Mary Sue Seymour,
The Seymour Agency
WG: Hello! Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.
WG: To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.
MS: I am with the Seymour agency - have a BS from Suny Potsdam and 30 graduate hours - am a former classroom teacher - taught in New York state 14 years.
WG: Can you tell us why you decided to pursue a career as an agent and what steps you took to get you where you are today?
MS: I had 3 agents because I wrote when I was teaching -had a bad agent and a friend suggested I try my own agency as a hobby - the 1st package I sent out sold a 4 book deal to bantam - about the bad agent - am certain you are curious - I am a former artist - sold my own ya novel set during the American civil war - I had illustrated it myself with pen/inks - a friend told me I had to have an agent to complete the deal so I called an attorney/agent in new york city who advised I send him the contract - I did and he wrote all over it - an agent never writes on a contract I've since learned - changes are negotiated between agent and publisher - the agent sent my contract back to the publisher with the changes and he threw out the deal - I called the publisher but they wouldn't take my calls - then the agent billed me $35 for doing this and I paid him
WG: What genres/lines do you currently represent?
MS: Christian romance is my mainstay but I also sell christian women's fiction and nonfiction and some secular romance.
WG: Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?
MS: No, I will remain where I have good contacts.
WG: Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?
MS: Poetry, short stories, erotica
WG: Do you represent any authors of non-fiction? If so, have you been successful in selling their projects? If not, is this a market that interests you?
MS: Sold the Harry Potter cookbook which was a New York Times best seller - one of most recent nonfiction sales is titles angels in the fire which I sold to Bethany house.
WG: What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?
MS: Romance of the Christian variety.
WG: What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?
MS: Thomas Nelson, Harper One, Bethany House, Harvest House, B & H, and others.
WG: Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?
MS: 50 clients and most are published but a few are not.
WG: Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?
MS: Perhaps 3 or 4
WG: Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?
MS: Yes, great writing
WG: How would you describe your agenting style? What is your involvement with the author's creative process? With his/her career planning? Or is your relationship strictly the business side of contract negotiation and as author/editor interface?
MS: I think of my clients as part of the seymour agency family - I do get involved in the process and help with problems that may arise between editor/author
WG: Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?
WG: Given that you feel an individual author's manuscript is marketable, how important is it that you personally like the work in order for you to pursue acquiring it?
MS: I must feel enthusiasm for the project or I won't take it on - I do a lot of line to line editing free of charge of course to get new authors started.
WG: How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?
MS: When I receive an offer or rejection, I email them or call them with an offer and like to forward the email from the editor if it's a rejection.
WG: What is your process for submitting work to editors? Is this different if the editor is one you've had no prior contact with as opposed to one you've already built a working relationship with?
MS: For ex I email christian romance to about 17 publishers at once - then if there's an offer from one, I can go to the others for counter offers.
WG: How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?
MS: It's expected.
WG: Once a work has been sold, do you provide any input to the author and/or editor in the area of marketing and promotion for the book?
MS: If the aithor asks, but the publishers I work with all promote and do this for the authors.
WG: What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?
MS: I like to think I'm a nice agent.
WG: Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?
MS: Absolutely - this is the time I meet with editors and discuss the industry and what they're looking for - then I try to find those projects.
WG: Have you ever been involved in the sale of movie rights? Foreign rights? If so, did you handle this yourself or did you work with someone more specialized in this field?
MS: I have a foreign rights agent that just left Simon & Schuster.
WG: Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?
MS: Queries a day - fulls a couple months - I read them in the order they're sent unless it's a client's work - then I put them at the top of the stack
WG: Do you feel an agent based in New York has a significant advantage over one who is not? Why or why not?
MS: Not in the Christian industry.
WG: What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?
MS: Sometimes I get query letters that try to sell their book to me - I dont buy books - I try to sell them
WG: In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?
MS: Immediately - sometimes editors call me and ask me for authors to write them projects - if one doesn't have an agent, he's out in the cold on this - when I recently attended the RWA national convention in Anaheim I met with several editors and pitches one sheets written by my clients to them - if one doesn't have an agent, one is all alone in the industry with no one to go to bat for them - and sometimes an agent can get an author a higher advance that would make up for the commission
WG: What piece of advice or 'pearl of wisdom' would you like to offer authors who are considering approaching you (or any agent) for representation?
MS: Join a writing group and get into 2 or 3 online critique groups.
WG: Do you think contest credits help authors further their career before and/or after making that first sale? Have you ever acquired a client that you discovered via a writing contest?
MS: Yes, but only enter contests that are judged by editors/agents or industry professionals - this contest could help further one's career - contests judged by unpublished authors could be expensive and not help.
WG: Do you visit the websites and blogs of authors you work with or of authors you are considering working with? If so, is there something in particular you look for that potentially impacts your view of the author and their work?
MS: I don't visit blogs of authors i'm considering repping - for me it's all about the writing - I want to read a great book I can't put down - having said that, it's nice that authors have facebook pages, blogs and an internet presence
WG: How important do you think self-promotion is to a writer's career? Is there a particular area of promotion that you feel is most effective?
MS: Extremely important - No, just an online presence - it helps sell books.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share?
MS: "live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, satan shudders and says..."oh, crap...she's awake!" "
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MS: A person who reads books for a living.
WG: What do you do to relax and have fun?
MS: Zumba and love to travel.
WG: Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?
MS: Fast paced, romantic suspense I don't have to think about.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
MS: I am an NCIS addict! But I have to hold my hand up to cover the bottom of the screen when they're performing an autopsy.
WG: Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?
MS: My librarian introduced Phyliis Whitney mystery novels to me in junior high - I became an addict and collected her books - I wrote to her once and was thrilled when she wrote back.
WG: Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?
MS: When the chair of a writing group once was writing a bio for me for their site, she asked me who the president was of the Seymour Agency - I told her God - I just work for him.
WG: Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?
WG: Thanks again for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit in this month's spotlight. It was delightful �visiting' with you here.