Interview With Agent Michelle Johnson
Please welcome Michelle Johnson to our blog. She is here to give our readers a new perspective from the other side. Please tell our readers a little bit about you, such as why did you become a Literary Agent?
There are so many reasons! All the reasons. But the biggest reason was that I wanted to become an advocate for authors. Being a literary agent uses skills I’ve cultivated all my life, including (but not limited to): business management, business ownership, contract negotiation, bookselling, marketing and promotions, event planning and organizing, sales, and everything related to books in general. But the thing that drives me is always a desire to help authors get their stories out there to share with the world, and to help protect them from all of the pitfalls that can entail.
Please tell our readers about the agency you represent.
Inklings Literary Agency is my own agency, founded in 2013. We are a hands on team of agents who are all in love with books and authors. We have more than 30 sales among us in our first two years, mainly to top five houses, but some to smaller presses and foreign publishers.
The Inklings logo was designed by a woman who was the mother of one of the kids at my drop-in youth writing group (at the bookstore/writers’ center in Virginia Beach that I owned/operated). When I told her I had to close the shop she brought the logo in to me. She had designed it with the thought of having T-shirts made for the kids in the group named after the writers’ group that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien (and others) were in. She gave me the original canvas and said she had a feeling I would be using it in my future. A beautiful gift, and a beautiful vision.
Wow! Your own agency? Sweet. Describe the genre of the most recent release, and is it the only genre you represent?
Our most recent release was J.S. Scott’s No Ordinary Billionaire, which is a steamy contemporary romance put out by Montlake Romance. The book has been sitting in the top 10 on Amazon for sales for three weeks, usually hovering between #2 and #6. We’re thrilled!
No, this is definitely not the only genre I represent. I love a broad range of fiction, mostly genre, which you can find on my website.
I assume you are a busy lady. What is your weekly routine like?
Wait. There’s supposed to be a routine? I don’t really have a weekly routine, honestly, because everything is so unpredictable. There are sudden (and joyous!) contract negotiations – and trust me, when you get the call that is the offer of publication that destroys all hope of productivity for the day – there are sudden rush reads, hundreds of emails from various people all with questions that need answering, there are sudden website updates, client phone calls, editor phone calls, conferences, contests to judge, Twitter contests to lurk in and dig through, interviews to do, tons of publishing news to devour… I’m also taking a Certificate Program through the University of Calgary which keeps me up most nights. And I have a puppy who demands peanut butter my attention throughout each day.
I have a cat like that. Anyway, who first introduced you to the love of reading? (I assume it was NOT the puppy)
I have a brother who is a year and a half older than me. I also have a very competitive nature. So when my brother came home (even from kindergarten) I would steal his homework read over his shoulder. So I learned to read when I was 3ish. But I really got thoroughly entrenched when I discovered my dad’s bookshelf around the age of 7. He had Tolkien, Herbert, Wells, Orwell… so many stories that blew me away. I’ve never stopped. Thanks Dad!
Good for Dad! What do you see ahead in your career?
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract? Also, how can our readers find your submission guidelines?
For all the writers who are in the query trenches: do your homework, practice your pitch on everyone you know, and never, ever give up. Don’t sit around and wait while your book is out there. Start the next book. Sometimes it’s not the first book that makes it. You’ll only get better if you keep writing. The only way to get published is to never give up.
More about Agent Michelle Johnson
Michelle L. Johnson is a literary agent, the founder of Inklings Literary Agency and has a business administration background in addition to a lifetime of working with books (sales, editing, and writing) and authors (marketing, promoting, event planning), and also has been a script/story consultant for an independent film.
Before founding Inklings Literary Agency, she was with Corvisiero Literary Agency. She has spent many years in the editing field for private clients and multiple independent publishing houses.
She has also owned and operated a Writers’ Center and Bookstore in Virginia Beach, organizing numerous special events for authors and artists alike.
Connect with Michelle: