Interview with Agent and Author Jacqui Lipton

                                     by Gloria G. Adams

Jacqui Lipton is an associate literary agent at Storm Literary Agency, a law professor, and the director of Authography LLC®, a company dedicated to helping authors and artists with legal and business issues. She writes fiction and law books and holds an MFA in fiction writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts as well as a Ph.D. in law from Cambridge University. She loves reading and writing speculative fiction and is the mother of three children and (apparently) three cats. She has written over half a dozen academic legal books, and her new book, LAW & AUTHORS: A LEGAL HANDBOOK FOR WRITERS is forthcoming from University of California Press. She writes the "Legally Bookish" column for the SCBWI Bulletin and the "On the Books" column for Luna Station Quarterly. She also teaches and blogs regularly on writing and related topics for Savvy Authors.

Jacqui’s website:
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What inspired you to write your first book?

That depends on which kind of book you’re talking about. My first law textbook was written because I had to, as part of my academic/professional job, but it married my past career in finance law with my academic interest in intellectual property law and dealt with secured finance deals involving intellectual property! The inspiration for my first novel (YA sci/fi) was also borne out of my day job when I had attended maybe one too many male-dominated legal meetings and I said under my breath, “This would be a whole lot easier if women were in charge of the world.” That led to my sci-fi society in Inside the Palisade where men had been banned from the city and women were in charge of everything.

Who are some authors that you admire?

Oh, that’s a tough one. There are just so many. In YA, I love some of the speculative fiction/magical realism authors like Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Tahereh Mafi, Alex London, Shaun David Hutchinson, Adam Silvera, Nova Ren Suma, and Veronic Rossi. In adult sci-fi, I really like Karen Lord and Hillary Jordan. Maggie Shen King’s An Excess Male blew me away recently. In mystery writing, I love Tana French, Elizabeth George, and Jane Harper.

Why did you decide to become a literary agent?

I interned for an agent for almost three years: Susan Hawk who specializes in children’s literature from picture books to young adult, both fiction and nonfiction. She was a wonderful mentor and teacher both about developmental editing and about the publishing industry. That gig came hot on the heels of finishing off my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at VCFA. Because I have both a creative and business-y type background, agenting is really a wonderful way of marrying my interests in the creative side of writing with the publishing/business side. And having a legal understanding of contracts, commercial and intellectual property law is a big bonus!

What’s on your bucket list as an author? As an agent?

That’s a REALLY tough one: PASS! No, seriously, I’d love to just rep the best work I can as an agent and get some terrific books in readers’ hands. Of course, this is a business and I’d like to make some money for my authors, but I really want wonderful books to get published and read. If I could get one or more letters from children who are reading my work (as an author) or my clients’ work (as an agent) saying how a book really changed their lives or made them see things in a new way, that would be the perfect reward. In terms of my legal writing, I love it when folks tell me that a column I wrote or a workshop I gave really helped them with something they were dealing with. I guess that’s not much of a bucket list. It’s kind of an ongoing thing, but that’s why I love being part of this industry.

Why do you use a pen name?

I’ve actually dropped the pen name in recent years as I’ve committed full time to the publishing industry as an agent, consultant, editor, and author. I did use a pen-name in the past (K.C. Maguire) when my main career was in legal academia and I didn’t want my author/editor persona and my academic career to get tangled up. Now, that I’ve pretty much consolidated my day job with my publishing work, I ’ve said goodbye to K.C. My social media, writing, agenting, professoring etc. is now pretty much all under my real name.

What kind of books do you like to read?

My tastes are pretty eclectic and I’ll actually pick up pretty much any book that comes to hand. I also tend to read books all the way through whether they’re riveting or not, so the pile on my nightstand is out of control. I have a particular love for science fiction, romance, magical realism, and mystery. But I also read pretty much anything else, and have a growing interest (both as a reader and writer) in nonfiction, including memoir and personal essay writing.

What book has influenced you the most?

Another PASS! Hmm. That’s a tough one. It’s probably trite to say but The Hunger Games really opened my eyes (and those of a lot of other people) about what was possible in the YA realm. One of my favorite books, I think because of its beautiful lyrical writing and YA/adult crossover appeal is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, again because it shows how much the same book can appeal to widely different levels of readers. I do love books that parents can talk about with their children, particularly as I have three children at home who are all avid readers.

What was your most unusual or funny experience as a writer or agent?

It’s actually hard to think of a funny experience. Most memorable writing/agenting stories have a lot of angst in them! I think my most memorable story is when I was looking for an agent myself and had submitted a proposal for a book that many people thought I’d be better off self-publishing because it was aimed at such a niche market. I’d sent it out to a dozen or so agents, and received a handful of lovely, supportive personal rejections saying the book was important, but it would be difficult to place with a traditional publisher and I might be better off … you guessed it … self-publishing. Then, an agent who I hadn’t submitted to at all contacted me while I was on vacation and asked if I was interested in talking to her about it. Her partner had pulled it from the slush pile and passed it along to her. That agent was the amazing Jane Dystel, founder of Dystel Goderich & Bourret. She ended up not only repping the book but selling it too.  So look out for LAW & AUTHORS: A LEGAL HANDBOOK FOR WRITERS coming out in 2020.

What work do you wish you had written? Why?

I don’t think there’s ever been a book I wish I’d written; although, back in my younger life, there were certainly some plays and musicals I wished I could have written (or at least written something half as good). It turned out I wasn’t a very gifted musician, and I was a bit stilted with dramatic dialogue back in the day. One well-meaning reviewer of my college work said: “She has a great voice, but she doesn’t have anything to say yet.” Hopefully, I either have more to say now, or at least I can help people with something to say get their work out into the world.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to writers and/or aspiring agents?

Don’t give up. The publishing industry is a tough one, due to shrinking budgets and lots of competition for eyeballs. But, at the same time, there are more opportunities than ever to explore avenues like self-publishing (including self-published audiobooks), as well as more opportunities to find online writing groups and other critique assistance. There are tons of writing competitions you can enter and get feedback, tons of information for people trying to learn how to write a query letter, or a book proposal. It’s all there for the taking. So if your career isn’t taking off the way you want it to, keep plugging along and do it in a constructive and productive way. Find out what you need to know, and where to get the help you need, and go from there. Same for agenting. I did so many informational interviews with so many generous agents along the way as I figured out whether or not this was a career I wanted to pursue. I interned. I went to conferences and networked. I read up on how the market works: Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace are great resources. Keep at it and keep learning.

Short and Sweet:

Pantser or Plotter? Pantser. Plotting is for revision!

Guilty Food Pleasure? Crème brulee or white chocolate; or crème brulee WITH white chocolate.

Favorite Hobby? Reading of course.

Dog or Cat person? Cats all the way! (Dogs are too much work!)

Who would you like to have dinner with (living or dead)? Julia Roberts or Margaret Atwood; better yet, both of them together!

Do you do your best work in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Evening for writing; morning for paperwork.

Music and Writing

By Lana Koehler

Music can evoke memories and influence perception. Music can also inspire creativity. Here is a list of music that, when you listen to it, has the ability to transcend time and space. And, as authors, isn’t that what we want our readers to do with our writings?

Copy and Paste each link for best results!
Best overall list:

Music to listen to while writing sci-fi:

Happy, upbeat music to write for young children:

     My personal music mixes (all jazz, all the time!):

                Why you need to listen to music when you write:

                             Stay in your own genre of music and other suggestions: