LitChat Interview: Amy Brewer, Senior Agent, Metamorphosis Literary Agency
Amy Brewer wears many hats every day, from literary agent at Metamorphosis to co-author of the Texting Prince Charming series, to social media manager, to yoga teacher. She graduated from Culver-Stockton College with a theater degree because drama, romance, and angst are lifelong passions. Her intuitive human understanding can help other writers bridge the communication gap and jump into the publishing world. For the last few years, she has been learning all she can about social media optimization and platform building in the publishing industry. Amy’s experience in the mental health field and yoga training help her guide and assist clients with stress and anxiety in this highly competitive industry. She pulls all of this together with a multi-tasking, hyper-organized brain so that at the end of every day, she feels accomplished and grateful.
LS: Did your decision to go into publishing stem from a love of books as a child? What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
Yes, though it took me a while to grow into my love of reading. I was a very busy child and struggled to sit still but as a teen, I feel in love with romance novels and fun and humorous escapes. The one that stuck with me is called Learning How To Fall, by Norma Klein. It was my introduction to the YA genre and I loved it.
LS: The romance genre has gotten even larger in the past few years than it has ever been. Why do you think there’s been such growth in its popularity?
With the success of 50 Shades, the stigma of dime-store romance novels was removed for all generations of readers. There is increased accessibility with e-books and online platforms and an increase in diversity and inclusivity. Romance is for everyone now and readers are embracing it.
LS: What do you think is the strongest quality a writer should have aside from writing a great story?
Stamina and presence are two of the most important. Writing is a long game. Writers need to be able to invest the time to write at least 7 books in their genre before they can expect to make real money. They also need to spend at least half of their time marketing and being present on social media. All authors are expected to do this now, from the largest publishing house on the planet, to the small presses or self-publishing. Being present on social media and marketing your books is the other half of the job.
LS: How important is editing and learning the craft of writing for new writers and do you feel, with the influx of self-publishing, that the importance of knowing the writing craft has taken a backseat to the business of publishing?
I think that self-publishing isn’t pushing craft to the backseat. Name recognition in large publishing houses is the culprit. As a debut author, it is very hard to get picked up by a major house, no matter how brilliant the manuscript is. But if you are a B-level actor or personality you can ghostwrite a bad book and get a deal quickly, because of name recognition. The industry also demands that some great authors churn out books “on brand,” because they know that even if the book isn’t good, it will sell. This hurts the craft more than anything. That being said, if you don’t know your craft and you aren’t famous, it will be very hard to land an agent.
LS: Many writers seem eager to query before their manuscripts are ready. What are the top five elements you believe writers should assure their manuscript have before querying?
1. Know your genre! I’ve had many people pitch me books and they don’t know what genre they are even writing in. It is critical to read and study your genre before you write in it.
2. Word Count. Know your genre’s average word count and hit it.
3. Hook. Figure out why a hook is important and come up with one that no one else has done to death.
4. Flow, work with an editor and beta readers to make sure the pacing is on point for your genre.
5. Copy editing. I’ve rejected manuscripts because they use the wrong font or have bad grammar. You must live and know Chicago Style Manual grammar rules for the publishing industry. I’m going to take the liberty of adding a couple more.
6. Social Media Platform. All authors need an author website and at least two active social media sites. I will check them before I read one word of a manuscript.
7. Agent, please learn what a literary agent actually does and why we are needed. Before you query, figure out what they can do for you and make sure you are querying the right agent for you and your genre. It will save you a lot of rejection.
LS: What’s one question you wish potential clients would ask but never do?
“Realistically, how much money do you think I will make on my first book?” Because it is critical to manage author expectations versus reality.
LS: Would you consider yourself an editorial agent and would you advise potential clients, or even querying writers, to utilize a professional editor before querying?
Yes, I am an editorial agent but not to a huge degree. I want to be able to point out just a few tiny edits that may keep a publishing house from offering. Any notes I offer on a manuscript are minimal. It isn’t my job to rewrite/edit a manuscript. I tell everyone to work with editors but be mindful of who you choose. Pick an editor that points out problems without offering solutions. Pick an editor that doesn’t give you the answers, it is very frustrating but it works. I have a tendency to offer editorial suggestions myself so, I work with an editor that I lovingly call “the butcher.” She has made many authors cry but every book she has worked on and changes were made, I sold immediately.
LS: Are you seeing a certain trend in terms of what editors are looking for? If so, what are they?
This is a hard one, my publishing brain is on what will be released late 2022 and 2023. I’m happy to say diversity and inclusion and very important right now and have been doing well for the last few years. Authentic voices and representation is also in the spotlight across the industry. I hope that is the new standard and not just a trend. I always tell authors not to write to industry trends because by the time the author finishes the book the trend has passed. Authors are at their best when they are writing what is knocking at their brain, instead of trying to write what they think will sell.
LS: What are you reading for leisure right now?
This one is really tricky, I read stuff usually 2-3 years before it is released to the public. I fan-girl my authors because I love reading their work. I have a few manuscripts that are the second or third in a series, I get to read the next books in those series before anyone else. I love doing that. On the rare occasion that I step away from reading my incredible client-friends, my go-to authors are Gena Showalter and Colleen Hoover. They are my dream clients.
LS: Finish this sentence, if you would:
“My clients are clients because their manuscripts had that thing that makes you not want to put a book down, be it the romance, angst, characters, action, or connection.
I got so swept up in the stories I forgot to edit, or take notes. But even if I love a manuscript, I have to make sure the author is a good fit. It is important to make sure agents and authors are a good fit because they become a team, fighting for the success of not just a book but a long-term career in the publishing industry.