As a blog fiercely dedicated to helping readers understand the inner-workings of the publishing industry, we thought it might be fun to start a new series in which we interviewed literary agents we’ve had the pleasure of working with. Some of us are signed, and some have interned with agencies, and we felt that the amount of knowledge we’ve gained through these experiences should be shared with our readership as well. As gatekeepers to the industry, agents play a vital part in getting your book published. Each agent and agency does things a little bit different, so hopefully these interviews will help you all understand what they do a little bit better, and what makes life in this industry so special! And, who knows? Maybe you’ll find an agent who could be the perfect fit for that novel you’re writing!
Introducing Natalie M. Fischer of the
Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency
Natalie was interviewed by her client, LTWF contributor Julie Eshbaugh
LTWF: How did you find your way to the Sandra Dijkstra agency?
Natalie Fischer: By accident (which, funny enough, is how many of us ended up here!). When I was a sophomore in college, I randomly started searching for internship listings on our school job site, even though I knew I didn’t want to start until my Junior year, and…there it was. THE PERFECT INTERNSHIP. After freaking out over my resume and cover letter, dancing when I got an interview, and dancing/crying/jumping up and down when I was accepted for the position (starting immediately but what did that matter; you FIT opportunities to your schedule), I had my foot in the door. After graduation, I asked them to keep me in mind for any positions that opened up, which is how I became an office assistant…and later agent!
LTWF: When did you know you wanted to get into publishing? When did you know the correct role for you was agenting?
Natalie Fischer: I knew I wanted to go in publishing from the time I was ten years old. I THOUGHT I wanted to go into the writing side of things. After writing a few YAs, and later romance novels (one of which landed me MY agent), I made it as far as ed board at a few houses, and general consensus was: great writing, needs plot. Ouch. Until I started helping one of the former Dijkstra agents with her clients/slush one-on-one…and found a whole new world. It wasn’t until I started assisting the contracts manager at our office and fell in LOVE with negotiating that I realized where I really belonged: pitching and selling fabulous talent. Because of my own query/rejection/writing background, I have a little more insight and sympathy for writers than some other agents, and I’m also very involved editorially with my clients. I found the perfect balance for me right in the middle of both worlds!
LTWF: Which genres do you represent and how did you choose them?
Natalie Fischer: I represent romance (all genres), children’s (PB-Teen, no thrillers), historical fiction and select memoir/non-fiction (projects that I find really unique and connect with). I “chose” these genres because they’re what I read for fun, i.e. what I know. I don’t read history books, nor am I that interested in reading them, so I don’t really know that much about what’s already out there, nor do I know who buys it. That’s my personal logic, at least, on what I represent.
LTWF: You use some unique methods, including “scouting on the internet,” to search for new clients. Can you talk about this and give unrepresented writers some tips on how to make themselves visible to agents?
Natalie Fischer: Everyone wants to know about the scouting! I lurk, really, and give it a better name is all…
Tips to make yourself visible: find who is making THEMSELVES visible, via blogs/twitter, and follow them. You’ll learn a lot, not only about personal taste, but publishing. Once you get up the nerve to start interacting (and please do!!! I LOVE hearing from people on twitter), make sure you have a blog of your own, with a short (oh, say, 200 word) writing sample and paragraph of your hottest project linked to your name… Lurkers/scouters such as myself WILL click on those links. Especially ones in writing forums, such as absolutewrite.com, or romancedivas.com, etc. And for Pete’s sake, keep it professional. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot; go rant over a beer, not over twitter.
LTWF: What about your current clients made you want to sign them?
Natalie Fischer: Their work. As absolutely amazing as each one of my clients is, their work sold me. However, I never would have even THOUGHT to sign any of them if they’d ever once displayed one ounce of non-professionalism in the query stage. I’m not saying each one followed guidelines, believe it or not; but if I called them out on it (which I did), there were no “buts” about it. They respectfully corrected suit. Which may make me sound like a hard ass, but really, I don’t remember when people don’t follow guidelines; I remember when they talk back. (Emailing to check in on an email submission…which I would have deleted for not following guidelines, also counts as talking back.)
LTWF: Finish this sentence: “I would love to see more…”
Natalie Fischer: Romance submissions (hint hint).
LTWF: What’s currently at the top of your To Be Read pile?
Natalie Fischer: Client or non-client? Published or un? I have four TBR piles; none is less than a foot high (except my client pile, which hovers around a constant half-foot. I keep this one moving the most rapidly. Clients get priority). Let’s see: client, a revised ms, non-client, a contest critique, published, The Help. Or Some Like it Hot. Or The Duff. Or The Good Daughter. Or… oh who am I kidding, if I ever get time, I’ll DEVOUR Some Like it Hot and move onto The Duff. (I’m horribly behind, clearly; trying to “keep current” ends up…in this range).
LTWF: And now, for a non-publishy question! What do you like to do when you’re not being an agent?
Natalie Fischer: Is that a trick question?
I love game nights, red wine, dinner parties (which I do NOT cook for), renting movies, and sitting in the sun. And, because I think it’s also relative, I’m a Cancer and a cat person.
Favorite TV shows: Supernatural, Ghost Whisperer, House, Bones, CSI: Las Vegas, Law and Order: SVU, Cake Boss, Family Guy, Simpsons, NCIS, Eureka (I love connecting with people on the random shows I like or used to watch.)
Sammy Bina is a fifth year college senior, majoring in Creative Writing. She is currently querying her adult dystopian novel, THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD, working on a YA paranormal romance, and interns at the Elaine P. English Literary Agency in Washington, DC. You can follow her blog, or find her on twitter.