An Interview with Literary Agent Myrsini Stephanides
Carol Mann Agency‘s Myrsini Stephanides will be one of our many amazing featured agents at this week’s Agents and Editors Conference. To learn more about Myrsini and what she represents, visit our Featured Agents page and read our Q&A below!
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Myrsini Stephanides: I’m very flexible. Every client is unique and my working relationship with each of them develops organically based on their needs. Sometimes authors come to me with a fully formed idea and a proposal that’s in good shape (for non fiction) or a polished manuscript (for fiction). In these cases, my focus is on strategy and we go on submission fairly quickly. In other cases, I sign a client based on an idea, a body of work, a podcast, or a website, and we work collaboratively on the proposal from day one. And there are many shades of gray between these two examples–manuscripts that need editing, proposals that need to be reworked or refocused, media platforms that need to be augmented before submission. These are the kinds of things I discuss with a potential client before offering representation, so that we’re clear from the start and our expectations are aligned.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
MS: I get frustrated when I’m in the middle of reading a manuscript and I receive an email from the author letting me know that they’ve just signed with someone else. If you decide to query an agent and that agent then requests a full or partial, you really should keep them in the loop if you receive an offer of representation. No agent wants to invest his or her time reading a manuscript that is no longer available. But this isn’t just a courtesy to agents; it’s in the author’s interest to solicit feedback and speak with all agents who may offer representation before deciding whom to sign with.
You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
MS: I read manuscript samples looking for the same fulfillment and excitement I get when I read for pleasure. It’s entirely subjective. Like when I’m at a bookstore, I’ll read the opening pages of twenty novels and wait for something to click. If nothing grabs me, it doesn’t mean the books aren’t good, it just means they’re not what I want to be reading right then. In my query inbox, I do the same thing. For fiction, I’ve got to love it–the premise, the narrative voice, that intangible something that grabs me within the first five pages. Non-fiction isn’t quite as subjective, provided that the topic is timely and the author has the right platform, though I do have to be interested enough in the project to feel like I can be a strong advocate for it.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MS: Join a writers group. Whether it’s a formal workshop (on or offline) or a standing date with a group of writers you trust, it’s important to have feedback and support from your peers at every stage on the road to publication.