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December 2010

Weronika Janczuk
Associate Agent, D4EO LITERARY AGENCY

Weronika Janczuk WG:      Welcome, and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month.

WG:      To start off, please tell us a bit about yourself.

WJ:      I'm an associate agent with D4EO Literary Agency, where I've assisted in different capacities since April 2010; I was promoted in August. In addition to working there with Bob Diforio, the principal agent, I've worked with acquisitions editors at small presses and other agents in the industry. I currently spend most of my time in NYC, though Bob - and the two other associates - are spread out across the country.

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?

WJ:      It was the path that "worked" for me, for a variety of different reasons - I like to work independently, on my own time; I love to assist with books in terms of editorial feedback (I consider myself an editorial-heavy agent); I love business and the contract negotiations, advocacy, and networking, etc., that are necessary to do this job well; I love working with clients in ways that help shape careers (it becomes a creative partnership and, in some cases, has already grown into a friendship). All of these components associated with each other have me excited, every single day, to agent. As for getting to where I am today, I interned, sometimes in more than one position, and was promoted when Bob felt I was ready.

WG:      What genres/lines do you currently represent?

WJ:      My clients currently write literary fiction, commercial fiction, YA, fantasy, thrillers, and non-fiction for the general public.

WG:      Are you interested in expanding into other genres, and if so, which ones?

WJ:      I'm interested in working with writers from nearly every single genre. I would definitely like to find a romance, but I also want to expand the number of clients I have writing in the genres above. I welcome writers to check out my interests and to query me if they think I'd make a good fit (http://www.weronikajanczuk.com/p/agent.php).

WG:      Are there any genres you have absolutely no interest in representing at this time?

WJ:      Yes - I'm not open to queries from authors of YA, MG, picture books, Christian fiction or non-fiction, business/financial thrillers, erotica or erotic romance, cookbooks, short stories, or novellas.

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?

WJ:      I do, yes! I've sold one non-fiction project, a collection of true ghost stories, and I look forward to expanding that non-fiction range in the future.

WG:      What genre(s) do the majority of your recent sales fall into? Has this changed over time? How so?

WJ:      The one project I've sold is paranormal non-fiction. It will most definitely change over time, considering my interests in nearly every genre and subject, fiction- and non-fiction-wise.

WG:      What publishing houses/lines have you sold to in the past 12 months?

WJ:      I sold my first project to Tor/Macmillan in October and am working with my clients on making additional sales. There is good news brewing behind the scenes!

WG:      Approximately how many clients do you currently represent and what is the ratio of published to unpublished?

WJ:      Since August, I've taken on six clients of my own, and at this point, one has a book deal. Most have yet to go on submission - considering my editorial feedback, my clients spend a lot of time editing.

WG:      Approximately how many works by first time authors have you sold in the past 12 months?

WJ:      I haven't sold any books by a first time author yet; the project I sold to Tor was by Annie Wilder, who has published two books of true ghost stories via Llewellyn before.

WG:      Are you actively seeking out new authors to represent, and if so, what would it take to catch your eye?

WJ:      Absolutely! I'm looking for strong writing, stories with depth, voice, and unique takes on different subjects, particularly with genre fiction such as thrillers and romance. With fiction in general, it's a matter of loving the writing and the story being told. With non-fiction, it's responding to subject, the writing, and the author's ability to contribute to this package - most non-fiction authors I'll consider seriously must have the appropriate platform and access to media coverage.

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?

WJ:      This is something that changes based on the client with whom I am working. I'm happy to be very involved, open to friendship beyond the business, but I am also happy to step back. The one thing that I expect from all of my clients is a willingness to work hard; at the very least, my clients need to take into consideration my editorial feedback. Apart from that, however, I very much enjoy brainstorming, talking about career and helping to build a platform on the web, etc. - a wide array of things - but am not "hurt" if a client isn't interested in that discussion.

WG:      Do you enjoy one of these roles more than the others?

WJ:      I love the editorial/creative aspect. I write, too, and it's awesome to see fellow writers respond positively to my ideas and to my understanding of fiction.

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?

WJ:      I have to love it, hands down, but I love different things about different book - I can love the writing, or the voice, or the story, or a mix of those things. I have to respond to something about the book in a way that makes me cringe at the thought of another agent getting the opportunity to place it with a publishing house.

WG:      How often do you provide feedback to your clients on the status of their submissions?

WJ:      This all depends on the writer - what they want to hear, how often they want to hear it, etc. In the end, I will make sure the writer understands what the overall response was from editors, and we will either choose to incorporate feedback or set it aside.

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?

WJ:      The second thing I do is brainstorm a list of titles that are reminiscent of the book that I am submitting, and I then look to the editors of those books and the publishing houses from which they are from. In most cases, this list overlaps, since I read so much and am always aware of a book's editor and house, but sometimes I come up with a name I haven't considered before, and so consider I do. Otherwise, I phone editors I haven't met before and pitch over the phone, and I send email pitches to those I have met - I find that most editors prefer to see a pitch via email, which they can request off or dismiss easily.

WG:      How do you feel about sending a particular work to multiple houses simultaneously?

WJ:      More often than not, it's necessary - there are very limited circumstances in which an agent would make an exclusive submission (usually this occurs when the agent and editor discussed the project before it went on submission and the editor was sufficiently excited about it to justify giving him/her an exclusive look). Agents will hope for an auction, for example, or a pre-empt - circumstances that benefit the writer.

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?

WJ:      Yes, in that I offer feedback to the writer about what to do and how to go about communicating with his/her publicist and editor on different matters. I direct my clients to a lot of literature online about social media and marketing. I email them guides of my own - tips and suggestions I picked up along the way, via my internships, including those in a publishing house.

WG:      What do you see as the personal strengths you bring to the table in the agent/author relationship? In the agent/editor relationship?

WJ:      In the agent/author relationship, I bring a knowledge of fiction, excitement that draws partially from my youth, a background in publishing that taught me a lot, etc. In the agent/editor relationship, I'm not sure one can have "strengths" - I network, I pitch in person (which I'm comfortable doing), and I always have a good sense of where to go with any manuscripts I take on.

WG:      Do you feel that writers' conferences provide significant value to you in the way of networking with authors? With editors?

WJ:      Yes, absolutely - I wouldn't have the opportunity to meet the writers otherwise, and I get a chance to spend time with editors in an informal setting.

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?

WJ:      Movie rights are handled within the agency and via a rights specialist, as are foreign rights. In internships, I was an active contributor to the sale of foreign rights, so I am very aware of the process and why foreign rights can be critical, and I have solid expectations of different countries in terms of advance and whether a particular book can sell in X or Y country.

WG:      Realistically, what is the normal timeframe for your response to queries? Partials? Fulls?

WJ:      For queries, I respond within two weeks - I try to keep that response time to a few days. With partials and fulls, it depends - I've replied within two to three days to those and have taken a few weeks when I needed them; it all depends on the load of work I have to do for my clients at any respective point.

WG:      Do you feel an agent based in New York has a significant advantage over one who is not? Why or why not?

WJ:      I think newer agents can benefit from being in NYC, but otherwise, absolutely not - email, the telephone, and travel to NYC a few times a year is more than sufficient for agents to keep up to date with changes in publishing houses, editors' roles and tastes, etc.

WG:      What sort of misconceptions/ unrealistic expectations have you encountered from authors about what an agent's role is?

WJ:      I know there are people out there who don't think agents are as important as they are in reality, but otherwise, I haven't encountered anyone who had misconceptions or unrealistic expectations. Some of my clients have been surprised by the work I put in to help them grow, but that's the extent of it.

WG:      In your opinion, when is the right time in an author's career for him/her to start actively looking for an agent?

WJ:      Once they have written and heavily revised a manuscript that they haven't outgrown by the time they are done with it - this tends to take years. I see a lot of writers finish something good, that goes on to sell, but within a few years they are no longer on the publishing radar; you need to write and publish something excellent.

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?

WJ:      If you don't respond to someone - an agent - in your gut, in that place that tells you, This is the perfect agent for me, don't sign with someone. Write another project and try again. You need to work with an agent who you connect with it and can trust with the growth of your career, etc.

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?

WJ:      It always helps to have an audience and to have demonstrated that one is capable of writing and that there are people out there who have responded to that writing, but in the end, the agent and the editor still have to love your book and be passionate enough to take it on and push it through to success. I have not yet acquired a client via a writing contest; I will be judging my first later this year.

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?

WJ:      I do, yes. I am always wary of writers who whine and sound very pretentious, or who sound like they are owed something. Publishing doesn't work like that. You have to be a writer willing to work hard and to fail before you succeed.

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?

WJ:      Self-promotion makes or breaks an author's career these days, I feel; publicists, who are working with tons and tons of authors at a publishing house, can only do so much. Most writers don't take full advantage of the internet, particularly the niche groups that might respond to their writing. They don't do enough in their communities to work with schools or libraries or bookstores to promote themselves. Some things work. Some things don't. Some things require a lot of time, others less. It's all about finding a balance and understanding one's limits.

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?

WJ:      "You cannot find peace by avoiding life." - Virginia Woolf

It's true.

WG:      When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

WJ:      For the longest time, I wanted to be a teacher. It was only when I discovered this end of the publishing business - the behind-the-scenes end - did I realize I could both teach and advocate for books and writers. I haven't looked back since.

WG:      What do you do to relax and have fun?

WJ:      I read, watch television, bike, design websites, play board games, sleep. My life really does revolve around my job and my writing, but that's fine - I love them both.

WG:      Other than your client's work, what do you enjoy reading?

WJ:      I read everything, with a few tiny exceptions. But I read voraciously.

WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

WJ:      I love Criminal Minds, Glee, and then the Discovery Channel. Movie-wise, anything well made; I love the Die Hards with Bruce Willis, the Oceans trilogy, the Bourne series, Titanic, etc. I respond to good films.

WG:      Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on your life? In what way?

WJ:     Every book I read as a child shaped my interest in reading and writing. Is there one book specifically? No, I don't think so; I have books I love and books I hate, books in-between, but I love too many, reread too many, to choose one in particular as a defining factor.

WG:      Before we close, is there anything else you'd like to mention about yourself or the agency?

WJ:      I'm happy to be working with an agent who has been in the business for decades, in high-end positions that include VP Sales and President at major publishing houses. He's agented since 1979 and is an active part of the contractual negotiations for my clients, drawing from years of experience. The three new associates are actively looking for new clients and they are passionate about the work they do, and we're looking to grow our lists.

WG:      Is there a website you can point us to where folks can go to learn more about you and/or your agency?

WJ:      You can learn about D4EO as an agency here - http://www.d4eo.com - and more about me here - http://www.weronikajanczuk.com.

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.

WJ:      Thanks for having me! I appreciate it!

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