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Lit Agent Lynn Chu says "Skills Will Always Have A Market"

08/25/2010 07:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Principal literary agent, Lynn Chu thinks that good publishing has a longer shelf-life than cheap digital media. In this interview, she tells us why an author's legal and business skills are more important than ever.

What is your title, and why do you think you're the best at what you do?
Principal. Look at our client list and you'll see: www.writersreps.com/catalog. Also I would note my extensive work against the noisome Google Book Settlement.

How should a writer get in touch with you if they are inspired by this interview?
The best approach to any agent is a short and to the point letter attaching or linking the writer's finished polished material and his or her full CV and list of publications. Spam queries are not read. Anything boring or incoherent is not read.

How has your agency gotten themselves ready for the downturn in publishing? Is there anything that your writers can do to protect themselves?
We have serious sales, business and legal skills and are respected for good judgment and taste. Skills will always have a market. Actually it is cheap aggregation that'll nosedive in the future. Code isn't rocket science. That's why Silicon Valley is so secretive; they rely less on skill than (a) hype, (b) secrecy, and (c) window of opportunity eye-gouging competitive behavior. Gadgets seem cutting edge only because they're new, but they won't be for long. So everybody who thinks property rip-offs and random walk totalitarian data schemes are going to make them rich are misguided, probably corrupt, and doomed. Long run, at least. Writers with talent will never go begging. In books, it's the same as it always was-quality counts. I do expect the industry to change greatly in the near future, however, as it widens and diversifies in product types and the contracts relating to them; authors are going to need much better business and legal than they've had up to now, because it's no longer a static rote-form business.

From your comments, I take it that you're not impressed with the technological changes happening right now?
I love change. There's nothing wrong with e-anything that a $4 a copy royalty to the author, or thereabouts, won't solve.

What kinds of books are you excited about? And what are most editors looking for right now?
Preferably "big" [books] of course, as editors whine incessantly, to agents' annoyance, since there's really no sure-fire formula, or at least, not for long. The minute you think there is, it's usually just past. In theory, everyone's mind is open to anything and everything, but in recessionary times, it is true that people fall back on what they think is tried and true. There's nothing wrong with a formula-except when it's stale, which, as I just explained, is most of the time. You look for what's good and that's not a matter of topic or genre. Everyone in the business has certain genres that make them gag or types of things they have no head for and are usually very up front about it. Good fiction, I'd say, is quite hard to find, and it'd be great to. My standards may be too high. I was ruined by the classics.

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