Friday, June 20, 2008

Take Your Blog Reader to Work: Welcome Nathan Bransford

We're starting a new blog feature at Fictionistas called Take Your Blog Reader to Work Day in which we shall go forth and find you interesting, innovative, provacative and sometimes unruly people out in the world living their dreams and being successful at it. We've discussed following your dreams on the blog before--but in case you weren't paying attention--the gist of it is: you should totally do it.

Today we are showcasing literary agent Nathan Bransford with the Curtis Brown, Ltd. agency. He also has a fantastic blog for all things writerly. Whether you are looking for representation or not, you'll find something there you like (especially if you like The Hills). Nathan was also up for a prestigious award at I'll let him fill you in on that one.

Nathan, thank you for joining us today. For our readers unfamiliar with the publishing industry, what is a literary agent? What is your favorite part of the job?

A literary agent fulfills such a wide range of functions it’s difficult to summarize. Basically we manage every facet of the publishing process for the author. We submit book projects to the editors we have carefully chosen and networked with, we negotiate offers and contracts using our experience and expertise, we make sure every part of the book process is taken care of, we explore subrights and licensing opportunities, and ultimately we help build the author’s career. We also provide editorial and marketing guidance, and, of course, therapy.

I love just about every aspect of the job, but it’s particularly gratifying to know that I’m contributing, in my own way, to making great books happen. I also love working with my clients, who are all wonderful.

What is a typical day like?

I get in around 8:00 and send and read e-mails most of the day. I’ll follow-up with publishers on tasks that need to be accomplished and money that needs to be sent, I’ll prepare projects for submission and follow up on others, negotiate contracts, answer queries… lots of staring at the computer. I head home around 5:00 and do all my reading during nights and weekends. I try and squeeze in a lunch break in there, which is typically when I blog.

When did you decide you wanted to be a literary agent and what drew you to the field?

When I took creative writing classes in college I found that I enjoyed critiquing manuscripts more than I enjoyed the actual writing part, so I knew I wanted to go into publishing. I moved to San Francisco and saw a job opening for an assistant to the President of Curtis Brown, which was ridiculously serendipitous because there are very few publishing jobs in San Francisco and I landed with Peter Ginsberg, one of the best agents in publishing. He has been an incredible mentor for me. I started in the San Francisco office, moved to New York for a few years to get that experience, and now I’m back here in San Francisco.

When you think back to your high school years, are you surprised at the turns your life has made? Is this where you expected to be?

When I was in high school I actually thought I wanted to work in the movie business in some non-acting capacity, but I think I ultimately made a good choice because my personality is much more suited to the publishing industry.

You are pretty young in relation to the rest of your industry. Has that helped or hindered the forward momentum of your career?

It’s tough being a young person in publishing, I’m not going to lie. This industry is not growing very quickly, if at all, and there is a great deal of competition for every project. Meanwhile, it feels like there are more and more agents every day. So not only am I competing with the other young people in publishing, I’m also up against people who have been in the industry for a very long time. Now, that said, I’ve been very blessed with wonderful mentors who have been very supportive of me, I feel like I can hold my own against those other agents, and I definitely feel that my familiarity with technology has helped me. I’m very pleased with how far I’ve come, but this industry is not one for the impatient.

How do you feel about the Gawker poll? And how many times can we vote without being called a stalker?

I was 50% flattered and 50% horrified. I had no idea about any of it until someone sent me the link. Voting is finished and I seem to have come in second, but, you know, sometimes you win by losing.
(Edited by Gwen to add: It isn't for lack of my votes that he didn't win. I have more than one computer. Just sayin.)

What was life like for Nathan Bransford when he was 16? Were you a happy guy? Jock, Nerd, Artist? If you could pick a character from any teen movie or television show out there, which character represents teen-you the most? Bonus points if you pick someone from the 80's.

I grew up in a very small farming town and went to school with pretty much the exact same people from kindergarten all through high school, so we didn’t really segregate ourselves into types. We knew each other far too well for that. I’d say I was a nerd who didn’t get stuffed in the trash can, and I got along with most everyone. I played some sports (not too hard at a school of 400) and did extra-curriculars to the point of exhaustion. As far as a character from a teen movie…. Hmmm… I’d probably go with that kid from Can’t Hardly Wait who goes from a nerd to being cool at the party back to being a nerd again.

We ask all our guests to provide us with a prom picture from their high school days. Feel free to attach. No really, I'm serious.

Sorry, those records are permanently sealed.

If you went back in time to visit your teen self, what random piece of advice would you tell TeenNathan?

Teen Nathan, you should learn all you can about farming while you’re in Colusa because when you go out into the real world and people have random questions about farming because your parents are farmers, they get really confused when you don’t know very much.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and your iPod had only three songs on it, which would you hope they were?

Wow, that’s a tough one! I figure I’ll be there a while so I guess I better choose long songs:
“To Here Knows When” – My Bloody Valentine
“I Heard You Looking” – Yo La Tengo
“Etude in E (#3)” – Frederic Chopin

Use this space to plug whatever you want:

Please visit my blog! And thanks very much for this opportunity.


  1. Thanks for coming by Nathan. And can I just say that my new favorite catchphrase is going to be "ridiculously serendipitous". That is so hard to say, but I love it.

  2. Great interview, Gwen!

    Thanks for sharing, Nathan. I follow your blog, but this was a nice addition.

  3. Great interview, Gwen and Nathan.

    Thanks to both of you for doing it!

  4. This was a great interview--thanks for coming by, Nathan! We're happy to have you as a guest!!!

    And hey, it's never too late to learn about farming, eh? haha

  5. I can't believe people ask you about farming. Seriously.

  6. Nathan, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with us. You may have come in 2nd in the gawker poll, but you're number 1 in our hearts.

    I am a little disappointed you didn't post a prom picture.

  7. OMG he's from Colusa? I actually know where that is - went to a FBLA meeting there in high school! LOL

    And in college (Chico State) went to the Indian Casino there too. Wild.

    Great interview. :)

  8. I love that Gwen is stalking Nathan on Gawker.

    Great interview, Gwen. Thanks, Nathan!

  9. Thanks for chatting with us Nathan. I wish you were interested in representing erotic authors, you sound like a great guy to work with.

  10. Awesome interview, Nathan and Gwen!

    Thanks for coming to play with the Fictionistas, Nathan. As someone who has considered going into agenting herself someday (right now I'm a copyright and trademark attorney who's also a writer), I thought it was quite interesting to read about your journey.

    Come back anytime!

  11. FANTASTIC interview. It doesn't seem possible that anyone so cute can be that smart and accomplished. Is that an obnoxious thing to say?

  12. If we ask really, really nicely will you post a prom pic?