“Even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.”
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 24th Annual A&E Conference in June, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.
An Interview with Allison Devereux
Allison Devereux is a graduate of UT Austin and has been an agent at Wolf Literary since 2012. She represents up-market and literary fiction and is especially interested in global settings, every-man characters, moral ambiguity, magical realism, underrepresented voices, female protagonists, and stories set firmly in reality but that explore something fantastical or surreal. She’s actively looking for narrative nonfiction that uses a particular niche topic to explore larger truths about our culture; journalistic examinations of progressive politics, pop culture, unique subcultures, and modern feminism; and anything with a convincing narrative voice or a great sense of humor.
Allison Devereux: I tend to be very hands-on with my authors. These days agents need to be more editorially minded than ever, so it’s not uncommon to go through 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5…) rounds of revision together before I send a book out on a submission. I also try to be as accessible, responsive, and straightforward with my clients as possible.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
AD: A distinctive, believable voice; an original or unusual concept; open-mindedness to edits and the unpredictable publishing process more generally; ideas for future books!
Scribe: Do you think social media presence is critical for a successful writing career?
AD: No. Social media can be an incredibly useful tool if you are genuinely active and engaged with it — connecting with readers, other writers, and folks in the industry – but it’s useless if you don’t stay active, or if you’re just sending out the occasional perfunctory tweet or Facebook post. If you enjoy social media, take advantage of these platforms to self-promote and engage with the broader writing & reading communities. Otherwise, I personally don’t think it’s worth the trouble to simply go through the motions. For nonfiction, however, selling books is often platform-driven, and that frequently means an author will have some sort of presence online. I still don’t consider it a strict requirement, but it can be a big help to bring your publisher a built-in audience.
Scribe: If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
AD: Getting published rarely happens quickly or without roadblocks. It often requires years and years of practice to hone your writing skills, and countless rejections before something gets picked up. Your first book — or even second or third — may not be the one to make it across the line with an agent or editor. And even if you never see a word of your writing in print, there is still value in your work if you truly love and take pleasure from writing.
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.
AD: I recently signed up a graphic middle grade series that has been a bestseller in Spain. I represent children’s books only selectively — and I don’t normally sign up untranslated books in languages I don’t speak! — but this series was too clever and fun to pass up.
Scribe: Are there any recent or upcoming releases that you’d like to highlight, to give readers a better sense of what you’re currently looking for?
AD: I’m looking forward to a debut novel called Fingerprints of Previous Owners by Rebecca Entel, which is coming out from Unnamed Press in June. The novel is timely, it takes place in an unique setting, and the voice and plot are original. I’d love more submissions like this.
Click here for more information on the 2017 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (June 30-July 2) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.