Monday, January 18, 2010

Blog Review: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent

Blog Review: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent

What do you say when superlatives are inadequate? I continue to be amazed that this blog can exist. Judging by this blog, Nathan appears to have the kind of energy that people write superhero comics about. Not only does he put out quality posts on a daily basis,but he has assembled an archive of useful content that would easily be priced at the high end if assembled and published as a book. Other people are making good money packaging and selling the kind of advice Nathan gives away.

As well as maintaining the quality of his own posts, Nathan has attracted a huge following of active commenters that provide not only support for his efforts, but also debate, counterpoint, added insights, and occasional outright drama. He is clearly a "people person", and even when ticked off by a commenter, he manages to maintain a basic aura of fairness and good nature - no mean trick.

In the wake of a recent blog format update, there is now a forum site associated with the blog. I haven't had time to check it out, but it is reputed to be an arena of lively discussion among friendly people.

Aside from reflective posts about current issues in publishing, anecdotes from his work as an agent, etc. Nathan has a couple of recurring features. One is his weekly "This Week in Publishing" which has brief reports and links to significant events. The other is the irregular "You Tell Me" in which he throws out a topic and lets the commenters have their own field day giving their views. (If I'm put ever so slightly in mind of how Tom Sawyer got a picket fence whitewashed, I surely would never let on :)

Aside from the daily posts, the blog site is resource-rich and well organized. Featured prominently on the blogs home page is a box of links titled "The Essentials (please read before you query)" On many agent blogs, such a title would link to one or two articles and/or a set of query guidelines. But Nathan has assembled what is essentially a mini-course on what writers need to know about the publishing processs. There are 13 articles, not counting links to the FAQ and Writing Advice database. The list of topics begin with "How the Publishing Process Works" and proceeds through "When in Doubt, Query Me".

There are also link boxes for Author Resources, Agent/Editor Blogs, Writer Blogs, Book Blogs, Publisher Blogs and Lit Journals. If you begin at Nathan's blog and start clicking, you will find yourself encountering more resources than you could ever imagine. In fact, one of the dangers of this blog is that the process of learning about publishing can become so addictive that it may threaten to crowd out writing. Not to worry - writers notoriously seek and find excuses not to write. As excuses go, you could do way worse :)

Needless to say, as Nathan is an agent, much of the content on the blog revolves around query letters - a topic not without its contentious moments. While some agents respond to inadequate queries with what we call on the streets "Attitude" ('tude for short), Nathan's approach is to cut down the number of bad queries by teaching people to write good ones. (I'll emphasize again, this is the kind of stuff you can go to other places and pay the big bucks for.)

And, it doesn't hurt a thing that Nathan is a writer as well as an agent. It was an amusing irony for Nathan's audience to watch him blog about his YA book JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, (to be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011.) One is reminded of an obstetrician awaiting the delivery of his firstborn. Being an agent clearly provided Nathan no immunity to "writer nerves", but suffering through the travails of becoming published has inevitably made him a better agent. In an industry where the roles of writer and agent are all too often framed as adversarial, Nathan has situated himself squarely in the middle of the disputed territory and planted a fruitful garden.


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