Today, I have an extra special treat for you. Marie Lamba has a diverse background in publishing: she’s an agent and a traditionally published author. She’s also an indie author. How does she do it all? I sat down with her and asked some questions about how she handles the many hats she wears. Enjoy! (PS: her novel, DRAWN, is absolutely wonderful: check out my review here.)
1. You have a unique perspective on the publishing industry: you’re a literary agent. Why did you choose to pursue indie pub for some of your own work?
My first novel was traditionally published and was part of a two-book deal. But I learned the hard way that things don’t always go as planned. When my editor suddenly left the business, my book was orphaned, and my second book, the already written and approved sequel was suddenly cancelled through no fault of its own. So when the world of indie and e-publishing opened up and made it simple to produce and distribute novels, I published the sequel OVER MY HEAD. It wasn’t my first choice, but it was an awesome option that didn’t exist before.
With DRAWN, I was up against the toughest of recession-stressed markets. We got some interest from top editors, but with my orphaned first novel showing relatively low sales and the recession still raging, no offers. My agent was eager to keep pitching, but I decided after 2 years to publish DRAWN myself as well. I’m thrilled that reviewers have widely praised DRAWN and that readers have consistently rated it a 4 or 5 star read!
With my future work, I’ll always try for the traditional route first. Having the clout and exposure of an established publisher on your side is difficult to replicate on your own, not to mention the awesome editorial guidance…but it’s wonderful to know that there are now many ways for writers to reach readers, and many more paths to success.
2. What have you learned about writing because of your job as an agent?
How important voice is. You ever watch that show “The Voice”? It’s not exactly a fav of mine, but it is interesting how some people just open their mouths and sing just three notes and the judges immediately hit the button because they want that singer. There’s an individual quality to their voice, a sound that brings personality and feeling to whatever they sing. The kind of voice you can hear on the radio and immediately identify as only coming from a certain individual.
Now equate that to writing. This is the personality and flair in the writing, the sound of a writer’s thoughts and point of view coming through. The special something that lets us know we are reading a story only that writer would tell. Because this has become to clear to me as an agent, I now respect my own voice more in my writing. And let myself breath through more in my words, if that makes sense.
3. When did you first know you wanted a literary career?
Age 10. I picked up a copy of Half Magic, by Edward Eager at my Sicomac School Library. And I knew. THAT was what I wanted to do. To be lost in other worlds where anything was possible.
4. Is it hard to keep your writer self and your agent self separate?
I don’t even try! I use so many of my writer skills in my role as agent. My eye for story telling, my flair for editing, and my ability to capture the essence of a story in a pitch all come from my writerly self. My sense of timing, my feel for what works, and my ear for voice have all been heightened by the many submissions I’ve read. It’s all intertwined on so many levels.
I do admit it can be a bit hard to hush my critical voice now when I’m writing a first draft. You really have to be more forgiving when you are writing your novel, yet I find myself thinking, “Too much backstory. Get to the point faster!” These are the kinds of things a writer can clean up in revision long before submitting, so I’ve got to be a bit more lenient to my writerly self.
5. What advice do you have for new writers?
Never give up, certainly, but that is always said. I guess I would add that you need to know a writer is always working hard to improve their work and learn their craft, whether writing a first novel or penning a 30th bestseller. You’re never “done” when it comes to craft. So continue to push yourself to revise, to learn and to seek better and better ways to express yourself. It’s all part of being a pro.
6. What advice do you have for old writers?
We can all become jaded and disillusioned by setbacks, but it’s vital to our creative lives that we remember. Remember the passion you feel when you set pen to paper. When you get lost in literature. When your characters take you away and you are more alive than you’ve ever been. Do whatever it takes to refill that well of writing passion. Long strolls, journaling, daydreaming, revisiting your most inspiring reads, hearing other writers do readings, diving into biographies about writers you love. Never let anything make you forget the spark of joy and childlike observation that storytelling brings into your world.
7. Any upcoming projects we should know about?
My short story “What I Did…” is in the anthology LIAR LIAR (Mendacity Press), and Blackstone Audio has just picked the anthology up, so look for the audio version to appear soon.
8. Anything else you want to say about your writing process or writing in general?
Just that it’s such a joy to be completely involved in the writing world. My fellow agents, the kind editors I’ve encountered and the awesome authors I spend my time with have made this an endlessly delightful road to travel, despite any setbacks. Writing is a joy, and we are all part of a community. Seek out your fellow writers and build your community of support, and help each other along the way.
Thanks so much for having me, Jen!
Marie Lamba (marielamba.com) is author of the young adult novels What I Meant… , Over My Head, and Drawn. Her work appears in the short story anthology Liar Liar , the anthology Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering, and her articles are in more than 100 publications including national magazines such as Writer’s Digest and Garden Design. Marie is also an Associate Literary Agent at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency in NYC (jdlit.com). You can follow her on Twitter @marielamba, and like her Facebook page: Marie Lamba, Author.
author of DRAWN, (JAN 2012) young adult paranormal novel in ebook and paperback
author of OVER MY HEAD
, (JUNE 2011) young adult novel in ebook and paperback
*see Marie’s new story in the fiction anthology LIAR LIAR