Season 1, Episode 5
Literary Agent Zoe Sandler on What Agents “Do” and Her Dream Query
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Notes from this episode:
In this episode, I talk with Zoe Sandler a literary agent at ICM Partners. In this conversation, she really demystifies the role of a literary agent, how they work with and support authors, how they connect authors with publishers.
She also shares some killer tips about what not to do when you’re pitching her, and the query she’s crossing, her fingers will land in her inbox this year.
If you happen to see herself as a modern-day, Emerson or Thoreau, you’ll definitely want to listen all the way through.
- Literary agency ICM Partners
- Query Zoe at: Zoe dot sander at icmpartners dot com
- The Overstory by Richard Powers
- My neighborhood bookstore in Vallejo, CA – Alibi Bookshop
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Vanessa Soto 1:02
In this episode, I talk with Zoe Sandler. Zoe is a literary agent at ICM Partners. And in this conversation, she really demystifies the role of a literary agent, how they work with and support authors how they connect authors with publishers, as well as generously sharing some killer tips about what not to do when you’re pitching her. And the query she’s crossing her fingers will land in her inbox this year. So if you happen to see yourself as a modern-day, Emerson or Thoreau, you’ll definitely want to listen all the way through. And now my conversation with Zoe Sandler.
So welcome Zoe Sandler to the show. It’s so great to have you here. So awesome to have a literary agent who can give us some firsthand knowledge and expertise. So thanks so much for joining.
Zoe Sandler 1:58
Thank you for having me.
Vanessa Soto 1:59
You are very welcome. So I would love to just get started by hearing a little bit about you. I’m curious how you got into becoming a literary agent. And just a little bit of what that entails, for our listeners. Sure.
Zoe Sandler 2:15
I’m a literary agent at ICM partners in our New York office I’ve been at the company for it’ll be 10 years in the fall, started there as an assistant in our royalties department and worked my way up spending a large part of those years working for another agent in a sort of apprenticeship. capacity. And during that time, you know, I was mentored by this agent, I signed authors with this agent, alongside my starting to develop my own list of authors. And then a few years after that, I was granted the opportunity to be an agent in full and continue to, to grow that list. And prior to ICM, I spent three years at an Academic Press after college down in North Carolina. And that was sort of my first exposure to the publishing industry, but very different from the sort of trade version of the industry I now engage with in New York. That said, I will admit that when I moved to New York City and was looking for a job in the industry, I focused entirely on editor draw editor positions, not even knowing what an agent was. So I, as far as you know, that sort of demystification of what an agent is, I’m the first to admit that even though this is what I do, a decade ago, I didn’t know what it was. So
Vanessa Soto 3:37
that was what I was gonna ask you a little bit, I was gonna say, how did how did you kind of fall into the agenting? side? Because I think that’s pretty common people think of editors, I spend a lot of time talking with, with writers and explaining to them kind of how it works. And you have an agent, and that’s a good thing. And the agent helps you get in with the editors, but I don’t think a lot of people. Yeah, it’s true. It sounds like,
Zoe Sandler 4:01
Yeah, absolutely. So I I had, I was applying everywhere to all the different kind of big houses, big publishing houses. And then I had a conversation with a family friend who happens to be an author, and he was sort of giving me some general advice about where to direct my attention with this job search. And he’s the one who said, Have you considered the agent side, and I truly responded, I don’t even know what that is. So that led to my meeting with his agent. And that led to the door opening for me at ICM. So, you know, that was a great sort of first exposure, both that meeting I had with the agent, but I will say to my first position, you know, not on the agent side, per se, but in a sort of business capacity in the royalties department. That was a really valuable way for me to get an understanding of how the agency kind of operated as a whole in our department. You know, what was ICM lists like going back decades, how does the money flow? What do contracts look like? That foundation and that sort of first exposure really laid the groundwork for how I went about assisting the agent I did work for and her clients as well as how I engage with my current clients with having the kind of number side be as, as, as prominent and as important as the reading and the editorial effort. And then, of course, the business side of the deal making but you know, that was for someone who didn’t know what that sort of model was like, What did literary agent did, what an agency, how they facilitated the deals, that first position was a great entry point for me, and it’s, you know, sort of, think of it as like a crash course, in, in, in, in less Romania, the less sort of glamorous, innovative back office stuff. But and it’s like a forensic accounting, but again, extremely valuable and, and a way of servicing a client that
Vanessa Soto 5:53
doesn’t always come to mind. At first, when it comes to the agent, author relationship. So you’re probably bringing a lot of that kind of additional foundational knowledge that you have, to your relationship with your clients. Talk Like a little bit more about how an agent works with clients, and what what you what you kind of support them in, because one thing I’ll tell you that I often hear, and you can tell me if it’s accurate, is agents are busy doing everything, but reading your queries all day long. And their queries is what they get to when they get a chance. And I, you know, I imagine that probably is is pretty true. But it talks a little bit about, you know, what, what does an agent do for the client? Sure, I
Zoe Sandler 6:38
think the word that comes to mind pretty immediately is advocate, and it’s serving as an advocate for the author in an industry, which Yes, still has a lot of sort of a lack of transparency, a lot of mystery to it. And for better or worse access to that industry, you do need an advocate in the form of an agent. And so the role becomes both fostering the author’s actual work in terms of you know, the kind of Creative Conversations we’ll have with our authors about improving a manuscript or a proposal, you know, a good deal of editorial work goes into developing a project before it goes out on submission to publisher. So there’s that side of it, and then submitting it to publishers. So agents are going to be defined in some important part, partially by those contacts that they have in pub in the publishing world, the editors, they know, the fact that they know those editors, tastes, their lists, so that the matchmaking that occurred between agent and author can also occur between author and editor. So the agent facilitates that matchmaking by you know, identifying the right editors to share the project with, and then Most notably, I would say, is the actual negotiation and the deal making, which no author should feel equipped to do on their own. And that’s where an agent can bring, you know, the expertise, the negotiating skills, and certainly the precedent and the kind of foundation of whatever agency they’re at to so an ICM client gets the benefit of the boilerplate agreements we have with all of the publishers gets the benefit of the services by our in house lawyers, our in house sub rights teams, which I can go into in more detail later if it’s helpful. But so the idea is that the author feels like, they don’t have to know all of that. And they trust that their agent is going to do that advocacy work, and really champion their voice in their project on their behalf, and ideally, land them a book deal that launches their career.
Vanessa Soto 8:45
So it sounds like it’s really, it’s the kind of partnership where the author can really like lean on the agent for a lot of this heavy lifting in the area of where they don’t have expertise. And then I think also the matchmaking aspects that you described, it’s, it’s like, oh, I know, maybe this house or this editor is looking for something like that, or I know, they don’t want this nicely.
Zoe Sandler 9:12
I think as I’m reading, either manuscripts or proposal to consider for representation, as important, as whether I’m responding to the work itself is whether I’m starting to picture who I would be excited to share it with. Right? Well, I think once those things align, that’s a pretty magical combination, where it’s not just do I love this, but do I know how to sell it?
Vanessa Soto 9:33
Right? Like I can already see who I would send it to that kind of thing.
Zoe Sandler 9:38
And then I knew the agents role. Post, deal closing does kind of recede and it’s at that point that the author and the editor really get to work, you know, on the on the work on the project itself, where an agent kind of re emerges is further down the line closer to publication so that the author has again an advocate to us Take them through that process, which is going to be in, if it’s a debut, it’s going to be entirely new and unfamiliar to them. So you know, I’m involved in all of the kinds of conversations around publicity and marketing, cover design, jacket, copy, and you know, making sure that it feels as though the publisher is making every effort to to release this book in the in the best way they can, and making sure the author feels that their voice is being heard in terms of how that book should be positioned and launched. And so that’s the other ask on the other end of the process, an agent is absolutely essential in in supporting an author through that part of it as well.
Vanessa Soto 10:39
When the author’s kind of feeling uncomfortable about something or unsure. You’re there. You’re their sounding board to determine if it’s if it’s something normal to let go. Right educated on it, or if it actually is something to be concerned, I
Zoe Sandler 10:52
and I will have the hard conversation so that I’m not, you know, so so that the author editor relationship can can retain its its, you know, its civil civility, and there isn’t any kind of tension there. So, absolutely, I can act as an intermediary, I act as advocate, I act as you know, sort of devil’s advocate of I’ve seen you do this, why wouldn’t you do this? Do this here? So yes, that’s, that’s absolutely correct. It’s, it’s, it’s the sounding board, it’s the feeling of being absolutely supported on both ends throughout the lead up to a publication.
Vanessa Soto 11:25
So do you tend to work with authors on a career basis? Or more of like, a project? Or maybe both? or?
Zoe Sandler 11:33
Yeah, that’s a great question. So obviously, I an author comes to me with a particular project. If I respond to that, and and then we end up speaking about, you know, my feelings about of enthusiasm over it, and, and about, you know, my my feeling of conviction over its potential in the marketplace. That conversation will inevitably include what are your aspirations for the rest of your author career? What other book ideas do you have? Because to answer your question, more specifically, I absolutely sign authors with a career long relationship in mind. And while you know, I think it’s important to focus on the project that brought us together. Ideally, yes, we become a match, you know, for life.
Vanessa Soto 12:18
Zoe Sandler 12:19
I think that’s also important, because sometimes that first project doesn’t sell for whatever reason. So then it’s important to know that I’m not going anywhere, I believe enough in this author’s talent and their potential that, you know, if they go off and write the second thing, they will come right back to me, and we’ll and we’ll give it another go. And it’s not to say that first project, you know, we’ll never see the light of day, it could just be a matter of timing, or whatever the marketplace is doing. But it doesn’t mean that if we don’t end up with the result, we hope for with a first submission that, you know, we then automatically part ways, I’m always interested in building career long relationships with my authors. Because again, it goes back to that matchmaking goal of, you know, finding each other’s fit, and knowing that there’s a real feeling of trust, and, and mutual respect for what each other can bring to the relationship.
Vanessa Soto 13:10
Well, and I think that even just the initial connection between yourself and the author, so you get their their proposal, you read their query, you’re getting these kinds of pieces, and you’re interested, are there sometimes cases when there doesn’t end up being a fit, you have like a conversation? And maybe there’s like, creative different ideas? And like, what, how does, how should an author think about having those kinds of conversations, like determining if it’s a fit? Like, yeah, I’m getting it to?
Zoe Sandler 13:42
Absolutely, I think I will wait to engage with an author by phone or otherwise, until, you know, I feel really confident in my investment in the actual work they’ve submitted. And then I do some poking around online, you know, I kind of see what I can glean about their background. And And then from there, yes, if it is a conversation, you know, that is a one that you just kind of go off of instinct, it’s kind of like, any important relationship a lot. That gets accomplished there. It’s it’s actually hard to articulate, there’s just a feel just people it’s like,
Vanessa Soto 14:19
Yeah, and I think that’s kind of what I was getting at is, is it okay, I think the answer is yes. For an author to think about this type of stuff, they get as far along to having conversation with an agent that they’re looking for there to be a human connection there for to feel good.
Zoe Sandler 14:38
That’s right. And it’s also a big decision. So anytime I have that conversation, and if I’ve expressed, you know, an interest in working together in the form of a formal offer of representation. I never expect the author to accept that in the moment. I always encourage them to have other conversations take all the time they need. It’s an important decision. My interest isn’t going anywhere. But for that reason to Yes, it’s there’s a lot you can read and that initial contact, but it’s still okay to take the time to really compare notes on other other really, you know, other agents, they’ve they’ve they’ve reached out to, you know, get it take the time to really figure out if that’s the match that feels right to you. And so I think it’s important to, to dedicate the level of attention and time to making that decision both on both sides, whether it’s my reaching out to the the prospective author saying, you know, this is something I’m really interested in, or whether it’s the author knowing that he or she has a decision to make amongst multiple agents interested, you know, take taking a lot of care with that decision is important. I think
Vanessa Soto 15:43
that’s, that is really wonderful to hear, and a really great attitude to have, because especially if you’re building long term relationship, or that’s the intent, then you don’t want there to be any of that weird pressure or things like there’s no reason to rush it.
Zoe Sandler 15:58
Also, publishing as a business is the long game. I mean, so
Vanessa Soto 16:01
there’s really no reason to rush.
Zoe Sandler 16:04
The idea of there being a sense of urgency really ever
Vanessa Soto 16:08
Zoe Sandler 16:08
to imagine. And so obviously, that’s not entirely the case. But it is a business that’s built on, you know, longevity. And, you know, a lot of a lot of time it takes often two years to publish a book. So every stage of that process, there’s a built in from where I sit, understanding that it’s not going to happen overnight. Right,
Vanessa Soto 16:31
right. And I think I do talk with writers quite a bit about the pace that they can expect. And it all starts with I have I have one client right now who’s sending queries out. And we’ve been talking about, you know, every agent has a different period of time to review a query. Six weeks is pretty common. And people wonder like, should I follow up after a week? And I think it’s, it’s the the pace is different. And you guys have a lot of other things going on besides queries? What should what should an author be thinking about? When they’re sending out queries? And they’re hanging out waiting for four weeks or six weeks? And they get they get a nothing? Or a yes or a no or whatever? Just how do they kind of think about that process? It sounds like it’s just getting?
Zoe Sandler 17:22
Well, every agent has sort of her own policy around quick how they handle queries, whether they respond to everyone whether a lack of a response should indicate it’s a pass, personally, I respond to every query I receive. And my response time can really vary. I think average is something like what you just described as six weeks. Obviously, if there is reason to read sooner, based on an author having interest from other agents, I will prioritize that query. But it’s Yes, managing expectations is a big part of this process. Keep in mind, though, that it’s the same one that we undergo when we’re submitting to editors, and you know, a project is on submission, you kind of have to surrender, then you’ve got turnaround time, unless then, unless you know, someone pipes up with interest, and then everything does kind of accelerate. But until that happens, it’s a lot of waiting, too. So I say that not to say not to kind of like imply that all we do is wait but just to further an author to know that we feel it to on the other end of the process, when we have something that we’re really excited about. And then we just have to kind of sit tight and hope that someone else shares that excitement. On the other side of the, of the deal. And I know, two, four queries, I think following up is certainly not a bad idea. It may not elicit a response, but there’s no harm in it. It doesn’t annoy me personally. And, you know, like I said, I keep very good track, and I and I do respond to everything. So it’s, it’s not following up Never as if at least for me, the thing that prompts me to, to remember that I have that query, I definitely have noted it. And then it’s just a question of like you said, When do I get to those after everything else has been removed from the inbox or the to do list? You know?
Vanessa Soto 19:07
Yeah, and I think one of the things that I really remind people of is to pay attention to what the requirements are from every agent, because you’re describing your own what you’re comfortable with, and, and how you operate and everyone’s different. But that’s part of it. Right? That’s there’s, you know, it’s, it’s some of it is personality, some of it is just structure. And it also sounds like it’s a good practice in like patience. And this is just something that you’re going to be continuing. If you’re if you get lucky enough for your book to go out on submission, then you’re waiting again. And so a normal, normal and we’re in it together. And no news is not necessarily bad news in either in either process on either side.
Yeah. Okay, good. That’s, that’s great. So, let’s take a little step back to this whole idea about queries. I know what you’re looking for. I work with primarily nonfiction authors, we probably have some fiction authors listening as well. platform is the biggest the biggest question, when you are, you know, reviewing query, what are you looking for? Is it Are you the type of agent that has ideas about an acceptable number for a platform or just curious if you have any, you know, thoughts on that area.
Zoe Sandler 20:29
So I represent probably an even amount of adult fiction and adult nonfiction, most of my, the nonfiction I represent is more narrative and practical work with a lot of journalists. So their books tend to be a blend of reporting and a little bit of the personal voice as well. And then I do a handful of books for young readers largely in the middle grade and picture book categories. As far as queries and what I like to see both about the work and the author, I would argue that, as important, as you know, the strength of the work that they’re putting forth, and their writing is, who is the author? And I don’t mean to say the author has to be a name, or a recognizable, you know, person in any way. But it’s more to do with, why are they the only person to write that particular book. And that can be defined by a real authenticity of voice, if it’s something like memoir, and it’s that personal narrative that only they could convey? strongly, or it’s a question of authority and expertise, you know, there’s, they want to explore a particular topic, or idea that their backgrounds, and whatever form that take, make them the person to, to a lot to talk about that idea. So it’s more convincing, you know, why are you the person to write this book? And yes, that can take the form of, here’s my social media, and here’s who I know. But again, it’s more about if you’re an unknown author, what about your expertise and your identity will, will will readers gravitate towards because, you know, publishers that are trying to encourage attention on a completely unknown voice, they need something from the author to be able to know who that reader is. And that can be in the form of, you know, hear the other books that are similar to mine, but it can also be in the form of, here’s my path to leading to this point. And here’s who here are the contacts I can bring in here at the places I’ve worked? Are the people I know that can offer an endorsement? Or here’s the reach, I can I can I can accomplish in terms of, like I said, attracting an audience, because I think, for nonfiction, specifically publishers, increasingly, especially with first time writers, do need some sense of can this author bring a built in readership of some kind? Right,
Vanessa Soto 22:56
right. Yeah. And I think that’s really important for aspiring authors to hear is to be thinking in that broader, broader lens. And to be something of a packaging exercise is pulling together all the aspects of yourself. And I think a lot of times, writers are focused on the idea and the craft, and a little less on bringing those things in it is something that I helped them with, but it’s wonderful to hear you kind of reiterate it and also say that all the pieces come into play there.
Zoe Sandler 23:27
And it’s and its uniqueness taking many forms in terms of your author identity. And it’s funny because that word to be unique. It actually is something I don’t encourage authors to focus on when it comes to the book idea itself. If they are telling me this is a book, unlike anything that’s ever been written, that is something publishers will not want to hear because they don’t know who that reader is, if they can’t look to what else is similar to it that’s already been established in the marketplace. So it’s this weird, you’re always navigating both being kind of distinct and sort of one of a kind as the author and as the voice while also being able to live on an existing shelf. Right. So it’s it’s it’s it’s weird, because it feels like that’s a kind of contradictory existence for a particular project. But it does speak to that sweet spot that that publishers are ideally identifying, which is that yeah, it’s the author is the one who is a sort of one of a kind, but the book itself, it’s in conversation in some capacity with what else is out there.
Vanessa Soto 24:30
And that is similar to what I often talk about with folks, which is that the publishing industry is not in fact looking for the thing you’ve never heard about. But a new fresh take on something that we are already aware of, but is uniquely your your take and maybe tied to your expertise and maybe the cultural conversation or the moment in time. Some of those kinds of things and that is often a new idea for people who think Should be a net new idea that no one’s ever ever heard of before. So, okay, that’s great. That’s really helpful. Is there anything about? It sounds like you’re you, you keep up on your queries pretty well. Is there anything that will just be like the worst? Like, what’s your pet peeve? what’s what’s a bad thing in a query?
Zoe Sandler 25:23
fairly minor, but you’d be surprised both how frequently it happens and how much it does hurt me, which is sort of the lack of care taken with, with the manner of querying in terms of Am I on a mass email
Vanessa Soto 25:38
to like 100 agents, okay. Like your cc?
Zoe Sandler 25:42
I just delete that and or am I Is there a typo in my name? Am I missing Sanders? Again, these seem like small things, but it’s a level of attention to detail that in my mind matters. And, and then things like, you know, I think, obviously, there’s it may be that they don’t entirely know what types of books I represent. I don’t fault authors for trying, you know, for a slight misfire in that regard. But if they’re coming to me with why fantasy I have, there’s no indication that that’s something that I that I spent a lot of time representing. So again, it’s sort of like a wasted, it’s a wasted submission on their part. And then it also just kind of immediately signals to me that, you know, it’s not going to be a good fit. And yeah, that’s, and that’s, and that’s, so again, these are very forgivable things, but they are sort of, if I’m just sort of cruising through those queries, and I latch on to those kinds of slight, you know, I wouldn’t even call them mistakes, but just sort of, you know, not entirely what I would expect them. Yeah, that’s probably not to get an immediate response. Yeah, they
Vanessa Soto 26:43
haven’t done the research. Be careful. I think those are the kinds of mistakes that everybody needs to take the time to avoid. So no, no cc emails. I think those are, those are good tips, good reminders for people, and, and hopefully easy things they can avoid. Mm hmm. Is there anything in 2021 that you are crossing your fingers shows up as a query in your inbox?
Zoe Sandler 27:15
Oh, that’s a very good question. I find myself seeking an author who I could classify, as we call a naturalist, you know, something in the vein of the sort of white men from centuries ago that aren’t canon, kind of like Emerson are in this genre of sort of nature writing, but from a contemporary, ideally, female perspective, because I think one way to kind of attract attention on things like climate change, and the crises we’re in when it comes to the environment is to put forth books that, you know, remind readers about the enormous benefits of nature and the outdoors and where we can reconnect with the earth in that way. I just think that’s such a more promising and rewarding way into that subject. I represent my nonfiction taste as veer into things like the environment and sciences. And it’s, it’s hard, it’s a hard category to get readers to come and sit, you know, in a book length capacity on and so I find that if you can, instead, kind of lure them in with a more romanticized and kind of affectionate take on our relationship with the planet that can go a long way and enhancing people’s awareness on the subject.
Vanessa Soto 28:38
And that’s interesting. Okay, so all of you modern 21st century naturalist out there. Yeah, I am. I am trying to remember the name of a book that I read last year, it was all about trees. It was overstorey. Yes, yes, ma’am. You think of that,
Zoe Sandler 28:58
which was, I read that last year as well. And and that’s exactly what inspired this, this desire in me I you know, it’d be one thing to ask for the next novel that’s like that. I think that would be a dream as well. But it’s funny, it kind of achieved what I just talked about, but in fiction, but I would love like any of those characters in that book to be real life figures. And actually, they are reading about it. The author did, did get inspiration from from people in real life to write to write that story. And so yes, that’s that sensibility around our relationship with nature is completely what
Vanessa Soto 29:32
I’m after. Correct. Interesting. Okay. Yeah. Because I, I picked, I think my local bookseller book, because I would sail and yes, I would never have picked up a big fat book about trees. Yeah, I’m not. I am not a naturalist at heart, but I loved it. And what I loved about it, it was so unexpected. Yes, and it did get me feeling much better. who’s looking at the trees? I was walking? I was much more curious. So, okay, thank you for that one. hour have a great read right there.
Right. Hopefully we’ll find you. A nonfiction overstory type? Yes. expert in 2021. Okay. All right. So he so if folks are, you know, listening to you talk and they are working on a book proposal, what’s the best way for them to query you? Are you is the information on your website? Or do you go through Query Tracker?
Zoe Sandler 30:35
Yeah. So, you know, it’s funny, often I get queries where the author has referred to finding me through query tracker, so I must be on there. It’s not something I actively keep up but by email is great. I Sam’s website is notoriously uninformative. So my email is my first name, Zoe z dot Sandler, my last name at ICM partners calm. And, you know, as, as kind of, as we’ve talked about as mystifying, as the publishing industry can be, you know, the fact that the slush pile remains a way for authors to get discovered, you know, it’s not that way and a lot of the entertainment business. So, you know, unsolicited queries, the fact that that’s still very much a healthy pool of emerging talent, I just think is a really good sign of what’s possible for anyone aspiring to write and be published.
Vanessa Soto 31:25
Oh, that’s, that’s great, that that’s a really good point. It’s true, it really has evaporated from other areas. Yeah, I
Zoe Sandler 31:32
think it’s, you often have to maybe know someone or have gone to the right school, or whatever it may be. And, you know, for, obviously, there is a gatekeeper aspect of publishing in the form of guests, finding an agent is a crucial part of it. But to get to the agents, we’re, we’re out, you know, rows are? No, it’s true.
Vanessa Soto 31:52
I think it can be one of those things where, for someone who has no experience, there might feel like a little bit entitled to have the ability to reach out to an agent. And actually, one way to think about it is that it is kind of lucky that we still have that.
Zoe Sandler 32:10
Yeah, it’s a very next democratic
Vanessa Soto 32:13
is excellent. And democracy is good. We want to maintain that. Okay, so now I’m just gonna start to close this out. And I have three questions. I’ve been asking everybody on the show, and this is just, you know, there for fun. But the first one is, is there a common myth that you would love to debunk about publishing?
Zoe Sandler 32:38
Well, I think we already kind of covered it. And it’s about that sort of idea that you if you have the most unique idea, the greatest book idea, that’s all you need, and who you are, isn’t as important. You can write it anonymously, you know, and that is really no longer the case. And, you know, increasingly, what an author brings to a publication, this is across every category, not just if they’re the expert, in it sort of practical nonfiction capacity, like it is, it really matters. And so who they are, can take many forms, as we talked about, but I think that is one one sort of myth that if you just write, you know, America’s great novel, and kind of slip it in with that with a pen name, the rest is gold is just yeah, it’s no longer the case.
Vanessa Soto 33:23
Well, and I think the positive side of that is, the more that you can get to understand who you are and what you bring, and develop that platform of, of people around you who are interested in, in reading what you have to say, and, and know how to articulate your expertise. So I think that’s the flip side.
Zoe Sandler 33:42
And actually, what you just said about, you know, enhancing your platform, I would argue to the writing community is so valuable. So yes, it can be in the form of your platform can be in the form of followers and and people you’ve connected with online, but it’s also Are you part of a writers group, have you gone to a retreat where you’ve met other aspiring writers, were you in an MFA program where you’ve kept in touch with alumni, I think having any kind you know, writing can be it is obviously, by definition, a very solitary act. But by engaging with others and forming a network or community, that’s not only going to help you creatively with being able to share your work and get feedback on it, but down the road, those are just people that you’ll know, and you’ll be able to share with your publisher, you know, they had eyes on your work at an early stage, and they would be prepared to help in any way they can. So I think building the platform can also be a form of building a community to
Vanessa Soto 34:32
your connections and, and placing yourself in the world of writing. Yeah, thank you for that. I think that’s possibly something that especially writers on the nonfiction side, who come from different backgrounds who are just starting to, like, wade into this idea of writing a book that might be a newer thing. And probably all all the more important to start to engage in that world of other people who are writers and learning about things and
Zoe Sandler 34:59
even working with someone Like you, I think, you know, if I get a query, but it’s from the freelance editor that the that the author hired or it’s from the book coach that they worked with, that’s an added level of endorsement that almost amounts to a referral, that will just kind of raise the caliber of that query in a sense that like, it’s already been vetted by that person in some way, it’s already gone through, you know, one person of authority, whatever that looks like, that says, You should be paying attention to this person and to their voice. So you know, even if engaging in community is takes that form, where you’re enlisting professional help with your project that can go a long way, when it comes to securing an agent and a publisher.
Vanessa Soto 35:40
It’s an additional level of commitment. And yeah, just demonstrate that.
Okay, question number two, how would your parents or parent type individuals describe what you do for a living? Well, you
Zoe Sandler 35:55
know, I think it’s sort of it’s the misconception I had, or at least the sort of lack of knowledge I had about what an agent was. And I think when people hear I work in publishing, they assume I’m an editor mostly, so it’s, you know, oh is always a word, you know, works at a publisher or so he publishes books, it’s not so far off. I don’t fault them for that long thing. But, you know, people will often refer to the TV show younger saying, you know, this your job, and I’ll say, kind of, I mean, the funny thing about that show is that there’s one literary agent for the hire industry. So that’s not entirely accurate, obviously. But in terms of capturing like, the world and the kind of sensibility of what I do day in, day out,
Vanessa Soto 36:36
that’s not too far off. Yeah. Well, even though they’re not literary agents, I’m imagining you’ll probably get some call my agent references. Have you seen that?
Zoe Sandler 36:46
I know, I’ve not watched I’ve heard so much about it. And and so yes, I am curious about it. But yes, even just the word agent has such a range of connotations, right? Because there’s the entourage reference, there’s Yeah, there’s a whole range of things, which largely refer back to Hollywood. And I would argue, like, I mean, in some ways are really similar. But in many ways, it’s very different.
Vanessa Soto 37:08
Thanks for describing that. So it sounds like you love what you do. But if money were no object, what might you be doing all day long?
Zoe Sandler 37:19
Well, this is not such a pivot, I think I would love to own and work in a bookstore. Assuming they survive, you know, that I know, the next chunk of time here. And yet I would love to just continue to live and breathe and the world of literature, but maybe in that capacity instead. So that’s a reminder for everybody to go order books from your local bookstores, you can
Vanessa Soto 37:46
call them up, if they don’t have a website, they are probably taking curbside pickup and doing all kinds of things.
Zoe Sandler 37:52
I mean, what you just described about finding the overstory like Amazon can’t provide that, you know, that was a complete, you know, personal record bookseller recommendation that comes from a browsing experience that’s very hard to replicate online. And, you know, worse, we’re seeing the the disadvantages of not people not having access to that browsing ability right now. So, yeah, they, they, hopefully the independent bookstores stay alive and stay in business. And I think I would be extremely happy to spend all my days.
Vanessa Soto 38:26
Well, it allows us to keep probably a wider range of more interesting books coming through the pipeline,
Zoe Sandler 38:34
stumble upon factor, you know that, again, that doesn’t happen online. And it’s so memorable when it does, and it only comes about when you’re when you’re physically in a bookstore. So yeah, thank you for that big reminder. And
Vanessa Soto 38:48
I’ll put in a plug for my local bookseller Karen Finlay and Alibi Bookshop. She’s always recommending books that I’m in Vallejo, California, just about 45 minutes out of San Francisco, but she’s a huge book lover and worked in publishing before opening her book shop. So not that dissimilar from your dream
Unknown Speaker 39:10
has a real like thriving, independent booksellers
Vanessa Soto 39:14
like that. It’s struggling still like everybody, but you know, I mean, she literally had it’s just a tiny little bookshop in in our town and she bought it from a struggling bookseller and has been doing her absolute best with it. But you know, it’s it’s that community. Yes, he’s right. Like, I know her name. I know her husband and when I can go there. I see people I know, did she launched her own site through bookshop.org
doing has a bookshop.org. And I noticed they recently just added a gift card. So that’s a great good, great bye for people. Yes, we need our whole overall book ecosystem. Yeah, keep thriving. Yeah. Okay. Well, thank you. So we thank you so much. for sharing so much great insider information with us and helping demystify what an agent does and you’re so warm and friendly. Hopefully that will also make people feel a little less nervous about reaching out to agents though I’m sure some are are less warm and friendly, but for being being so
Zoe Sandler 40:21
now this was such a such a pleasure. Thank you for having me.