Justin Wells, Literary Agent Apprentice from Corvisiero Literary Agency, will be available at AWN! this year to offer query critiques and take pitches. For a list of what Justin is currently seeking, please see his agent profile at Corvisiero Agency. Welcome, Justin! Thank you for joining AWN! as you embark upon your exciting new career as a literary agent!
Penny: What person or experience influenced your decision to enter the publishing industry?
Justin: It’s hard to pinpoint one moment or person that really sparked my decision to enter the publishing industry. It honestly was a mixture of events and people that impacted the choice. I had the opportunity to get to know many people across all parts of the publishing industry while I was blogging, and this allowed me to gain a better understanding for what goes on in the publishing world. When it comes to being an agent, it was something completely new to me. I had encouraged a good friend of mine to apply for an internship with Corvisiero Literary Agency, and about a year later, I joined her at the agency as an intern. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the work, and I greatly enjoy being surrounded with such amazing people at the agency.
Penny: You are a go-between between publishers and authors. How do you avoid bias toward one or the other?
Justin: This is a tough question. When it comes to working with both authors and editors, I feel like it’s important for me to have good relationships with both. I make it my goal to not only build strong relationships with my clients, but to also build those relationships with editors.
Editors are the gatekeepers for agents, much like agents are the gatekeepers for authors. We have to be able to build working relationships with editors. By doing so we are able to chat with them about what they are looking for presently, or what they might be looking for in the future. As agents, this allows us to learn the best place to send our writers' work.
Agents face passes from editors, just like writers face passes from agents. It’s part of the business, and as agents we just have to understand that a client’s work isn’t always going to be loved as much by an editor, even if it’s something we fell in love with as an agent. But a pass from an editor isn’t something that is going to ruin a relationship between the editor and agent, because you just see what they are currently looking for and let them know when you have a new project that might work.
It’s all about finding a balance that allows me to do the most I can for my clients, and also making sure that I am staying focused on what editors are currently looking for.
Penny: Tell us about your young adult literature blog, and how it impacted your career choice.
Justin:I was a YA book blogger for many years. I started on YouTube, where I did book reviews, and I eventually moved to traditional blogging, where I stayed for about six years. When I first got into blogging, I had no idea what kind of careers there were in publishing. It was honestly something I had never really thought about. It wasn’t until I started working with major publishers, actively talking to their publicists, and other people in their YA divisions, that I really became interested in the publishing world, and what I could do within it as a career.
Penny: How has your degree program at Southeast Missouri State University helped you in making your start as a literary agent?
Justin:You know, it’s funny, because when I first started looking into being a literary agent, I really wasn’t completely sure how my work in public relations through my degree program would translate into the work of an agent. When I started with Corvisiero Agency, I was doing a lot of work on actual PR events (blog tours, etc.), which allowed me to utilize a lot of the skills I have learned.
As far as being an agent, I have found that my PR knowledge and skill set has helped me in many ways. One of the most important ways has been to allow me to build the relationships with my clients and with editors that I mentioned above. For me, that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
Other than that, I also have a lot of contact with potential interns when we are in the process of hiring, and I still work on setting up events for writers and the agency on occasion.
Penny: You have cited fantasy as your favorite genre. What is it about fantasy that draws you to it?
Justin:For me it’s all about the world in which the story is set. If a writer can write a fantasy novel with incredible world-building, I will be completely lost in it. There are a lot of other aspects to it that I like too, but if the world-building isn’t there, everything else will end up falling short for me. I like to see when a fantasy writer has put a lot of time and effort into creating really beautiful and intricate worlds for their stories.
Penny: What do you enjoy in your free time?
Justin: I’ve almost forgotten there's such a thing as free time. Honestly, aside from classes and work, I really don’t have much time to do anything else during the week. Most of my free time is spent going through queries, and reading manuscripts I have requested. It’s a lot of work, but I am doing something I absolutely love, so giving up some of the free time I use to have to focus more on all of this is worth it. On weekends, I still devote most of my free time to work, but I also try to focus on other things I enjoy, such as gaming. It’s something that allows me to pull myself away from everything for a bit. Then I go back into feeling all refreshed, after having had some fun with friends playing different kinds of games.