In the months leading up to this year’s Literary Writer’s Conference, we’ll be sitting down with some of our favorite agents to talk about their work, working with writers, and their LWC experience. First up is Amanda Annis of Trident Media Group, who has been an LWC staple and one of our go-to agents to work with. Her industry experience is indispensable, and we’re beyond pleased to have her on board for another year. Amanda works with narrative nonfiction, literary fiction, and wellness authors. Previously, she was an editor at Penguin Random House where she worked on New York Times bestsellers, Oprah selections, and award-winning books. She holds a B.F.A. from Emerson College with a concentration in poetry and art history.
How does a smaller conference like LWC benefit both writers and agents who participate?
Conferences are great for putting a face to the name on a manuscript or person behind the query submission—but representation always comes down to the writing itself. Smaller conferences give authors and agents an opportunity to converse more deeply and engage more sincerely with the writing. It’s a space to make the connection.
You’ve participated in LWC’s events before, both panels and pitch sessions. What is it about LWC that excites you and keeps you coming back? What are you most looking forward to about this year’s conference?
LWC draws wonderfully serious-minded writers who are invested in nurturing their careers. Writing as a hobby is always admirable, but publishing is a professional (if not necessarily full-time) endeavor. I get a lot out of the conference as an agent because the attendees put so much into it.
The Query Letters clinic seems particularly essential for writers. What goes on in this type of clinic? What can writers expect, and why is the query letter such a tough nut to crack?
The Query clinic gives writers a glimpse into the other side of the inbox. From a writer’s perspective, it can feel like you’re sending years of hard work out into the ether. I think it’s helpful for authors to see how we engage with their work. Agents are real people, real readers who love books, but we’re not an easy audience either. This clinic provides a lot of transparency to the process.
Talking about your book to other people takes practice. Most often, I find that writers don’t give themselves enough distance from the work to articulate the bigger picture. Bad pitches and query letters are like listening to someone recount their dream at a party—a fascinating, moving, transformational experience for the dreamer, an absolute bore for someone listening to the nonsensical, context-less details. A great query gets to the heart of the matter, and sees the forest for the trees as the saying goes.
When you come to an event like this, what are you looking for as an agent? How do you connect with emerging writers? How does LWC help foster a community of writers and agents?
First and foremost, I’m looking for authors who’ve written projects that align with my tastes and genres of expertise. But I’m also just one person; I obviously can’t take on every project that comes my way. It’s my hope that the writers I speak with can glean some insight into navigating the publishing landscape, and feel more educated and prepared. I think there’s a myth that agenting—and landing an agent—is a combative process. But publishing as a whole is built on community, collaboration, and relationships between authors, agents, editors, readers, and the rest of our colleagues. LWC is organized around that spirit.
How does an event like this connect with your daily life as an agent? What are some of your essential takeaways?
My daily life as an agent is centered on providing wisdom, expertise, and support to my clients as I shepherd their work from proposal to publication. That, and looking for new clients! And prior to becoming an agent, I was an editor at Penguin Random House, so I have buckets of insider-y information about the whole publishing process that I’m glad to share. The LWC is a kind of casual classroom to teach writers about the industry, and hopefully demystify the process. Approach the conference with an open mind and eagerness to learn.