Meet the Agents: Noah Ballard

Publishing has become the starting point for creators of original ideas. It’s rare today to see a film, TV show or any other sort of media that didn’t begin as a book, which has allowed writers a much more prominent position in pop culture.-Noah Ballard

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 28th Annual A&E Conference, taking place September 17-19, 2021, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our faculty here.

An Interview with Noah Ballard

Noah Ballard is a literary agent at Verve Talent & Literary Agency. After graduating from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, he began his career at Emma Sweeney Agency before moving to Curtis Brown, Ltd. to build his own list of fiction and non-fiction for adults and children. Noah joined Verve in 2021, where he specializes in platform-driven non-fiction, memoir, and journalism, as well as literary fiction, thrillers and crime fiction and YA, middle-grade fiction, and picture books. A New Jersey native, Noah lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author? 

Noah Ballard: My approach is to assess the talents of a potential author and, if possible, offer meaningful and realistic pathways–through editorial feedback, industry connections or media channels–for them to achieve their goals. I can’t make an author or a book “happen,” but I can present opportunities within the rigid structure of the publishing industry (and through the exploitation of the rights associated with published books, e.g. audio books, translations, film/TV rights, etc.) for that author to find success.

Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author? 

NB: Beyond fundamental writing talent, the best debut authors possess openness, patience and a willingness to collaborate.

Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again? 

NB: The benchmarks of publishing success–whether it’s finding representation, selling a book to a publisher, receiving critical praise and/or selling a lot of copies–are not nearly as enduring as the satisfaction found in the act of writing.

Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today? 

NB: Publishing has become the starting point for creators of original ideas. It’s rare today to see a film, TV show or any other sort of media that didn’t begin as a book, which has allowed writers a much more prominent position in pop culture.

Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and want everyone to know about? 

NB: Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of award-winning novella RIOT BABY (Tor.com, 2019), is coming out with his full-length adult debut, GOLIATH, in January 2022. Tochi is a genius of the sci-fi genre, and the conceit for the new novel looks beyond the tropes of humans leaving Earth and poses the question: Who stays behind and who might want to come back? Through his characters and their desires, Tochi’s vision of the future deconstructs issues of gentrification, race and privilege in way I’ve never seen before. This has been Tochi’s longest gestating project, and I’m thrilled we’re finally sharing it with the world.

Thanks, Noah!

Click here for more information on the 2021 Agents & Editors Conference, a weekend long event in Austin, TX (September 17-19) that focuses on the craft of writing, the business of publishing, and building a literary community.