Ashley Grayson, the founder of the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency, understands the business of publishing. In this interview, he explains how he helps his authors make good investments in their work and their art, why his representation is for the long-term, and why he is not worried about the digital revolution.
You have a really solid reputation in the industry, Ashley. What about your style and strategy makes you "the best agent in the universe?"
I'm the best agent in the universe because of my Focus on the Financial elements, now and in the Future.
I'm the Warren Buffett of literary agents, I insist all clients treat their works as financial investments that must pay dividends in the long term. The author who needs us as his or her agent is serious about strategic investments in craft and career, and wants to maximize the return they enjoy from the books they write. Some agents are trend chasers, they pursue clients who can fill a niche and write something like so and so. Other agents are day traders, they will sell any book they can flip for a profit in three days. Many agents are good at this. Some agents get lucky and confuse luck with strategic vision. We can't represent everyone and we don't believe in luck.
How should a writer make contact with you if they like this description?
1. Say something interesting.
2. Think of me as an investor and convince me you and the cash flow your works will generate will yield us both a happy return.
What should writers never do when they query you?
Number one no-no: describing their book in terms of two movies or TV shows; or describing their book in terms of two books that have no relationship to each other: "in the tradition of Twilight and Rich-Dad, Poor Dad."
Do you think that ebooks and ebook readers are a good thing for publishers? How about for writers?
All the e-book readers are steps in the right direction. Publishing has proven itself unable to run a stable business while controlling 90% of the cash flow generated by authors. Publishers drive their companies by looking in the rear view mirror then they hide what they see (sales figures) from the authors for an additional three to six months when they release royalty statements. This must change. (Since this interview was held, Apple has sold three million iPads, opened the iBookstore to another 80 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners and released the iOS 4 operating system and a new iPhone. All of these devices are e-book readers as well as their other functions. To compete, Amazon, B&N, and other e-book companies have lowered prices, thereby reinforcing in public the idea that reading is a race to the bottom business. Authors are now pressured by publishers and booksellers alike to lower expectations and accept less return on their investment. We are working to find a better way.)
Are you worried about the poor forecast for the publishing industry?
I'm prepared for the future because I really understand the technological shifts shaping the publishing business model and marketplace. I can read computer code the same way I can read a novel. I can't be fooled or frightened by tech.
What are editors looking for now?
What kinds of books are you, personally, looking for more of?
Our clients provide great work and proposals. Authors applying for representation should write fresh books with content meaningful to readers today.
Do you mind telling the readers something personal about yourself?
I really love all kinds of great books, about anything, as long as they are great. Well, OK, I have no sports gene and cannot imagine reading a book about sports. But I'm not going to answer this or every query I get will somehow try to tie into whatever I said.