Hello Mixed-Up Filers! Are we in for a treat today! We have with us, Lorin Oberweger, who besides being a really great person and friend, is also an agent with Adams Literary!
JR: Hi Lorin, thanks for joining us today!
LO: My pleasure! Thanks so much for having me.
JR: To start, could you tell us a little bit about your path to becoming an agent and also about Adams Literary?
LO: Well, that is a long and winding road, but I’ll try to offer the consolidated version! Basically, I’ve been a writer and editor since around the time the earth cooled. I love everything to do with storytellers and storytelling. My editorial services company, founded in 1995, started putting on workshops for writers in 2001, and as of this year, we’ll be into about our ninetieth offering!
Along the way, I started thinking about what else I could do to serve writers, especially those writers who really just needed a boost, someone to advocate for them and for their work. I was also interested in taking on new challenges for myself. So, I talked to Josh and Tracey Adams (who represent MY writing, by the way) about joining their agency, and they were more than awesome and welcoming.
As I said at a recent writing conference, the path to my building a list and sending out submissions has been a slow one. I’ve definitely met my match in terms of multi-tasking/overcommitting, so I’m working on clearing the decks and really leaning much more heavily into the agenting work. I do have a few clients ready to go out on submission, and I’m super excited for what that will bring.
Here’s the Adams Literary mission statement, which I think sums up their work ethic and philosophy nicely: “Adams Literary is a full-service, boutique literary agency exclusively representing children’s and young adult authors and artists. Founded by Tracey and Josh Adams, Adams Literary prides itself on nurturing the creativity of its clients and maintaining close relationships with editors and publishers in New York City and around the world.”
They really are a family-run business, with all that entails, and I’m so appreciative to be part of that family.
JR: What’s changed in publishing between the time you started and now?
LO: I’ll mention one negative change and then a couple of positive ones. First, the “blah” news: I think it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for authors to make a LIVING as part of the industry. Recent surveys suggest that the average annual income for writers has dropped quite a bit over the last couple of decades.
Part of this has to do, I think, with the absolute explosion in volume of books published, especially if you factor in writers who are publishing independently. There’s just more competition for the audience.
That said, and on the positive side, I think we’re living in content-hungry times right now. Not only are publishers still acquiring at a robust rate, but new imprints blossom with some regularity. Publishers are a bit nimbler in terms of creating homes to spotlight #ownvoices and other stories for readerships that haven’t been that well served until now. It’s a slow and imperfect process, but there’s a real, honest drive to publish works that would likely not have seen the light of day even a decade ago. And credible small presses are doing amazing things, as well. Technology has made it easier to democratize publishing, which has its drawbacks but also has incredible benefits.
The other positive note is that writers are becoming much more expert. In my experience, at least. It’s rare, for example, that I see a totally incompetent query or submission package. Writers are savvier; they’re making use of the resources available to them. As one litmus, back when I first put out my editing shingle there were perhaps three or four legitimate independent editors, and it was tough to convince writers of the benefit of working with one. Now, people recognize the advantages of having an expert, objective advisor on their side.
I will end with this, because I think it’s important. Though the field may feel more crowded than ever, with lower pay, and though publishing can be counted upon to undergo its expansions and contractions, writers make it in publishing ALL THE TIME. It’s very much an open door to those who are diligent, passionate, and who put themselves in service to readers. That is ultimately the secret sauce of writing success.
JR: That’s good to hear. It really is about hard work paying off. What do you enjoy the most about your job?
LO: Working in a developmental capacity with clients, helping to provide the key that unlocks their stories’ real potential. I’m also kind of a research nerd, and I love building submissions lists, trying to find the perfect match between writer and editor.
JR: What sort of books do you look for?
LO: Great ones! Seriously, for me, I’m pretty open to any genre within the MG and YA readerships, though high fantasy or hard science fiction has to offer something fresh AND has to have a potent emotional story for me to feel truly hooked.
As I’d said many times before, I’m also really drawn to characters who demonstrate some level of agency right away, even if their capacity for action is thwarted by circumstances. I want them to feel strongly about themselves or about someone else that they’re urged to pursue a goal and carry us along with them. I’m not such a fan of the victim protagonist who is just pushed through the story, reacting to circumstances as they befall him/her.
On a recent panel, I also mentioned that I love stories that have some foundation in myth or folklore, and a story with feminist underpinnings is also :::chef’s kiss:::!
JR: I know you’re very dedicated with your authors. What do you want in an author/agent relationship?
LO: I feel like this is still evolving in some ways, as I grow my agenting “sea legs.” Mutual respect and forbearance are important. And I would say communication, though I’ve been a bit lacking in that arena, given all that I juggle. Working on that!
I think, too, an understanding that though it should be a warm and friendly one, this is a professional relationship. Boundaries are necessary on both ends in order to keep things healthy and vital.
JR: In your opinion, what’s the state of publishing right now?
LO: Still New York, I’d say.
JR: Okay, I’m loving that answer.
LO: I know, I know! That was terrible, but I couldn’t resist. I think publishing is chugging along. Deals are still being made all the time. Tens of thousands of books are published each year. This year, it may be more difficult to publish books in certain genres that may be all the rage next year.
I’m not a fan of this question because unless publishing literally shuts its doors, there’s ALWAYS an opportunity for a great writer to have great success. That should be the focus, in my view.
JR: What’s going on in Middle Grade?
LO: I think the market is particularly hungry for great Middle Grade stories, especially—but not limited to—stories with #ownvoices appeal.
JR: What advice can you give to authors?
LO: Push yourself to grow your craft and your knowledge of storytelling ALL THE TIME. Don’t settle. Believe that your story might change someone’s life and write a love letter to THAT person.
JR: That’s great advice. What was your favorite book as a child?
LO: Still one of my top five favorites: THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster. I’m literally going to get a tattoo of some of the characters!
JR: What’s one thing from your childhood that you miss and wish could come back?
LO: That feeling of having all the time in the world.
JR: Where can we find you on Social Media?
And you can probably find me by name on other platforms!
JR: Now, in 10,000 words or more, tell me why you love being friends with me.
LO: I’m afraid 10,000 words would hardly suffice. I’ll send you my master thesis when I’m done!
JR: Sweet, I can’t wait to read it! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us today!
LO: My pleasure! Thank YOU!
To check out Adams Literary and where to submit to Lorin:
Well, Mixed-Up Filers, until next time . . .