Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings a faculty of close to thirty agents, editors, and other industry professionals to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 23rd Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Agent Stacy Testa
Stacy Testa joined Writers House in 2011, after beginning her publishing career at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. She is seeking literary fiction and upmarket women’s fiction, particularly stories with international settings, unique subcultures, historical hooks, magical realism, and powerful women. On the nonfiction side, she is interested in acquiring remarkable memoirs, humor writing, narrative nonfiction, and prescriptive titles with strong platforms. She also represents a select number of realistic young adult titles.
Broadly speaking, Stacy is drawn to anything with an interest in social justice, a compelling narrative voice, and/or a great sense of humor.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
Stacy Testa: It all comes down to one question: when I finish reading the manuscript, do I want to shout about it from the rooftops? If the answer is “no,” then I think it’s best for me to step aside. Without that kind of boundless enthusiasm, it’s difficult to effectively advocate for a project.
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
ST: I would say that’s true for nonfiction, since platform is so crucial in that arena. But I think that is less the case for fiction, especially debuts (let’s just say I’ve never sold a novel based on the number of Twitter followers an author has). So if you are in the beginning stages of your writing career, perhaps completing or pitching your debut novel, I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about social media. It will become more important once you secure a deal for publication, when social media is a useful tool for stimulating book sales. Your publisher and/or agent will be able to help you formulate a reasonable and effective social media strategy at that time.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
ST: Recognize that it’s easy to lose perspective when reviewing your own work, so seek editorial feedback from fellow writers, and be receptive to that feedback! This doesn’t necessarily mean you should run with every single recommendation you get. On the contrary, you should only implement notes that resonate with you – those comments that make you say, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” So listen carefully with an open mind, but never cease to be discerning. After all, this business is nothing if not subjective.
Scribe: Tell us about a project you took on because there was something special or unique about it, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on; or tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an agent.
ST: I’ll never forget the first time I saw one of my author’s books on display in a bookstore. It was such an exciting and gratifying moment (though I don’t think my fellow Barnes & Noble patrons were too keen on my squeals of delight!). Happily, several years and many books later, I still get that rush of enthusiasm and pride every time I see a client’s book for sale in a real live bookstore.
— Thanks, Stacy!
Click here and here to read our 2016 A&E Conference agent & editor bios.
Click here for more information on the 2016 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 24-26) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.