I am thrilled to be back on the blog today with another literary agent interview. It's important to me that I help as many new writers as I can prepare in the best way possible before they choose which agents to query.
And today I'm welcoming my friend, Heather Cashman, an agent with Storm Literary!
So, you’re a literary agent… Tell us all about how that happened!
While presenting at a conference in St. Louis, I met Vicki Selvaggio again (one of the loveliest people in the industry). She mentioned at dinner that Storm was thinking of expanding, and we kept in touch. Easy peasy, right? Nope. Like everything in publishing, it took me another eight months before Storm was ready to announce that I would be one of their new agents. But it was worth the wait, and Storm has been the perfect fit for me!
And how has it been going so far?
Vicki has been the best mentor in the world. After my previous experience with agent interning, my editorial background, and all the networking while managing Pitch Wars, this job is the perfect fit. I love working with authors to help them realize their dreams of being traditionally published. And I love finding editors the perfect manuscript!
What’s on your current wishlist?
I'm not one of those readers who has a niche. I've always read widely and acquired widely as well. I love stories with imperfect heroes and understandable villains (who consider themselves the hero). I enjoy complexity of plot, a twist I didn't see coming (which is way too rare), and stories written to explore the world and human condition.
For more info, here are a couple links:
My Website | #MSWL | Storm Literary
While YA is my wheelhouse, I'm in need of excellent MG that has that authentic MG voice.
And what are you definitely not looking for right now?
For some reason, I still receive a lot of Adult submissions, which I only take at conferences. I'm not one for gratuitous violence or sex or gore. I'm not a fan of mermaid stories, but I can't say I'd auto-reject them either if the voice and plot and world are there. I don't auto-reject anything, tbh. I'm also not a fan of animals as main characters unless it's a picture book (which I also don't actively acquire but take on with MG and YA clients).
Can you tell us what it is that makes you request additional material? What is it that leads to a full request? And what keeps you reading to the final pages?
I begin reading a query, and the character is interesting. The world feels unique. The premise is intriguing. If that's all there, I skip to the pages. Then, voice. If the text is smooth and easy to read, the beginning gives me some conflict and lets me know what the character is really like--and I can get behind their arc and relate to their flaws--then I find myself at the end of the twenty pages without wanting to stop and stretch or take a drink, I'll probably request the full.
I never request anything but the full, because that's just another email if I like it.
After that, it's all about tension on every page (positive or negative), a plot that plays with and against a theme, and a character arc that's satisfying.
So, when you fall in love with a manuscript, what happens next?
I always ask to see 4-6 more projects. They can be completed, WIPs, jacketflap copy, or just a paragraph about the premise and character. My main goal is to be with an author for the life of their career, and even if I love that first book to pieces, if their other work isn't for me, then I don't set up a call. I want to make sure I can be there for the long haul, because publishing is a marathon. I don't want to get to the five-mile mark and run out of water.
What kind of agent are you? How do you approach your side of the business arrangement? What should a potential client expect from the great Heather Cashman?!
First--saying I'm great makes me blush and shake my head.
Second--I'm not sure how to categorize myself or even what the categories are.
But I will say this...
While I always see this as a professional relationship, I always do my best to be personable. I've learned over the years to stay positive. Rejection is a rung up the ladder of success. I'm collaborative, proactive in selecting the next project, very editorial, and value communication above everything else. Publishing is a business. It's contracts and financial management and turning art into a living. I try to keep it real while also valuing it for what it is--a piece of a person's heart and soul.
And, importantly, what do you expect from your clients?
I expect them to be self-motivated, have realistic expectations, be self-educated and proactive about craft, social media, and technology. I expect civility and kindness and patience. You can't be a traditionally published author without having mastered the waiting game.
Of course, I don't mind helping my clients when they're struggling or stuck or flailing. We all do that as authors, and I've sat on a Skype call many times where I wanted to hand my client a tissue and give them a hug. I'm more than willing to be the one to hold a hand now and again, but that shouldn't be a regular occurrence, and the work load has to be 100% from both sides.
By the time an author queries me, they should have a support group with CPs and have an established habit of writing that will sustain them.
All writers have dreams and goals – win an award, be a bestseller, get a movie deal – but what dreams do you have as an agent?
I have many dreams as an agent. I'd love to have a Caldecott Winner and Newbery Medalist, a Coretta Scott King Award winner, a Hugo, Nebula, Bram Stoker, you name it! I'd love to have every single one of my clients sell a book. Statistically, that's very improbable, but I want them all to taste the success they dream of, and I hope, work, and strive every day to make that happen for them.
Ketchup or mayo? - Ketchup. And mustard.
E-book or paperback? - Love paperback but almost exclusively read on e-readers.
Day or night? - Day and night.
Walk or drive? - Road trip!
Beach or mountains? - Uh, why not both?
Dogs or cats? - I'm a dog person but my husband has Cat Williams. She only likes me when I'm eating meat.
Chocolate or chips? - Chocolate.
Sun or rain? - Rain.
Inside or outside? - Outside.
Drama or comedy? - Whatever my current mood demands.
Woohoo! How cool is Heather?!! And, the best part is, Heather is now open to queries, so GO GO GO!!!!
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!