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(Nathan Bransford is the author ofHow to Write a Novel (October 2013), and of the Jacob Wonderbar series This interview below took place during his previous life as a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd.)
If you’re wondering why I’m in my 10” stiletto heels and cocktail dress, it’s because I’m at a big literary party this evening, and I’m psyched! A SUPER STAR literary agent is coming: Nathan Bransford, with Curtis Brown Ltd.
His informative blog has achieved cult status, as Huffington Post’s 50 Best Book People to Follow on Twitter, Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and the Best Publishing Industry Blog 2009.
I’m waiting out here by the elevator to catch him when he arrives. It’s the perfect place to practice my “elevator pitch”– to rattle off my story in one extremely long, run-on sentence–in case I happen to find myself in an elevator with, on a barstool beside or standing one urinal over from him.
(pulls out stopwatch, clears throat)
HDYGT: What’s that Mr. Bransford? What’s my book about? Why it’s a Heart-Wrenching-Tale-of-the-lives-and-loves-of-a-19th-century-family-of-brazen-maidens-who-encounter-alien-warlords-torn-between-the-honor-that-a-battle-well-fought-brings-to-their-alien-warlord-kind-and-the-love-of-the-brazen-maids-they’ve-fallen-madly-in-love-with-by-accident. Or-was-it-fate? (checks stopwatch) Only 17 seconds? Hmm, not enough adverbs.
(man enters hallway from main room, nods greeting)
HDYGT: (distracted smile) Nice party.
Nathan Bransford: (checking his text messages) Yes. It is.
HDYGT: I’m HDYGT.
(elevator doors open, HDYGT searches chatting people as they pass from the elevator to main room)
Nathan Bransford: Nathan Bransford, nice to meet you.
HDYGT: (eyes on elevator) Nice to meet you, too, Jason. Are you a writer?
(2nd elevator doors open, more noisy people pass between Nathan and HDYGT)
Nathan Bransford: I’m a literary agent, but yes, my own first book, JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in 2011.
HDYGT: (catches last part) Your first book – congratulations! What’s it about?
Nathan Bransford: Thanks, I’m pretty excited. It’s a middle grade science fiction novel about three kids who trade a corndog for a spaceship, blast off into space, accidentally break the universe, and have to find their way back home.
HDYGT: Wow, great pitch. I’m dying to know how they break the universe…might come in handy someday.
Nathan Bransford: (starts to laugh, but sees HDYGTs not)
HDYGT: Have you been writing long?
Nathan Bransford: Not that long, I can really sympathize with what writers go through.
HDYGT: Since you’re just getting started, Jason, I’ll give you a little advice: Start a blog! You’ve got to promote yourself, build a following now ‘cause it can take years.
Nathan Bransford: (smiles) I already have one, but thanks. What about you?
HDYGT: I’m still hunting for an agent. There’s a Super Star coming tonight, and I’m determined to meet him. I’ve got my Can-Do Jimmy Choo Shoes on.
Nathan Bransford: (eyes shoes, prays they don’t double as weapons) Who is it? Maybe I know him.
HDYGT: Ha! I hardly think so! He’s BIG TIME. I have it on very good authority that he wears several large, gold medallions around his neck, enormous pinkie rings and a tight fitting shirt open to his naval.
Nathan Bransford: (confused) I don’t know any agents who dress like that, not literary anyway.
HDYGT: (shrugs) He’s from California. Where are you from, by the way?
Nathan Bransford: California, raised in Colusa.
HDYGT: I don’t know Colusa.
Nathan Bransford: It’s a small town, only 5,000 people, a one-screen movie theatre and two stoplights.
HDYGT: Bet you read a lot growing up.
Nathan Bransford: (chuckles) Yes, grabbed armfuls of books when the local book fair came to town. And I learned a thing or two about rice farming.
HDYGT: Rice farming?
Nathan Bransford: Actually that probably helped teach me to concentrate for long stretches, and to stay on top of things, which I really need in my line of work. Though that could have been innate. I know I impressed my parents with my endless ability to play video games as a kid.
HDYGT: Where did you say you worked?
Nathan Bransford: Curtis Brown
HDYGT: (ears perk up) Doing what?
Nathan Bransford: I started as an assistant in 2002 then––
HDYGT: (ears flatten) An assistant… Curtis Brown is an excellent agency. How did you get a job there?
Nathan Bransford: Well, I graduated from Stanford with an English degree, saw a job posting online, thought it sounded like my dream job, and luckily I landed the position.
HDYGT: What do you like about it?
Nathan Bransford: Working with authors is always fascinating, and enjoyable. On the best days I’m helping them achieve their dreams. It’s a great feeling.
HDYGT: You are one sweet guy, I’d hire you as my assistant in a Colusa instant! Where did you work before Curtis Brown?
Nathan Bransford: (laughs, shakes head) You mean other than the video stores I worked in during high school? I interned for a law firm in college, which in many respects is similar to being an AGENT (points to self) —figuring out strategy, working with contracts, negotiation, etc.
HDYGT: See there? You might become an AGENT (points to Nathan) some day!
Nathan Bransford: (pushes elevator button) Who knows! Working in publishing teaches me endless patience… That and all the non-fiction reading helps with my Trivial Pursuit game. But seriously, it’s a really fulfilling job that has impacted my life in so many ways, not only through the friendships I’ve made but also through the lessons I’ve learned.
HDYGT: Here comes your elevator. It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Jason.
Nathan Bransford: I’ve enjoyed meeting you too, in a creepy, uncomfortable sort of way. You’re the only one who hasn’t rattled off their pitch to me, including the street person in front of the ATM machine. Though his was actually interesting, something about alien warlords and 19th century brazen maidens…
(people pour out of elevator, Nathan steps in, waves goodbye)
Newly Arrived Writer: Oh My God–that’s Nathan Bransford!
HDYGT: (spins 360 degrees) WHERE!
Newly Arrived Writer: In the elevator, weren’t you just talking to him? What did he say? Did he like your pitch?
(elevator doors shut completely)
HDYGT: (falls to knees, a surprisingly long distance in 10” stiletto heels) NAAAAaaaaaaathaaaaaan!!!
Nathan Bransford: (calls through closed doors) Yes?
HDYGT: Thank you for Playing!!!
Janet Goldstein recorded this video of Nathan at the San Miguel Writer’s conference.
Nathan Bransford is the author ofHow to Write a Novel (October 2013), Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp(Dial, February 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and the social media manager at CNET and is now the Director of Community and Social Media at Freelancers Union. He lives in Brooklyn.
(originally posted April 2010)