3 S.R. Johannes: Marvelous Marketer: Nathan Bransford (Literary Agent)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Marvelous Marketer: Nathan Bransford (Literary Agent)

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome back to the Monday Marvelous Marketer Series. The series will evolve with some new features this year. To provide your input, please take my poll on the side and give me your ideas on what you would like to see in the series this year.

We start the year off with the one and only Nathan Bransford. I'm sure we all follow his famous blog as he steers us through the publishing world. Today, he's here to share some of his Marketing knowledge.

Hi Nathan, thanks for joining us. As if you are not busy enough! Pretend that some people here don't know who you are and tell us about yourself.

Hi Shelli.

Curtis Brown Ltd.
is a New York-based agency that has been representing authors since 1914, and over the years has represented an incredible array of legendary/bestselling authors. I was fortunate to have joined Curtis Brown out of college in 2002 as an assistant in the San Francisco office. I had grown up in a small town in Northern California (my parents are farmers), and living in San Francisco and working in publishing was a dream. I’ve been with Curtis Brown ever since, including a few years in the New York office, before I returned to San Francisco and began building my list in earnest.

I also recently wrote a middle grade novel called JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011.

Nathan also runs a very popular blog - if you have not checked it out yet. It is a valuable resource! You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. It's OK he likes to be cyberstalked! ;)

Congrads on your book deal. Give me a corn dog and space any day! Thinking with both an author hat and agent hat, what do you think are the top 3 things authors should do to promote their book?

I actually only have one thing on the must do list, and that’s to have some sort of Google-able, professional web presence, whether it’s a blog, website, Facebook page… anything that is there on the Internet so that someone in publishing who hears about your work or is looking to contact you can do so easily.

Beyond that, I actually think the best marketing strategy is to recognize your strengths as a potential marketer and to spend your time where it would be best utilized. For instance, some people are really good at pounding the pavement and talking up bookstore owners and arranging appearances and signings. Some people are more introverted and would rather blog and build up their online presence. Others are very plugged in with the media and can utilize those connections to get attention for their book project.

There are many, many ways to promote a book. While I would encourage all authors to do everything they can to promote their work, I think it’s best when authors devote their time and energy where it would be most effective.

Well, you are definitely a great role model when it comes to a cool web presence (aka cool new site) and an extensive platform (aka over 1 million visitors last year). In your mind, what are the major marketing mistakes you see authors make?

  • Failing to have a professional web presence – in this day and age it’s essential
  • Forgetting the importance of always conducting oneself professionally online and in person. The Internet is always watching.
  • Feeling like they have to blog or be on Facebook or do this or that just because they think it’s what’s expected. For example, if you don’t have a passion/talent for blogging it doesn’t really pay to blog just for the sake of blogging: a little-trafficked site isn’t going to sell books. Devote your energy to endeavors that will pay off.
As an agent, when evaluating whether to take on an author or book, I'm assuming you Google them. What do you look for?

I definitely Google authors to see what their web presence looks like, though I wouldn’t say it’s something that’s terribly important to me.

Having a great book is the most important thing, and a web presence can be developed down the line.

But I do like to get a sense of who I might be working with. That’s why it’s so important to have a very professional online presence and to be mindful of the way you “look” on the Internet – I don’t mean physical appearance, but rather the character of your web presence. Is it professional? Does it present the picture of someone who would be easy to work with? Etc. etc.

How have things changed with agencies promoting their author books? What things do agents/literary agencies do to help promote their author's books?

Traditionally it wasn’t really the agent’s job to promote books, but I think that may be changing somewhat with the times.

Personally I promote my clients’ books on my blog and through my personal online network, and I’m always looking for new ways to effectively market my clients’ works.

And actually, speaking of which, this week I’m having an exciting blog contest for Jennifer Hubbard’s incredible debut YA novel THE SECRET YEAR (Viking), so please stop on by!

Can't wait to see what the contest is for Jennifer! As an agent, what are you looking for in 2010?

I’m always on the lookout for fresh voices and compelling plots. I represent a little everything, so when in doubt please feel free to query me.

Thank you for taking time to stop by!

Thanks Shelli!


Unknown said...

Nathan's great and Jennifer's book looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Shelli and Nathan, for the interview. I learned much. Also appreciated the insight about Facebook and blogging. It helps to have an agent opinion.

Happy new year,


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Good read Nathan and Shelli. Thanks. I would like one or both of you to explore the issue of what is professional in a blog. I think the obvious things to avoid are rants on politics and religion, as well as obscenities. But are there more subtle things that an agent or editor would notice? Anything to avoid? Or anything good to promote? Again, thanks. Advice is so welcome.

Meghan Ward said...

Great interview Shelli and Nathan! I particularly like the advice that there is no ONE way to market a book, that each writer should do what is best for her depending on her particular interests/talents. Thanks!

Kelly Polark said...

Ha! I love "pretend that some people don't know who you are."
Fabulous interview with a fabulous blogger/agent. You both are valuable assets to the writing community!

Nathan Bransford said...


Definitely agree that bloggers should avoid rants completely, and I don't think bloggers should needlessly stir controversy. And they certainly should never disparage anyone in the business (polite disagreement is obviously completely fine).

But at the same time I also wouldn't muzzle yourself completely and avoid everything even remotely controversial as the result can sometimes be, well, dull. I know political and religious statements turn some people away, but other people may appreciate it and it can lend itself to a lively discussion, particularly if it relates to your project. Provided everything is done professionally (no rants, no flame wars, people treated with respect) I don't think the actual content of the blog is going to offend anyone you might potentially want to work with.

But it's up to everyone to decide what they feel is appropriate for their own blog, how they want to present themselves, and what the content should be. I think the most important thing to do is to find your blogging "voice" and stick to it. Consistency is important.

And no matter what you say, being respectful is key. People are always going to disagree with you and there will always be trolls. The professional thing to do is to stay above the fray.

Unknown said...

Great interview! I second Tricia's request. What can make a blog/website more professional? Not just in content, but in form?

Catherine Denton said...

Thank you both for this interview. Enjoyed it!

Heather Kelly said...

Thanks Shelli--It's fun to see Nathan in a smaller venue. I always feel a little lost in the crowd when I hang out at his blog. (Although his new forum feature does help out with that.)

Thanks for the interview, and thanks, Nathan for always making me feel a bit more optimistic about this whole journey. Your advice about devoting energies to the right endeavors just lowered my inner writer's stress level.

Elana Johnson said...

I ordered Jennifer's book because of that excerpt on Nathan's blog. Holy compelling. I can't wait until it arrives. Thanks Nathan and Shelli!

Danyelle L. said...

Awesome interview. Thanks, Shelli and Nathan. :) I like the rule that the Internet is always watching, that it never sleeps. It's so very true. Very nice points to think over. :D

Gail said...

Happy New Year to you, Shelli! What an awesome person to start with in 2010. Let's hope Nathan's wise words and book deal rub off on us too!

Christina Lee said...

GREAT interview Shelli and Nathan! I am definitely going to buy The Secret Year and had fun reading all of the journal entries on Nathan's blog.

Natalie said...

Awesome interview Shelli! I liked the bit about having a Google-able web presence. I hate when I try to find information about an author and there's nothing online.

Lori W. said...

Great interview, Shelli. And thanks to Nathan for also responding to Tricia's thoughtful question. That subject has also stressed me out, so I appreciated reading that.

jdsanc said...

Thanks for that interview and especially the timing about web presence. It's tough sometimes putting the time aside, or putting too much time aside. I do because I love the chit-chat, but Nathan's point about being true to yourself and the kind of writer you are is a very good one. My favorite blogs are personal ones where I really get to know the writer.
Thanks so much!

Patti said...

Great interview and a good reminder to keep things professional on your blog.

BK Mattingly said...

Hey, I'm a new follower and just found your blog! Great interview, I can't wait to read more of your posts :D

Ben Campbell Novels said...

Hi Shelli, Thank you for making Nathan's day. You look sweet and write like a pro, and your blog site is professional. I follow Nathan's blog and am always impressed with his thoroughness and comedic writing style. I look forward to reading his JACOB WONDERBAR book, and, I'm considering pre-ordering ROCK PAPER TIGER, which will be published this year. I'll be back to follow some of your posts.

Ben Campbell

Tina Boone said...

Hello, I’m a new follower. I appreciate the info on web presence, but I have a question about being true to who you are. I have several non-religious picture book MS’s and a YA novel I’m pitching right now, but I’m currently working as a freelance ghostwriter for ministries. My blog has more of a spiritual feel because my clients are ministers, but my children's writings are non-religious. Should I have two different blogs, one focusing on what I do for freelance and one for children’s writing?