Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W -- Interview with Literary Agent Cherry Weiner

Deirdra: What made you decide a career as a literary agent?
Cherry: I didn't decide. It was decided for me. I had been working for a literary agent and he fired me. Some of his big name authors thought enough of me to keep hounding me to open my own agency. I wouldn't because I felt I didn't have enough experience. Then, two years later, I came home to five manuscripts on my front porch by new authors... and five letters from those same big name authors who hounded me, telling me they had told new authors to send me work. Hence five manuscripts, five authors and thus I was pushed into it.

Deirdra: When you are not wading through massive amounts of query letters what do you like to do in your spare time?
Cherry: What spare time. There are the authors, the manuscripts, the workshops I travel to and do... and then there is my family... a husband, two daughters - one of whom is getting married in November - and two granddaughters. There are spare hours.... Well, I dl sleep about 3 - 4 hours a night... does that count ?

Deirdra: How does one become an agent?
Cherry: I guess like I did .. either get kicked into it... or intern and then work for an agent. Either stay and become an agent at that firm, or, after a time, go out and open your own.

Deirdra: What do interns usually do at a literary agency?
Cherry: Having never been one... or had one, I am assuming but like any intern at any job, start off with doing all the scutt work, and as more experience comes... more responsibility comes.

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle agents encounter when working with authors?
Cherry: Having the authors realize that although they write well, sometimes even fabulously they will not, in today's economy especially, get that muliti or even one million dollar deal they think they are worth..

Deirdra: What is the most challenging obstacle agents encounter when working with publishers?
Cherry: Getting the manuscript read in a timely fashion.. and when an editor reads something and truly likes it.... but the committee doesn't and the manuscript does not get bought.

Deirdra: What kinds of books are currently in demand?
Cherry: Wow.... it's a matter of taste... Urban Fantasy is still wanted.. though the editors are being a lot more picky. Steampunk is starting to really be a force. Romance always. Erotica is starting to be a major force in the romance field. Cozy mysteries are always wanted. So what's that... something in every genre....?

Deirdra: Are there any genres that publishers in general shy away from?
Cherry: I don't think they shy away from genres... they may shy away from topics. It depends on what has been used and used and used to the point of enough already. Drugs and terrorists are what I shy away from.... Remember this is subjective and each editor has his/her own likes and dislikes.

Deirdra: Do you prefer to find your authors through query letters, live pitches or as references from other authors or agents?
Cherry: At this point I am only taking on authors that I meet and talk to at conferences and workshops. But I do have to spend time talking to them about their writing, and if it is a topic or story that interests me I will ask to see it. And yes, I will look at authors' work that comes with a recommendation from authors I know and who know me and the way I work. Some author that I don't know recommending someone really does not work for me. And of course if an editor recommends... no problem looking there either..

Deirdra: What is the worst mistake authors make on a query letter?
Cherry: Talking about their FABULOUS / BEST SELLER / GREAT./ All the readers love it... or *better written than................. * and pick a famous author....

Deirdra: What is the best time of year to query an agent?
Cherry: I don't know if there is a good time of year. The best time to query is when you have a finished manuscript and it has been gone over and polished and it is the best you can possibly make it.

Deirdra: What’s the best part of your job?
Cherry: Calling an author to tell him / her of the sale.

Deirdra: What’s the hardest part of your job?
Cherry: Trying to explain that while the editor really did like the book... she /he is not buying it.

Deirdra: Would you ever consider representing a new client who previously self-published? Why or why not?
Cherry: Possibly I would. It depends on the book and on the writing.

Deirdra: What is a realistic time frame to sell a manuscript?
Cherry: I don't agree that there is one. It once took me six years to sell a manuscript... then I sold the other 5 books in the series relatively quickly. In the meantime, I was selling another genre for the author.... so I keep plugging away. Pulling the manuscript for a while, and resubmitting when there were new editors....

Deirdra: What is a realistic price range a new author’s manuscript will sell for?
Cherry: Again this depends on the writing and on the story and now... on the economy. But a general first time author with a genre manuscript.... anywhere between $3,500 - $10,000.00

Deirdra: How do you think the growing popularity of e-books will impact the literary market?
Cherry: It will. For how long I don't know, but I do know they are here to stay. Publishers are jumping in on that so they will get a cut of the action also. Me personally, I will always hold a 400 page manuscript or a real book in my hand. My husband keeps looking at the kindles, nooks and all those things and wanting to buy one for me. My answer is no. I am a dinosaur and will always hold manuscript pages and real books in my hands. Doesn't matter that I now have arthritis and bursitis in my shoulders from carrying around a 100 lbs of manuscripts... I will always continue to do it until I can't carry anything heavier than a paperback book..

Deirdra: On average, how many query letters do you receive each year?
Cherry: A year... it would terrify me to count. I know I just came back from a workshop and not having accessed my email in 4 days - including the weekend - I had 27 email queries and there were 10 snail mail queries waiting for me via regular mail, on my desk. That's about usual. Maybe 10 give or take a day.

Deirdra: On average how many new authors do you take on as clients each year?
Cherry: Again... I haven't counted by the year, but let me work that out. If I am lucky, I might find one client at a workshop,every so often. and I do one workshop every month or two. So there aren't that many that I actually take on... maybe about 3 and maybe 4 if I am really lucky.

Deirdra: On average, how many manuscripts does your agency sell each year?
Cherry: Again I don't stop to count... but I think about three or so a month. More if, included in that, is an on going series where I sell two or three just of the books within that series.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an author?
Cherry: Write. Write constantly... every day. Set a schedule and write either x number of hours per day or x number of pages per day. And research. Doesn't matter if it is fiction, and takes place in a fictitious town, research enough of other towns to make that town believable. So write and research... and have the perseverance and guts to take rejection and keep on sending work out. But finish it first.

Deirdra: What advice would you have for someone aspiring to become an agent?
Cherry: My first reaction would be - DON'T. But if you do want to become an agent... get the experience at an agency first. And stay there long enough so you have made the contacts and friends and have the experience. It can be a rough business to be in.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Cherry: I think you covered anything I might want to say in your questions, but If you have to write you have to have, as I said, the perseverance and guts to take the rejections and the criticisms that will be given to you and still hang in there.

Deirdra: BTW If you cant a chance to pitch to an agent go here:


  1. I do appreciate these interveiws, They are an insight to who authors and agents go about getting the excellent results, they achieve,

  2. Thanks to both of you for the interview--it was very helpful. :)

  3. Love hearing about the business from agents and editors. Thanks for the great interview!

  4. Great interview, Deirdra, and thank you so much for your sweet comment on my blog! I will definitely be bookmarking your site as a Favorite Place... :)

  5. Wonderful interview! And thanks for the award - it's beautiful! <3

  6. Great interview, Deirdra - it was fun to read!

  7. I love to read these interviews. People will go through a lot of rejection just to have a slim chance at their passion.
    This is a great W.

  8. D -

    So glad you found my blog and THANK YOU for the award. I'm now a follower of your blog as well and am looking forward to reading more!



  9. Thank you so much for the award! I have it proudly posted on my sidebar now!


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