Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interview with ePub Agent Julia Bannon

by Tori Bond

Julia Bannon has been walking around with her nose stuck in a book since the age of five. It didn’t matter if she was walking to school or lacing up her skating boots, reading has been her lifelong passion. After several years in public relations, Internet sales and marketing, Julia was able to merge her passion for the written word with her career when she went to work for HarperCollins in online marketing. Julia joined the L. Perkins Agency in late 2012, as an ePub agent and is thrilled to bring her experiences in publishing, copy editing and marketing to her new clients as they look to forge the way in the evolving world of e-publishing.

Tori Bond: What is an ePub agent? Does this mean you market your clients’ work exclusively to e-publishers? How are you different than a traditional agent?

Julia Bannon:  As an e-pub agent, I am focused exclusively on e-publishers. This doesn’t mean my authors can never get into print, but I’m looking for authors suited for success in e-publishing. I’m lucky to be part of an established “traditional” agency, so if I have a client whose work should really come out in print I can work with my colleagues to find the right outlets for their work.

T:  What do you see as the greatest benefits of e-publishing for authors?

J: There are so many benefits to e-publishing – speed to market, lower cost for consumers translates to an easier entry to new audiences, more opportunities to get published. I think speed to market means so much – your work doesn’t have to fit into a traditional publishing schedule, and your ravenous readers can access your newest (or backlist) books faster and conveniently.

T: What do you see as some of the pitfalls of e-publishing for authors?

J:  Honestly, I see the pitfalls of e-publishing to be the same as those for authors who self-publish. Just because a book is written doesn’t mean it’s ready for the wider world. A critical eye must be applied to any work that is to be published, regardless of the platform. Thorough editing and copy editing should be performed before a new title is published (and hopefully before submitting to an agent). You want your work to be clean and accessible, not riddled with errors.

Also, you want to make sure there is a marketing plan in place for your work before it hits online outlets. You can craft this in conjunction with advice from your agent and with your publisher’s marketing team, but you have to know what you’re responsible for when it comes to getting the word out for your book. Then when the book hits you have a wall of sound for promotion in place.

T:  What makes a novel a must read and therefore something that you want to represent?

J:  Ah, if I had the magic formula for that I’d probably be in a different place. But kidding aside, it is so extremely subjective. If there’s anything I think authors should take to heart is that audiences (agent, publisher and consumer) are so diverse in their reading desires. If you pitch your work to an agent and get rejected, don’t let that end your career. You just need to keep pitching until you find the right audience. The work should be honed over time with the feedback that you receive, assuming it feels right to you and your work. But to answer your actual question, for me a novel is a must-read when I connect personally with the characters, the story and the setting so much that I literally can’t put it down. I get distracted from work if there isn’t a good flow to the story, if there are tons of grammatical and spelling errors or if is written for shock value but with no depth or feeling.

T:  What advice do you have for those who will be pitching to you at the conference?

J:  Relax and tell me a story. I want to connect with the authors pitching to me, and it helps to hear a bit about their personal story as well as their story’s story. What is the book about, what was the inspiration, what are your plans for the book?

T:  How do you like to work with a client? Do you offer editorial advice before submitting to publishers? I see you have a background in digital marketing. Do you help your clients market their e-books?

J:  When I work with a client I like to communicate via email and phone (in person if possible), frequently. I work with my clients during regular business hours, but if they’ve got a full-time job aside from their writing I can be flexible. I do offer editorial advice before submitting to publishers, to a certain degree. But I probably wouldn’t represent an author if I felt like their work was in really rough shape, unless it was really a diamond.

I do have a background in digital marketing, which helps me understand the landscape the authors are approaching. While I will offer some marketing advice (Get on Twitter, Facebook, have a blog and/or website! Tell your friends to like you/your books! Get quotes!), my role is to get them ready for publication and beyond. I want to see continued success for my clients, so if I feel like they really need to be doing something to promote their work, I’ll let them know. But the author and/or their publisher will perform the actual marketing.

T:  What are your predictions for the future of e-publishing? Do you think it will eventually replace the printed book?

J:  Predictions … I predict people will keep buying e-books in droves. I really wonder about platforms, and who’s going to come out a winner. Will there be a Nook in two years? We shall see. I think the audience for e-books is only going to grow – the more tablet buyers there are I think will mean more e-book sales. I think there are some great things being done by libraries especially when it comes to teaching people how to buy or borrow and download e-books. I hear from a lot of people that they don’t buy e-books because they don’t understand how easy it is to get them on their tablet.

Will e-books replace the printed book? I really don’t think so, at least not for a long time. I know that the younger generation is so tech-heavy, but even they say they prefer printed books. But e-books are here to stay – with their ease of acquisition, accessible cost, abundant selection, storage advantages, etc. I don’t see why we can’t all just get along and have both. J

T:  Is there a question you wished I’d asked?

J:  No question, but I want to pass along my thanks. Thanks so much for interviewing me, and inviting me to your conference. I’m so excited to meet your authors – it is such an energy boost to be surrounded by such creative, invigorating people. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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