Krista Bean (Scripts & Scribes): Before founding New Leaf Literary, you were with FinePrint Literary Management, and Nancy Coffey Literary & Media Representation. What made you set out on your own?
Joanna Volpe: It wasn’t something I planned to do quite yet, but Nancy was ready to take a step back, and I knew this was something I wanted to do eventually. So I made it work! And I haven’t looked back since.
Krista: What do you look for in a query letter?
Joanna: An idea that engages me immediately.
Krista: At what point in reading a manuscript do you know that it is – or isn’t – for you?
Joanna: I know that it isn’t right for me fairly quickly—sometimes even just a page or two. But knowing that it IS right for me, well that’s a different story. I finish to the end and I think about it. It’s best when I can’t stop thinking about it!
Krista: You represent fiction for all ages. What’s your dream manuscript right now?
Joanna: This is tough because I feel like I already rep a lot of my dream projects! But I’d love to find more gothic horror. I’m a total sucker for it.
Krista: What’s the toughest part about your job? The most fun part?
Joanna: The toughest part for me these days is managing my email. There’s so much more of it than there used to be, and I get to a point where I have to step back and say “If I’m answering email all day, then I’m not doing my job.” So I stop and refocus. I’m still working out the system. The most fun part is working on a project or brainstorming with a client. If I go too long without doing one (or both) of those things, I start to get cranky!
Krista: New Leaf operates a Client Care program. What do you offer your clients even after their book deals are complete?
Joanna: We offer our clients a variety of career enhancement services, such as webinars on business-related topics, marketing and publicity support, indie publishing support for our hybrid clients, and of course, overall career strategizing.
Krista: How important do you consider conferences to be for aspiring writers?
Joanna: Attending conferences is one of the first steps that a writer can take to turn that aspiration into a career. They are important for building a writer’s toolbox, from networking, to learning to pitch, to working on craft, etc. It isn’t necessary to attend a writer’s conference to become an author, but it can be a boon.
Krista: How important is it that a writer has an online presence – both before signing with an agent, and after his/her book is published?
Joanna: For fiction, it isn’t necessary beforehand. Though they better be ready to start building one after signing with us! Don’t worry though—we only encourage writers to do the things they are comfortable doing. So they don’t have to have a twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr, pinterest and vine account. They can pick one or two that they’re comfortable with and go from there. For non-fiction though, a presence and platform are essential prior to signing with an agent.
Krista: Tying into the previous question, how much self-promotion should an author be willing to do?
Joanna: Unfortunately…quite a bit. I say “unfortunately” because almost every writer I know would much rather be curled up with a good book or at their computer in their home office, writing away. So to make people with somewhat introverted tendencies do self-promotion seems like some kind of awful torture. And I don’t blame them one bit for feeling that way if they do! But there is a correlation between an author’s success and the amount of promotion they do. And we can’t ignore it. As always, it’s my job to make sure they are doing enough promo while still feeling good about it. I can’t tell you how many times I eventually have to say “Get off the internet for a few weeks. You need a break.” And I mean it!
Krista: What are your favorite books (that you haven’t represented)?
Joanna: The list is long, so I’ll just go with a few for now: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, All the Truth that’s In Me by Julie Berry, anything illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, anything written by Stephen King, the Origami Yoda series by Tom Angleberger, Dinotrux by Chris Gall, I Am Otter by Sam Garton, The Tortall series by Tamora Pierce, Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Joy Ang, A Widow for One Year by John Irving, Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma, Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar…the list goes on! I love to read.
Krista: Better movie theater candy: Sno Caps or Raisinets?
Joanna: Sno Caps.
Krista: Best redhead: Anne of Green Gables, Little Orphan Annie, or Pippi Longstocking?
Krista: Better piece of juvenile humor: whoopee cushion or flaming bag of dog doo?
Joanna: Whoopee cushion…less messy.
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