Faces of Publishing: Michelle Brower, Folio Literary Management (May, 2012)

Michelle Brower

Michelle Brower

From Michelle’s Profile page: “I began my career in publishing in 2004 while studying for my Master’s degree in English Literature at New York University, and have been hooked ever since. During that time, I assisted the agents Wendy Sherman and Joelle Delbourgo, and found myself in love with the process of discovering new writers and helping existing writers further their careers. After graduating, I became an agent with Wendy Sherman Associates, and there began representing books in many different areas of fiction and non-fiction. My list includes the authors Rebecca Rasmussen, Tara Conklin, Cassie Alexander, S.G. Browne, Michele Young-Stone, and Julia Wertz just to name a few, and it is equally split between fiction and non-fiction.”

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Alex C. Telander: What was it that made you decide to become an agent, and when did you know?

Michelle Brower: An agent came to my college to speak, and I was totally amazed- you can get paid to read books and talk to people all the time?  I didn’t know for sure that was what I wanted to do, but I got an internship and that sealed the deal.

Alex: How did you become an agent?

Michelle: Oddly enough, I answered an ad on Craigslist for a part-time internship.  Once I started, I didn’t want to stop, and worked my way up to agent within that company.

Alex: What does an ordinary day look like for you?

Michelle: I usually start in the morning answering emails from the night before and returning calls.  I usually have at least a few meetings or phonecalls scheduled every day, and I have lunch with an editor 2 or 3 times a week (sometimes more!).  I often have drinks with an editor after work- really, the only time I have to read or edit happens after work or on the weekends.

Alex: What’s your favorite part about being an agent?

Michelle: The thrill of discovery- nothing beats reading something you love and then helping to get it published.

Alex: What do you not like so much about being an agent?

Michelle: The work is absolutely endless- I never feel caught up.  But honestly, it’s hard to find something to complain about.

Alex: How many clients do you have?  Is this your ideal number, or are you always looking for new authors?

Michelle: I have about 30 authors, but some are more active than others.  I am always looking for new clients, because I love working with good people who have good books, and publishing is a cycle.  Sometimes I’m so busy I couldn’t imagine taking someone new on, and other times I am just hungry to get a new project to work on.

Alex: What are your thoughts on ebooks and the future of publishing?

Michelle: E-books are a big part of the publishing landscape, there’s no doubt about it; since I mostly work with content, to me it’s just another way to read.  Personally, I split my time between physical books and e-books about 50/50.

Alex: What’s your opinion on self-publishing?

Michelle: I think self-publishing is a tricky business; lots of people leap in without a plan, and lots of people know exactly what to do to connect to their audience.  I applaud those who know who their audience is and how they will reach them, and caution those who self-publish just because they’ve been rejected.  Just remember, when you self-publish, you have to learn to be a publisher, not just a writer.

Alex: What’s the best advice you can offer writers looking to get published?

Michelle: Honestly, your book is the key.  If you have a good book, someone will want to publish it.  I so often hear people talking about publishing as if that was their end goal; the end goal should be to write something you are extremely proud of and be able to share it with others.  Also, your first draft is *never* your final draft, so learn to love revising.

Alex: Do you ever have time to read for fun, and if so, what do you like to read?

Michelle: I do!  I make time, even if it means falling behind on my slush, because it’s important to stay enchanted in this business.  There’s nothing I love more than reading a book that I love and that I have absolutely no stake in.  I usually read literary fiction, although I can be easily persuaded to read anything in the crime, horror, or fantasy genres.

Alex: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Michelle: Do you like cookies?  Because I bake them.  And cupcakes, and sometimes fudge.  I dare anyone to give me an excuse to bake a cake.  I also obsessively watch multiple seasons of TV shows (Breaking Bad, anyone?) and travel whenever I can.

Alex: Are you accepting queries right now?  How should writers query you?

Michelle: I am- writers should take a look at foliolit.com, check that I handle their type of book, and send me a query via the query form under my profile with 10 pages in the body.  I do sometimes close myself to queries in order to catch up, but I always will open back up again; just keep an eye on the website for up-to-date information.

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