Lit Agent David Nelson Thinks That Publishing "Is Being Revolutionized"

08/01/2010 01:48 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Literary Agent David Nelson says that his experience in the industry is what sets him apart. In this interview, he tells us why new technologies are changing publishing forever, but that exciting storytelling and good writing will always let a writer succeed.

David, there are many literary agents out there what makes you so different?
Literary agent. There are many terrific agents out there. My 33 plus years of experience in publishing includes sales, marketing and editorial positions at major houses, which is uncommon in the industry - that experience gives me a great overview of the publishing process and how it really works - plus connections at many publishing houses in the U.S and Canada.

Do you think that digital technologies, like ebooks and ebook readers, are a good thing for publishers and writers?
As they say "the times they are a changin.'" I try not to think of these changes as good or bad, but as inevitable. Many things are in the process of being redefined. It certainly is a very exciting time in publishing. Traditional publishing is in the process of being revolutionized. New technologies demand new vision - great storytelling will always survive and writers will discover even larger audiences than they have today.

What kinds of books are editors hoping to see right now? And what are you always happy to have cross your desk?
They are looking for a good read, which is just what a customer is looking for when they walk into a bookstore. I really don't think that the genre matters if the book delivers. As far as proposals/manuscripts go, it doesn't matter what the category is, as long as its something I can read, get excited about and see an audience for.

Are query letters the best approach if a writer is trying to get in touch with you? What are some pet peeves that writers should avoid in their queries?
A good query letter will get my attention, but for the most part I get clients through the agency and scouts that I have in the UK and here in the U.S. plus my own connections. Don't really have a pet peeve, except maybe too much information - less is more is what works best for me.

What advice would you give your authors as to how to deal with tough economic times?
It's never been easy getting published and it's certainly not easy now. You have to believe in your work, it has to deliver the goods, and you need to find an agent that believes in you and is passionate about your work. The cream rises to the top is a cliche for a reason. I have seen that many times over the years as far as publishing a book goes.

Do you mind telling us a "secret" fact about yourself?
I'll never tell . . .

David C. Nelson is a literary agent with Waterside Productions, Inc. His extensive publishing career spans over 30 years with experience in sales, marketing and acquisitions. He has held senior positions at Penguin Group, Harcourt, and Beaufort Books and was most recently the Executive Acquisitions Editor at Sterling Publishing Company owned by Barnes & Noble. He has worked with many celebrated authors including Stephen King, Bill Gates, Garrison Keillor, Terry McMillan, Umberto Eco, Saul Bellow, Mary Karr, Ken Kesey, William F. Buckley, Peter Matthiessen, Salman Rushdie and Anna Quindlen and others.