Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.

Erin Murphy got her start in publishing at Northland Publishing/Rising Moon Books for Young Readers, where she was Editor-in-Chief; she still lives and works in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she founded her agency, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, in 1999. She loves knitting with a cat in her lap, walking through the woods with her dogs, traveling in the off season when the destination is quiet, watching DVDs (especially whole TV series in marathon sessions), kayaking, eating dark chocolate, and of course, reading. Her favorite genre to read in her downtime is fantasy. She works with more than sixty authors and author-illustrators. See a list of her most recent sales and her clients’ new releases by clicking here.

What advice would you give to a writer who feels that he/she is ready to get an agent?
Know what you want from an agent. Be aware of agents working in your genre–new ones coming along, established ones expanding their list, assistants beginning to sign their own authors–by reading blogs, being active on the boards online, watching deal announcements on Publishers Lunch, talking with other writers, and so on. Choose a targeted few and go after them with confidence, but keep other emotions out of the picture the best you can so that it is a professional approach. Submit multiply, but let everybody know you are doing so, and don’t blow all the options on the first try. Keep everybody informed as you receive any interest–interest from one often leads to quicker responses, and more interest, from others. Be brief in all follow-ups, just keeping people informed, rather than expecting a conversation to develop. Above all, keep writing, even as you wait.

We often hear of agents turning down manuscripts because they just didn’t “fall in love” with it. Out of the manuscripts that you do reject, what percentage of these do you feel are actually good, marketable manuscripts that just didn’t fit your taste or needs?
I’d say about 95% for me–but this is because I don’t read unsolicited submissions. *All* of the manuscripts I get are from people who have been referred my way, or who I met at a conference, and I generally ask to see a writing sample before I ask for a full manuscript–so by the time I sit down to read a manuscript, I’m already fairly sure of the writer’s experience, professionalism, subject matter, grasp on the market, and so on.

At this point, for me, I only sign someone new if it makes my stomach hurt to think of them working with someone else. Their work has to be so wonderful and so unlike anything else I’ve ever read that I just can’t pass it up. This means I turn away a lot of people I really believe will get published–just, with the help of someone else, or on their own. When possible, I try to refer them to another agent who might be a better match for their style.

I know that’s a terribly hard reality. I definitely don’t share it in order to be discouraging. I just encourage people to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and to write the best material they can possibly write. Publishing is a business of love. Those who write fearlessly, who really put themselves out there in their work (with a strong foundation of craft and knowledge) are most likely to connect with an agent or editor.

What’s your favorite children’s joke?
Q: How much did the pirate’s earrings cost?

A: A buccaneer! (Buck an ear.)

Thanks so much, Erin!

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