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#143 Do You Need An Agent? The Business of Being a Writer, with Haylee Nash

Ever wondered whether you’re better to strike out on your own  with your writing career, pitch directly to publishers or hire an agent? Haylee Nash, of The Nash Agency, outlines the pros and cons of each option, demystifying the publishing cycle in the process.

But be warned, after listening to Nash, you’ll be hard pressed to justify not running with an expert.

Think of an agent as an industry expert that has you as their primary focus in a publishing world that throws up more options every day.  Besides, everyone needs a cheerleader and therapist, says Nash.

In this episode we cover the following, and so much more:

  • the benefits of editorial feedback
  • how to pitch to publishers
  • framing your work to sell
  • the importance of a good bio
  • the craft and business side of writing
  • marketing opportunities
  • what’s trending in 2019
  • managing your career

Most importantly, Nash has a Writers Retreat happening at Mt Tamborine in Southeast Queensland in February, with guest tutors, Rachael Johns and Josephine Moon.

You can find out more about Haylee and The Nash Agency here and the Writers Retreat here.

Read Full Transcript

Mel: Today, I have with me Haylee Nash. Welcome Hayley.

Now I heard all about hayday from the beautiful Amy Seton. So of course I had to track down and bring her on to the podcast. What I hadn’t realized Hayley is that you used to work at Pan Macmillan and Harlequin. You represent some of our best Australian authors, Josephine Moon, Lily Malone, Annie Seaton and Lisa Ireland to name a few.

Haylee: Yes it is. I currently have 18 signed.

Mel: We have our very own agent here in front of us representing both indie authors and traditionally published authors with some depth of experience. How long have you been an agent?

Haylee: I’vee been an agent for two years. It’s been an incredibly interesting journey but really fulfilling and very nice for my ego because it was terrifying.

Haylee: Starting out on my own particularly as I have a child and a husband and we know there’s bills to pay. But it’s been so rewarding absolutely rewarding.

Mel: I’m sitting here looking everyone at this amazingly healthy glowing woman who just got back from the gym. If there’s any reason that you need an entrepreneurial life it’s so that you can do what you want when you want and work until midnight every night.

Haylee: That’s exactly right. It’s like I can so I can surf if I wanted to in the morning and be up at 6 to play Barbies with my three year old daughter, the life of a working mother.

Mel: You talk about appraising manuscripts. You’ve got all these amazing authors on your books at the moment. Being represented by an agent has actually changed over the years hasn’t it?

Haylee: Yes. I think there’s a lot of people now who are represented who have been published. I don’t have the exact percentages on me but because publishers have to be smarter than me I’m more connected than ever just because of the wide range of things that are selling and the way that trends and genres change. They’re more connected to writers so agents.

Haylee: Some people find it on their own which is brilliant.

Haylee: I’m always careful to tell people what I do what their money or their percentage. And also to let them know if they really need me or not because a lot of authors have found a publisher. The Publishers direct to them because they have a huge amount of followers or whether they have a hugely successful blog or YouTube channel. And often if they’re speaking. It’s a very business savvy and they’re speaking directly to their audience and that’s what the show is. Sometimes they don’t need an agent.

Haylee: However at the very very least it’s useful to have one because you know the contracts and know where there’s meeting room. What we get to be back off basically and we get to make sure that the author and publisher relationship is unscathed. When you get into those nitty gritty things when things are getting a bit uncomfortable it means the author can say it was my agent and meanwhile I have a lovely supportive relationship with the publisher.

Haylee: There’s so much to know and so much to learn and it’s very very difficult to keep on top of everything and even the fact that you said you can find a publisher or a publisher finding people on Instagram. I mean I guess I know what I know as was going through there at one stage as we search out on the Internet. But having an agent to help you navigate seemed like a pretty smart thing to do.

Haylee: At the same time it’s it’s such a multifaceted process. What stage are you at as a writer. If you have to show feedback so I’ll do developmental and structural edits. Sometimes copy edits, what’s necessary. It’s pitched to publishers which is a huge part of what we do and finding a way to frame the book that is going to be palatable to a publisher which is often incredibly hard to do as a writer because you’re so close to it.

Haylee: And I know a lot of authors who don’t read in the area that they are writing because they’re worried about plagiarism and so forth and so whereas we know the sales figures we know what’s trending so we’re able to make those comparisons. We have relationships with publishers and with both publishing houses and the publishers within those. So that we know what their particular tastes. So we know who to pitch to and we just get you know basically our emails read so much faster than a writer can through the slush pile.

Mel: I know slush piles have always been the bane of writers lives. I didn’t even know that they used slush piles anymore but I believe that publishers have Fridays and all that kind of stuff. Not only can you get I I our writers what’s in front of a publisher you actually get it in front of the right publisher.

Haylee: Yes exactly. And you know in an ideal situation you have you know maybe three publishers and a ring towards the end.

Haylee: And it’s not just about what they’re offering in terms in advance means world she’s but you know publishing plans and how they their vision for the book. If they’re going to have a marketing outline and publicity what tell you about so that it may actually be that you accept less than advance because you know that the right publisher is actually going to put more effort behind marketing. And sales and publicity and you’re get the money anyway in your royalties.

Haylee: So it’s about giving you that one get in front of publishers and then helping you choose the right one.

Mel: I’m guessing one of the reasons you’re so popular is because my very first question is choosing the right agent and with your background and your experience in the publishing industry I should imagine that you have a few writers knocking at your door.

Haylee: I have a very large inbox of unread manuscripts I have my own slushed file which haunts me because I know how much amazing stuff is in there and it’s just a time thing.

Haylee: A lot of our time is unpaid.

Haylee: Even once you sign on over there’s so much work that you never get paid. If a deal doesn’t come through. So coming out to lunch every night is hard. But yeah I’ve because I have been on the other side of things. I mentioned.

Haylee: My knowledge of where to market and opportunities that are available to us and what a content looks like what things publishers are going to give and what they’re not and how the publishing cycle works.

Haylee: So you know if it isn’t three months out from release and you’ve just finished your copy at us then I’m a bit concerned because I think that advanced through copies should be immediate. So general interest so they are the kinds of things somewhere else because I’ve been on the other side.

Mel: When you take on the editing process that’s a huge field on its own. Do you charge separately for it?

Haylee: I have two separate sides of my business so I do pay the toll for my health as a sign of my sentence for structural and copy edits as well as many squidge appraisals and other science that the agency is not paid quite as much as the commission eventually from the deal.

Haylee: So while I don’t I’m hesitant to take on work that require a lot of work from me just because it’s very time consuming.

Haylee: If I think a person has a platform and a really great voice then I will do that work with them.

Mel: You have a great champion in Annie Seaton and I know after all the hard work that she put in all the years she’s put in she really is an overnight success with the latest book.

Haylee: Yes. That’s The thing. Overnight success is there’s always there’s all those years of planning and writing manuscripts and synopsises. And I know that that phrase whenever I read about musicians and about writers anyone in the arts really. It’s such a chicken. Take the case. And then there’s really great writers there’s no way that overcomes excesses because they’ve found that across many years. And he is I mean I find her base of her success in hybrid publishing weeds with entangled and weeds and her own self publishing and I bought her when I was a of your own legal contract based on three chapters which is very very rare. Usually you will sign someone for fiction on a full manuscript and not committing to three books straight up as big as what. But she and you would a hardware store. She was a new had an audience. And I knew what was silly this time and she is just confirms absolute strength strength and saying in the background as an agent what she does and how when she gets the right support she can just fly.

Mel: Tell us how we should pitch to you.

Haylee: Okay so you’re going to have the shit hot three just three chapters and have it be the first three. I mean I know some people say oh I want to give you the middle. But I’m much for the first three chapters and I need to be strong. No I’m not saying I love building or have you know an intense sex scene but I need to show that beginning of plot points. Strong character and so no hooks and little bit of foreshadowing in there that’s going to cross the line. You need to have a good vibe that it’s useful to have great information not just you know who you are Joe but it’s a singular point of interest that may be used for a publicist further down the line to get your feature. So how does something in your life tie into what you’re writing so and why your interest is what like how you handle the story how you know why you’re inspired to write it.

Haylee: There’s only so many times I remember reading hearing in pitch manuscript and then reading it and twice and forgotten too. And it was exhilarating it wasn’t quite ready that was written about it to tell me the really strong family link. That’s Chuck fighting with a well known strands figure. That is the hook and she got in pitch. And then she said it’s men so that you know those kinds of times you need to be reminded of what this now while some people are hesitant to do because they’ve got their feet noting themselves. You know I had a manuscript recently that said it was a tie a cross between two bestselling authors and one one best selling author who was much fiction one who was military and you know even though it sounds so amazing. I read it a third way and she was on the money. So if you know you don’t decide you are much fiction that go beyond my writing. But be aware of who your mother actually is and what’s working because it as soon as you sell it to the agents the agents and scientists publish an apology selling it to the bookseller or to their sales saying that the bookseller and all of those books you have them right in front you make everyone’s job easier.

Haylee: Particularly this year Australian crime has hit an all time high. Christian White, Chris Hamer and a few others so it’s really cutting through and find for a long time as a dirty word polishing and just hacking form and now you’re seeing those books selling overseas and having film rights sold. That’s why you find waves with any trend is that one big wave will happen and then there’s a bit of a clash effect will attract more people and they know it gets flooded sometimes it doesn’t. With a modification for instance with 50 shades.

Haylee: You had a few big sales and then there was a whole lot of them for a while until you went away. Other times with things like domestic law while you’re no longer saying the goal and train and book flights. That hitting the top 10 thinking now have established careers because of that John and you find it attracts more readers sometimes people who haven’t heard before for read sparingly and they’re reading more because if anything I don’t think it’s any big trend that comes up is really use. To the whole industry in that way.

Haylee: There’s also an appetite for Australian women’s fiction and particularly upmarket commercial where it’s fiction which is basically incredibly like it’s still got great complex characters but it’s just that beautiful writing as well the kind of book club read overseed publishers are really hot that and that came out of Frankfurt is that you know people are still really hungry for that and wanted to that really well. So it’s. I guess it’s in a way that I think it sort of touches on those themes that domestic market and that personal everyday stuff that you go through that is actually incredibly interesting to write about and can be a huge flaw even though these things do happen over us and it’s those the way we deal with them and our emotions around them and a complex scene that makes it a novel.

Mel: Yes we’re expected to be author and businesswoman and promoted and all the rest of it. Having someone such as yourself with your depth of knowledge and seeing coming through here today is almost a gift kind.

Haylee: It takes having an agent where we can give you advice on how to do it. It just means that you can focus on writing and then if you publish the writing and the editing was. So taking away their concern about what else is out there who are usually writing to and basically you have a cheerleader who is constantly chanting for you to anyone who will listen. And you know we’re therapists as well. Says you need a an editorial or you’ve had a failed relationship with the publisher working out with your agent a result of just how to how to find how to keep your career going.

Haylee: The trick is make sure you’ve got a good story to tell. And I think there are a lot of writers out there floundering around in this so writing courses run by people who can’t write very well which is one of my little bugbears to be able to get together and talk about it.

About the author, Melinda

I'm an authorpreneur, English teacher and podcaster who dreams of a life on the road full of adventures and handsome heroes, whilst making squizillions of dollars in book sales to pay for my chocolate fix. In the real world, I write novels and non-fiction, and offer my expert advice via online courses (as soon as I make them) and writing retreats (as soon as I organise them).

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