“An ideal debut author is clear about their career goals and knowledgeable about their own professional and creative needs. They are focused on their craft and the ultimate expert on their own work while willing to trust their publishing team’s industry expertise. I love working with writers who are interested in being in conversation with their peers and fostering a supportive and revolutionary publishing world. On the page, they are committed to their unique voice and unafraid of making waves.” -Heather Carr, The Friedrich Agency
Every year, the Writers’ League of Texas brings 20-25 literary agents and book editors to Austin for its Agents & Editors Conference. As we look ahead to the 29th Annual A&E Conference, taking place June 24 – 26, 2022, we’re happy to share Q&As with some of our visiting agents and editors here.
An Interview with Heather Carr
Heather Carr is a literary agent at The Friedrich Agency where she represents fiction and nonfiction for adults. Originally from the suburbs of Portland, OR, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY. Heather is easily enticed by literary fiction that veers toward the strange, offbeat humor and setting as character. Her favorite nonfiction is narrative or journalistic with a knowledgeable guide who will charismatically introduce her to a topic that may initially appear intimidating. In both fiction and nonfiction, she loves to be invited into a world she may not otherwise have access to, or that has been historically sidelined. She loves a writer who isn’t afraid to break the rules. As with most readers, Heather is on the hunt for a singular voice that takes her by surprise.
Scribe: How would you describe your personal approach to working with an author?
Heather Carr: I am a deeply collaborative agent, interested in maintaining a long-term relationship whenever possible. I like to get my hands dirty editorially, often getting as granular as a line edit. I tailor my approach to each writer, while always prioritizing honesty, clear communication, and mutual respect.
Scribe: What do you look for in a debut author?
HC: An ideal debut author is clear about their career goals and knowledgeable about their own professional and creative needs. They are focused on their craft and the ultimate expert on their own work while willing to trust their publishing team’s industry expertise. I love working with writers who are interested in being in conversation with their peers and fostering a supportive and revolutionary publishing world. On the page, they are committed to their unique voice and unafraid of making waves.
Scribe: What’s one piece of advice you find yourself giving to others time and time again?
HC: Make sure you have a SUPER POLISHED draft before querying agents. I don’t just mean make sure it’s free from typos, though that never hurts. I mean truly, seriously, polished. Step away from your manuscript, send it to a few trusted readers, give yourself a break. Go back and read it again, and you’ll see things you missed the first time. THEN you’re ready to query. When you use an agent as a beta-reader, you’re wasting your first and only opportunity to convince them your work is worth going on a risky, multi-year journey borne of the shared belief in an idea and a piece of writing–no pressure!
Scribe: What excites you the most about the publishing industry today?
HC: I am optimistically feeling the shape of the industry as a whole starting to shift. The more young people I speak to, the more I’m convinced we have enough passion and collective power to mold publishing into a more equitable and innovative industry. I’m excited by new, creative approaches that seek to replace or transform the current accepted standards of how we treat authors and publishing professionals, and I hope the momentum only continues to build if enough of us demand change.
Scribe: Tell us about a recent book/project that you worked on that excited you and you want everyone to know about?
HC: This feels like being asked to pick a favorite child! I want everyone to know about every project I work on, they are all special and beautiful!!! Two novels close to my heart (that could not be more different from one another) published last year on the same day: Violet Kupersmith’s BUILD YOUR HOUSE AROUND MY BODY and Emily Austin’s EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM WILL SOMEDAY BE DEAD. Both feature women that will grab you by the heart as soon as you meet them. Coming in 2023 is Nicole Cuffy’s DANCES, which imagines the first black ballerina at the NYC Ballet: it’s lyrical and bewitching and the ending will literally make you gasp. Every writer I work with, though, blows my mind–I feel lucky and honored that they trust me with their work, and stunned that this is my job!
Click here for more information on the 2022 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.