An Interview with agent Matt Wise
Matt Wise represents a wide array of projects, from controversial narrative nonfiction to literary fiction to art and design projects. His clients include Cody Wilson, the first person to manufacture a working 3D printed gun, novelist Chris Narozny, Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers, photographer Jessica Ferber, esteemed food writer Emelyn Rude, and many others.
He is particularly interested in counter culture, controversial social issues, and has a personal interest in all things art related. Matt began his publishing career as the prose editor of the Bombay Gin literary magazine before joining Foundry Literary + Media.
Matt will be one of our Featured Agents at the Writers’ League of Texas’ 2015 Agents and Editors Conference.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Matt Wise: I see my relationship with my writers/clients being pretty collaborative. I really like to edit, to work closely and make the book/proposal the best it can be. I usually send a pretty chunky edit letter, and then I like to talk about it and make sure we’re on the same page editorially and then back and forth, until we think it’s ready. I like to think of us as a team.
Scribe: If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?
MW: I think patience is an important quality for a client (and agent!) to have. It takes time to edit. It just does. We all certainly want to keep to a schedule and not let things linger for months and months, but understanding there is a plan in place and having faith that the edits will get done, that the book is going to go out, is important. You agent is your best advocate. Have patience and faith.
Scribe: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
MW: When people send those automatic “read receipts” with their emails. If you want to work with me, you’ll have to get in the queue and wait for me to read. The read receipt feels like “I know you have my manuscript now, so the clock is ticking”. 90% of the time I won’t even look at a query that has a read receipt. Or actually, like 99%.
Scribe: 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?
MW: This is such a tricky question. I mean, you want to get hooked. For instance, I just opened a query yesterday to have a glance—I couldn’t stop reading. There was a great voice and some mystery there (I wanted to know more). I took the thing home with me and finished it in one sitting. That’s what I want. You can’t tell a writer how to ‘do that’. It’s not a formula.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
MW: Don’t be afraid to cut things down. Edit. EDIT. Always be working on something too.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.
MW: I recently took on a middle grade project. That’s definitely NOT my style. A friend of a friend kind of thing, I agreed to look (more as a favor, actually) and then I just fell in love. There was this whole world, and I could see everything so clearly. I really felt for the characters. I feel like this question goes back to ‘what do you want to see in the first pages.’ I never would have thought I’d be taking on a middle grade book, but it just hit me. We want something special. Thankfully, that is subjective.
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