 

2.       Can you explain how a literary agent helps an author and why you believe self-publishing has its drawbacks? Aside from landing a book deal and good contract, authors benefit when they have an agent because the publishing process can be frustrating and editors do not have the time to coach them. Self-publishing is great if you have the time to devote to the many aspects of publishing, but even the most successful self-published authors often trade up to an established publisher so they can concentrate on writing. 

3.       What advice do you have for authors looking to get published? Work on creating a national platform and audience. Buy a copy of Rick Frishman's Author 101 Bestselling Book Proposals, or any book on writing a good proposal. Good proposals land agents. 

4.       Where do you see book publishing in five years? Five months? I think books will be on your TV, available via NETFLIX, streaming with author interviews plus. Amazon will be a major publisher! Electronic Book of the Month clubs will be popular or other subscription services.  

5.       What have been some of your most successful books? Don't ask a mother to choose among her children.

6.       What do you recommend to your authors about doing publicity and marketing for their books? Authors sell books, not publishers. Your efforts should surpass what the publisher is doing. Plan a six-month campaign, three before publication and three after, to devote to getting the word out. Books rotate in bookstores; if your book does not move in 30 days, it MOVES back to the warehouse to make room for the next month’s titles. Timing is everything.

7.       You used to be the creative director at Warner Books (now Grand Central). What was that like? Warner Books was a tight knit group of extremely talented and dedicated people. Being part of Warner Brothers and then Time Inc, were exhilarating times. Under the management of Larry Kirshbaum, with Nansci Neiman and then Maureen Egen, I was given a lot of opportunity to grow over 18 years. I co-founded and became publisher of an illustrated book imprint where I was able to use my creativity on all aspects of the business. It doesn't get better than that.

The Price Of Talent: Amy Winehouse
I am sure over the coming days and weeks – or years – we’ll come to learn what killed singer Amy Winehouse. But I don’t need to wait for an autopsy report or police investigation to tell me it was drugs – whether accidental or intentional. She lived the life of a creative person and paid the price. 

Our cultural arts has a long history of people using some type of addictive substance, whether to help us create something like a book or a song or a play – or just get us through the day. Life is complex, and the struggle to live takes courage, energy, love, hope ,and so many other things. As much as it is a tragedy and waste of talent to see someone like Amy die so young, I am more amazed that we don’t see talented people die on a more frequent basis.

I love Amy’s “Rehab” song and album. Unfortunately she was washed up at the time of her death. She was only 27. A rare bird – a five-time Grammy winner – will sing no more. But life will go on for the rest of us.  

Other songs will top the charts. Other legends will form. Others will die from their addiction.

It is not only an accepted part of life, it is very accepted amongst the talented, the creative, and the influential that one will drink, smoke, or drug their way to fame, to jail, to divorce, to reckless behavior, to death. I predicted long ago that Madonna would die young, but she surprised me. Perhaps she just got lucky to avoid paying a fatal price for creating on the edge.  

Amy won’t be the last star to burn out too soon, and she wasn’t the first. Last year it was Michael Jackson. Thirty four summers ago it was Elvis. There was also Cobain, Hendrix, Morrison…the list goes on and will always go on.

I know all authors understand that creating comes with a price. Amy didn’t deserve to die the way she did. Yet her death reminds us how her level of talent gave life meaning for millions of people. We enjoy her songs and her personal struggles that inspired them. And as such, she sacrificed her life in order to funnel her creativity to us. She paid the ultimate price, not of fame, but of the act of creating. Sometimes, life pushes us to limits that we don’t rebound from.

Many artistic geniuses have breakdowns, live destructive or reckless lives, hurt others, and often, hurt themselves.  Their creativity, wherever they got it from, is like a credit card that piles up debt.  Amy’s bill just came due.

I feel for her, her family, her fans. And for myself and every other writer and talented, creative individual out there, who must battle the greatest competitor of all: ourselves.

*** Brian Feinblum is the chief marketing officer for Planned Television Arts (PTA) but the thoughts, views, and ideas expressed in this blog are his own and not representative of the official views of PTA. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert.

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