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An agent's view

31 May 2010

'I think that the best thing I can do for myself, my business, and my clients is to continue to be extremely selective about taking on new projects, and then working hard to get those books in the best possible shape editorially before sending them out. The smaller my list, the better able I am to help my clients work with their publicity and marketing departments to ensure that their books are published as successfully as possible. To me, the recent changes in the market mean we all have to focus more, and publish more carefully and thoughtfully.

I know it's somewhat of an unpopular opinion, but I think it's unrealistic to expect that you can support yourself solely as a writer in this economy. Most of the writers I know teach, or have other day jobs to support themselves, so the best way to avoid eating ramen noodles is to not rely completely on your book advance to pay your bills. In the end, the better you make the book, the better the chances that you'll get a healthy advance, and the harder you work with your publisher to promote the book by publishing stories or nonfiction essays to raise your profile, by blogging and keeping your website active, by thinking outside of the box in terms of marketing and publicity, the better your book will do. But at the end of the day it's the quality of the work that matters the most.

US agent Julie Barer on mediabistro