I’m thrilled this week to be interviewing Julia Weber. She’s looking for adult, YA, NA, and MG, is active on Twitter, and has great experience in multiple markets. If you’ve got a query for something besides paranormal or fantasy, you just might catch her interest.
How long have you been agenting, and what led you to being an agent?
I've been an agent for a year now. I set up my own literary agency in late 2011 and started the day-to-day business in January 2012.
When I first started uni, my plan was to become a sports journalist. I was doing my degree in Media and Communication Studies in Austria at the time and was convinced it was my destiny to combine two of my passions, sports and writing. A few seminars on media ethics later, and thanks to far too many newspapers reporting on the personal lives of footballers instead of their performances, I realized that it's not all roses after all. After a placement at a small German publishing house I decided to go into book publishing instead. So I finished my first M.A., packed my bags and moved to London where I did another two M.A.s (in Creative Writing and Book Publishing) and managed to bag myself two long-term internships at fabulous literary agencies. I got some really hands-on experience in various fields of agenting. Submissions, administration, contracts, negotiations, translation deals — basically everything apart from coffee-making (I can't help but feel that I missed out on something here). So here I am… after a total of 7 years at 5 universities in 4 countries and 3 completed M.A.s, I have my own agency, I'm my own boss. A big step and risk but this is what I want, what suits all my strengths and weaknesses best.
Yes, I may not have year-long experience compared to many other agents (yet) but I've spent YEARS preparing myself for this job. And I've got my passion. And a coffee machine.
It sounds like you’ve accumulated some great experience along the way. Being your own boss sounds challenging, but I’m sure it has perks! Besides having written a book you love, what makes you know a particular author is someone you just have to represent- attitude, platform, ideas for future works?
A fantabulous manuscript is obviously the most important thing… but yes, it does help if I don't get the feeling that the author is the spawn of evil. ;) I do take the query letter, their attitude and whatever else I find about them (Twitter, blog, forum posts etc.) into consideration. I go with my gut feeling, I guess. If I think the author might be a nightmare to work with or that we won't get on in the future, I'll pass. I'd rather miss out on a great story than working with someone I don't feel comfortable with. Having said that, this is not an invitation to send me creepy queries with lots of compliments. There is nothing wrong with a nice word or two, but there really is such a thing as too much flattery. If you comment on my looks, make me indecent compliments or give me an in-depth analysis of my facial expressions based on my profile picture (yes, that's happened), I might find it inappropriate, or borderline creepy. And I’ll run and hide as fast as I can… just saying.
I once had a book review request come in, and the reviewer told me I looked lonely. So yes, creepy. What are you tired of seeing submitted right now? Is there any particular category, genre, or concept you'd love to see land in your inbox?
Vampire stories. Harry Potter read-alikes. There are just so. many. of them. And sci-fi — it's just not my cup of tea. Sorry.
I'd love to see some more contemporary, realistic fiction land in my inbox. I'd say about 80% of the queries I get are paranormal/ fantasy — genres I'm not overly drawn to. (If it's got to be fantasy, I prefer it to be set in the real world.)
I'm generally open to commercial fiction in the genres MG, YA, NA, Women's Fiction, Romance and Thrillers. What concepts would I like to see more… hmm… let me think.
In MG and YA, I'm hoping for stories with sports and/or boarding school themes or contemporary retellings of myths, for example. When it comes to thrillers, I'm still waiting for an amazing psychological thriller to grab my attention and make me want to hide under the duvet. I don't have a special wish list for NA, WF or Romance at the moment… pretty much anything is game. As long as it's commercial and, preferably, not fantasy. ;)
Sports stories and psychological thrillers? I love a good YA thriller, so I’ll have to watch your list for a great one! What are three things you love, and one thing you can’t stand? (Hobbies, favorite TV shows, professional interests, etc)
I love colour-coded Excel charts, swiveling on my office swivel chair, everything chocolate-related… and so much more.
I can't stand the sound a pencil makes on paper… and so much more.
Your site mentions that you consider the UK and Germany your home territory. Do you ever pitch to US editors?
Yes. When I first started out, I had my eyes on the German market and was hoping to find some UK authors too. I'd never thought that US authors would even consider querying me. So imagine my surprise that now, a year later, I've got 5 US authors on #TeamWeber while I'm still waiting for a German writer to blow my mind.
Since my authors are based in the US and I'm submitting their manuscripts to US publishers first, I've started considering the US as domestic (meaning my commission is 15% instead of 20%) and the UK as foreign. Me being a German agent shouldn't be a disadvantage to any of my US authors. I guess it's time for me to consider the US my home territory and change it on my website, huh?
Do you hesitate to take on clients from the US, or will you sign any author whose work you love?
No, I don't hesitate at all. As long as the writer can imagine working with an agent in a different country, on a different continent even, I'm happy to take on clients from anywhere.
Tell me about one work you’ve recently signed or sold. What made that project something you just had to have?
I recently signed a wonderful author whom I found, or "met", during a pitch contest. She's written a fabulous contemporary YA Magic Realism novel and I couldn't come up with a single reason why I shouldn't offer representation. I mean, I loved the premise right from the start, connected with the voice straight away, and was hooked from start to finish. Needless to say, it was a rather easy decision for me.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don't rush. Whether you're writing, revising, researching or querying — don't rush. Instead, take your time to do it right.
I totally get that writers are excited about their work and want to share it as soon as humanly possible. The problem: a work in progress is a huge turnoff. Imagine I read a partial and am so head over heels in love with it that I want to see the rest of a manuscript – but there isn’t actually a rest. I can promise that someone will be a very unhappy bunny.
Even if you've JUST finished writing your manuscript, do NOT query. It’s now time for proofreading, editing, tweaking, possible plot changes etc. If you query before your manuscript is really ready, you're wasting the agent's time — and yours too.
Don’t rush your submission. Instead, make it the best query you can. Do your homework before querying. Research. Some agencies want nothing but a query letter, others want a query letter and a reading sample, and yet others ask for a synopsis to cap it all. Some only represent YA, others specialize in non-fiction… confusing, right? That’s exactly the reason why every agency has very specific guidelines to help writers with their submissions. Those submission guidelines are publicly accessible, usually on their websites. Research which agency may be right for you, check their guidelines and follow them. Yes, all this takes time… but it'll pay off.
That’s fantastic advice. Thank you so much, Ms. Weber, for sharing your time and thoughts with us!