In this episode, Chris and Gena interview Marisa Corvisiero, founder and CEO of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Marisa shares her journey from being a writer to becoming an agent and talks about the changing landscape of publishing. She emphasizes the importance of authors embracing the role of an entrepreneur and the need to understand the business side of publishing. Marisa also discusses the annual Authorpreneur Workshop, an intensive event that helps authors navigate their publishing options and gain the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed. She is offering a special discount for Writing Momentum listeners that can be used on Early Bird Pricing.
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episode 88 transcription:
[00:00:00] Christopher: Hey, and welcome to the Writing Momentum podcast. I'm Christopher Maselli. I'm here with my wife, Gena. How's it going, Gena? [00:00:06] Gena: It's going pretty good. I'm loving this. We're going into fall. It is going to be beautiful. I'm so ready for it after the summer. [00:00:13] Christopher: Yes, the weather has cooled here. We're excited about that. [[00:00:16] Gena: It is gorgeous. [00:00:17] Christopher: We're, we are also excited because today on the podcast, we have a very special guest. It's Marissa Corvisiero and she is the founder and CEO of the Corvisiero Literary agency, she's an attorney, a senior literary agent, a literary consultant, a speaker, an author, and she continues to practice law in New York City and specializes in publishing and corporate and trusts and estates. [00:00:42] Christopher: And, get this, she has attended over 100 conferences and workshops. Wow. And of course she continues to present on webinars, tutorials, bootcamps, and so forth. And she even has her own workshop called the Authorpreneur Workshop, where she teaches and coaches authors on writing, mindset, [00:01:00] publishing, it's a business, and so on. [[00:01:01] Christopher: Marissa, so glad to have you here today. [[00:01:04] Gena: Welcome. [00:01:05] Marisa: Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here. Yeah, that sounds like a mouthful. I'm really not that special. [[00:01:11] Gena: You sound very busy and very much an expert in the field. So we are thrilled to have you. [00:01:17] Marisa: I'm thoroughly immersed. [[00:01:18] Gena: Thank you so much for being here. Thank you. [00:01:19] Marisa: And I'm happy to, I'm happy to be here. Thank you for having me. [00:01:22] Gena: And I love the idea of the I know we're going to talk about it later, but I love the idea of the authorpreneur. And I know we're going to talk about that, but that is one thing that Chris and I have spent a lot of time, talking about with authors is that the days of writing in a cabin in the woods and mailing off your manuscript and letting. [[00:01:46] Christopher: Just being isolated. [[00:01:47] Gena: And just being isolated, and just focused on the work and all of that, like those days are over and you have to be an entrepreneur as well. You have to be a business person and be savvy about it. [00:01:58] Gena: So I love that.[00:02:00] Yeah, so I know we're going to talk about that more, but I just am so excited that we're hearing that from other camps as well, from other people as well saying, yeah. [00:02:12] Marisa: Absolutely, yeah, it's very important. It's a business. I always say your book is your art, your baby, your, blood, sweat and tears, your time away from your kids and your loved ones. [00:02:22] Marisa: But once you want to share that book, the only way to share it, unless you're going to put it online and give it for free, you need to sell it. In order for people to, how do you sell it? By becoming a business person. So your book is your product, your name is your brand, and you need to really figure out how to be an entrepreneur because you're really doing it on your own. [00:02:40] Marisa: And there's many components and a specific mindset that goes with that. [00:02:44] Christopher: That's right. It takes a change of mindset though, doesn't it? Because we do, we still have this romantic idea that as an author, I'm just going to sit in my office and write all day. And that's the most I need to see the world. [00:02:55] Christopher: Maybe go to some book signings, after my book gets sold, that sort of thing. But it's no, it's [[00:03:00] so much more than that now. [[00:03:01] Gena: So much more. [00:03:02] Marisa: Yeah, exactly. That's why I say for better or worse, because it, Fantastic to have the ability to sit there and really focus, and you need to have that focus when you are writing. [[00:03:11] Marisa: Much more now to think about, but, with all of that extra distractions and extra work also comes the autonomy and the ability and opportunities that you can take care of to sell your own stuff. [[00:03:21] Gena: We read your bio and we see that you are an agent and what made you want to become an agent? Because it looked like you, obviously you had a lot of choices in different ways that you could have gone with your career, but what brought you to be a literary agent? [00:03:36] Marisa: It was actually not a choice, if you can believe that. It just happened. I am, I'm a writer too, as you read on my bio, right? [[00:03:44] Marisa: So I was practicing law, doing mergers and acquisitions, top global firms, sitting in a conference room one time and people were late. Something had happened. It was like a broken out sessions. And I was in the room almost by myself. Nobody was really talking. So I had a legal pen in front of me and I had a dream. [[00:03:58] Marisa: It all starts with a dream. [[00:04:00] And... I just, I was like, you know what, let me just start jotting things down. Somehow I just decided to start writing, right? So long story made short, because I can go on about this for a while, how it all happened. It was just weird. So I started writing. And then when I finished writing that initial draft, I wrote the end. [00:04:17] Marisa: I'm like, okay, it's done. And then I was like, oh my God, what do I do? What's, what do I do with this? Like, how do I know if it's good? How do I know, who do I give it to? I knew nothing at this point. This was many years ago. So I started going to writers conferences. People I asked around and people were like, it's a smart thing to do, writing conferences. [00:04:34] Marisa: You can meet people that tell you what to do. You can learn a lot. You can make contacts, all of these things. I was like, absolutely, let's do that. So I started communicating with some authors, and I got on some critique groups, and beta readers, and things like that. And by that point I had my twin sons, who are now 17, so that tells you how long ago this was. [00:04:53] Marisa: And I... I started my own law practice because I didn't want to work, keep working 85 hour weeks. I would literally [00:05:00] come home at one o'clock and I was like, Oh my God, what am I doing? Started my own practice and at this point I was making contacts with people at conferences, editors, and authors. And one day I got a, an email from his author and he's I know you met so and so from this house. Do you think you could tell them that you'll represent me, through my law firm, that you'll represent me and, my work. He's I'm having a hard time finding an agent and you read this, it's really good. [00:05:25] Marisa: So anyway, I ended up connecting him with the agent and I unofficially negotiated that contract. Long story made short, it all happened. And like from him, I ended up doing other people. Oh, I'm actually really enjoying this. Let me see if I can talk to other people. I'm like, Hey, anyway. [00:05:41] Marisa: So then I met Lori Perkins who had been agenting for maybe 22 years at the time, and she said to me, listen, if you want to be an agent, come work at my agency and I will mentor you. And in six months, you'll know everything you need to know about publishing. I'll teach you everything I know. Anyway, I ended up staying with Lori for two years.[[00:06:00] [00:06:00] Marisa: And then one day, you know, I think I'm going to start my own agency. It's about time. I didn't know when you were going to do this. She's no, but I thought you were going to do this sooner. And I was like I've been busy with the kids and the law firm and like all these things. So I started my own agency as well. [00:06:13] Marisa: And this was in 2010, 2012, whenever that was. So that's how it started. So it I was agenting before I was calling myself an agent. That's it. [00:06:24] Christopher: Sometimes that's how things, no, that's how sometimes things like that happen, you fall into something out of necessity, right? [00:06:30] Christopher: And then before you know it, it's oh, this is becomes a career path for me. And this is a good thing. And I can help a lot of people and. [00:06:36] Gena: But it also, Marisa, it sounds like you put yourself in the place so that those things could happen by going to the writers conferences, by making those connections, it wasn't like you were sitting in your law office. Doing mergers acquisitions or estate planning or something like that. And then it was like somebody just knocked on your door. You actually put yourself in that [00:07:00] world and that's when the doors open, which I think is so valuable because there is a step that we have to take for good things like that to happen. [00:07:10] Marisa: I love that you said that because that's when I do my mindset workshops and I tell people there's a formula to success, like you need to, have a dream, make a plan, take action. If you do nothing, nothing happens. Opportunities, you don't have to just be ready for opportunities. [[00:07:26] Marisa: Sometimes you have to make your own opportunities. And the more knowledge you have, the more research, the more experience, the more people you know. The more likely you are to create those opportunities or to see them when other people might not. [00:07:37] Christopher: That's so good. We're always encouraging authors to go to writers conferences because that is where a lot of the opportunities happen, right? [00:07:44] Christopher: And yet we're always amazed at how many writers have never even heard of writers conferences Like they don't even know they exist let alone attend them, let alone multiple writers conferences every year [00:07:55] Marisa: I know, that makes me so sad. Plus writing conferences are so much fun because you're [[00:08:00] literally there with like really like minded people. [00:08:02] Marisa: I remember when I was writing, I would like, have something that I thought was really clever that I had written. I would follow my husband around trying to read him things and he was, he didn't care less. He'd be like, all of my imaginary friends. He's okay, like I would be doing dishes. [00:08:17] Marisa: Or, like thinking to myself, you'd be like, are you talking to your imaginary friends again? But he didn't care less. He cared that I was writing, obviously, and he allowed me the space. But He's just not a reader, not a writer. So he didn't get it. He didn't get the enthusiasm. He wasn't the right person to give me feedback. [00:08:32] Marisa: I always tell people like, you need a critique partner. You need all of these things. It's like you could give it to your mom and she'd be like, Oh my God, I'm so excited. I'm so happy that you wrote a book. And it's fantastic. And it's not because she's not the right person to be critiquing it. She loves you. She's going to go easy on you. Unless she's like my sister who gave me like all these crazy feedback. And I was like, Whoa, it's on the person, right? So you need to know who you're sharing your work with. [00:08:53] Christopher: Yeah, that's a good one. Now, it's interesting that we're talking about writing conferences because we've been attending writing conferences [[00:09:00] since the nineties, which is earlier on in our career. [00:09:04] Christopher: And it was interesting. Cause you know, back then, it was all about, Hey, you almost don't need an agent. You certainly don't want to self publish. What you want to do is you want to sit down across from an editor, pitch your work, and that's how you can become published. Then, I would say about a decade later, a shift started happening and people say, No, you don't want to meet with agents. [00:09:26] Christopher: You want to get an, or you don't want to meet with an editor. You want to get an agent, right? You want to meet an agent because they can help you have the opportunities. Then, about a decade after that, all the self publishing things start. And then people say, you don't need editors or agents. Now, you need to do it all yourself. [00:09:42] Christopher: And when should someone sign with an agent versus... Just saying, Hey, I'm going to go ahead and go this alone. [00:09:49] Marisa: Yeah. I'm going to give you my opinion on the last thing that you said. You don't, when you're self published, you don't need an editor or an agent. I don't think that's exactly true. [00:09:58] Marisa: I think that the majority [00:10:00] of the hybrid or self published authors, anybody who's going indie now, they have a go to. That they, helps them edit their work. So it's not a publishing house, not somebody that's acquiring the book and giving them royalties and advances and stuff to publish their book, but it's somebody who's actually just editing the book. [00:10:18] Marisa: And so it's like that small. And an agent is actually still really needed for several reasons. So if you have a project that's really successful, you could potentially turn around and sell that to a publisher, right? That's happening less and less. It's because again, publishing trends are, things are changing, but there's also sub rights. [00:10:36] Marisa: And there's a lot of things that you can't do on your own. Correction, you could do anything on your own these days, right? There's a reason for everything. And a lot of us have like different skills, different fortes and different contacts. So we could do anything we want, but an agent really comes in handy to shop your audio rights, your translation rights, your merchandising, your TV film options. There's so many things that an agent can still do for [00:11:00] you. And then, I mentioned hybrid publishing, a lot of my, especially my romance authors they're all hybrid. So they sell some things and then I get them traditional deals for other things and the things that they self publish, I sell their sub rights. [00:11:14] Marisa: So it's still like a give and take with the agent. It's still I think not because I'm an agent, because I think it's the right thing to do. I think it's helpful. [00:11:22] Christopher: That's real good. Is that common now for agents to say, you can self publish some material and we'll take others that because a lot of times I'll hear authors feel like, oh, it's all or nothing. [00:11:33] Christopher: If I go with an agent, I can't do anything on my own, then everything needs to go through the agent. Or I'm just going to do it myself. So is there this balance now that's being found between you can still self publish some material and some the agent gets and how do you determine what goes where? [00:11:48] Marisa: It depends on the agent. A lot of them are not doing that. I am because I have found statistically that somebody who is hybrid gets the best of both worlds. So you get [00:12:00] the autonomy, the freedom you get to make all of the choices with the timing and the marketing and exactly what you want to write when you're independently published, and then you could get the security and the prestige, if you're still calling it that, some it's debatable the support in the editing and the marketing team and the distribution from a traditional publisher. So you, when you put them both together, I found that almost every single hybrid author that I've worked with makes more money by doing both. [00:12:32] Marisa: And merging them and picking and choosing and complimenting each one. It just, they're most successful that way. And that doesn't work for every genre. It doesn't work for every genre because some genres are just doing better traditionally published. [00:12:47] Gena: That makes sense. But that is really nice to see that that combination and to see how it's changing. When should an author start thinking [00:13:00] about, okay, it's time for me to get an agent? When do they know they're ready? Because I think a lot of authors They get the idea for the book. You mentioned, you have a dream, you get the idea, you write it, you may or may not get it edited, which we strongly recommend that you get it edited even multiple times for different types of things. [00:13:22] Gena: But when is it time for that author to say, okay, yeah, now I'm ready? [00:13:29] Marisa: I think that if first of all, it's very important for them to decide which route they want to take, if they want to go traditional or self published, or if they want to learn about both and figure out what to do for each project, right? [[00:13:44] Marisa: So once they decide, if they decide they want to publish something traditionally, they should start researching, making contacts and creating a list of agents that represent their genre that they like. That work with similar books to theirs. Maybe follow them on social [[00:14:00] media, see if they like the temperament, what they say, what they believe in, things like that. [00:14:03] Marisa: Because, an agent is a partner. They're not working for you, you're not working for them. You're partnering up to make sure that your book sees the light of day and gets shared with the world. So you want to make sure that you're picking somebody that you really want to work with, that you can get along with, that sort of has the same style and likes the things that you like. [00:14:19] Marisa: It helps. So the research is important as soon as possible, but they should start pitching agents only when they finish their manuscript. And like you said, after it's polished and ready and edited and all of those things, and if they can't afford an editor, that's what critique partners and beta readers are for. [00:14:36] Christopher: Is it hard to get an agent though? So you made your list, right? But then is it like you're still going through a vetting process? With an agent or is it the kind of thing where it's okay, as long as I think I've got someone interested, I can probably get any agent I want to sign that deal [00:14:51] Marisa: No, it's really, it's not that easy and a lot of us, I was just looking at my current manager, which is the database where people upload their stuff for us to review and we're getting [00:15:00] over 20 submissions a day, that's a lot of reading and a lot of work. And for somebody like me, I have a lot of clients who have had for years and I'm running the agency, I have a team of almost 14 people, I have the law firm, I have kids, stuff going on, so it takes us a lot of time to read the work, unfortunately. [00:15:16] Marisa: And I think a lot of agents are not even full time agents. They have other jobs. And because of the volume that comes in, it takes us a while to get through the submissions. So that's one. Time is an issue. And also, we're, we have to be really picky. We need to pick things that are really ready, that we think are super marketable, and that we enjoy reading and working with. [00:15:39] Marisa: And then we vet the author and make sure we want to work with them. Because of all of those components, it's not easy to get an agent. Sometimes the process takes a while. Some people have been submitting their queries to agents for a couple of years, and they've been declined. [[00:15:52] Christopher: Yes. [00:15:53] Marisa: Yeah, so it's, that's why it's very important to get line up your ducks and figure out the best way to put [00:16:00] your foot forward, make sure your manuscript is ready, your submission package is ready, make sure you're targeting the right agent because if you're pitching the wrong agent, say somebody, you have a romance novel and you pitch it to somebody who seems terrific online, but you don't do your research and they only, they're only acquiring science fiction. [00:16:14] Marisa: And then you wait six months for them to read your work and then you get declined. By somebody you waited all that time by somebody who wasn't even a good fit. So you got to make sure you do your research. [00:16:23] Christopher: Yeah, we even see that at writers conferences where when it comes to the pitching time, right? Everyone loves the pitching time But if you don't do your research, you're much more likely to get your material rejected if you're pitching a children's book to a romance You know to someone who does romance material. So you really have to be careful to make sure you know what you're pitching, right? [00:16:43] Marisa: Exactly, gotta know who you're pitching and once you figure out the right people to pitch, then you have to make sure that you read their submission guidelines and that you send them exactly what they want to see and it's the best that you can put together for them. [00:16:56] Gena: Well now we touched on this at the beginning, but we're coming back around to [[00:17:00] it. The fourth annual authorpreneur workshop, can you tell us about it? What is that? [00:17:04] Marisa: Yeah, so we talked about authorpreneurs, right? So we decided, there's a lot of writing conferences and a lot of them have, workshops and breakout sessions and lectures that really help people with the business side of things. [[00:17:16] Marisa: And they have some craft things and business things and all of those things, but we put together a program for a full day workshop that basically once authors come to the workshop and leave, they know these are my publishing options, this is how to get an agent, this is what my submission package should look like. [[00:17:36] Marisa: We talked to them about publishing deals and building a platform, like all of the things that they need to know as a sort of foundation of the must know so they can get started on the right foot. [00:17:49] Christopher: So this is an intensive, right? It's like you're getting together and say, okay, we're going to cover all of these things that you need to make sure that you're ready to go. [[00:17:57] Marisa: So yeah, pretty much how we [[00:18:00] designed it. And we have other agents and publishers coming in and doing some of the lectures and they take pitches and then we do panels and we offer critiques and we have a mini book camp on writing a synopsis, which involves feedback. A bunch of things. [[00:18:19] Christopher: Where is it located? [00:18:21] Marisa: It's in Red Bank, New Jersey. This is where this, I'm in the New Jersey office right now. It's in Red Bank and the hotel that it's at is the Oyster Point Hotel, which is basically like a walk from here. And it's really pretty. It's on the river, so it's like a really relaxing atmosphere. [00:18:37] Marisa: And I would love to just call this a retreat, but it's not a retreat and it's not relaxing because it's an intensive, but we do a VIP day on Friday before the intensive workshop that people could sign up and we have specific lectures from the faculty and we do some fun local activities and we even do some meditating and then we go to dinner and we, [00:19:00] it's like a networking intensive hands on and they, the VIP package actually includes all of the critiques and pitching anybody they want during the workshop. [[00:19:10] Gena: And when is this? When is this happening? [[00:19:12] Marisa: So the next one is going to be April 13, and the VIP section is the day before, April 12th, which is optional. [00:19:21] Christopher: Very good. 2024. It sounds to me like if you're living on the East Coast, this is a no brainer, right? You need to sign up for this and go, because this is a great way to... [00:19:30] Christopher: Get to just have that intensive time and get your material done, make sure you're all ready to go. But I imagine, do you have people fly in from all over to this sort of thing? It sounds like the kind of thing you would. [00:19:40] Marisa: I've had people drive up from North Carolina and flew from Florida. I had somebody from Brazil coming in. Somebody from Texas one year. We've also done the workshop in California, Alabama, and North Carolina. So this is technically like the 8th or 7th or whatever that is. So we've done a few of them and I try to do them in [00:20:00] different places. And those were like, dual, like I did two those years, but it was just, it was a lot of work and with everything going on, it's hard. [00:20:07] Marisa: I would love to do these in every state. So everybody would have like access and it's less expensive for people to come. But yeah, there's only so much, it's, it does, it's a lot of work. It's a lot of coordinating. And this year we have four literary agencies represented. We have about five publishers, picture books, young adult, thriller, agents. [00:20:28] Marisa: We also have a movie producer, a movie scout, an audio book producer. And some other cool people. I forget I'm sorry that I can't remember right now, but cover like all of the people that people need to talk to, and they're all going to be sitting in a Q& A panel and they'll be around the whole time. [00:20:45] Marisa: And after the Saturday, we usually finish up like 3:30 or 4. And after that we do a networking mixer and, we drink and we do hors d'oeuvres and stuff and the faculty's there and people get to commingle and network and it's a lot of fun. [[00:21:00] [00:21:00] Christopher: That sounds like fun. Okay, Marisa, I'm all about the deals. [00:21:03] Christopher: So I know that between now and the end of this month, which is September of 2023, you've got some kind of special deal going on. Tell us about that. [00:21:12] Marisa: Yeah, it's the Early Bird Special. So it's a super discounted price for anybody who registers early and saves their seat because space is limited. It's not a huge hotel. [00:21:20] Marisa: It's not a big conference. So there's only a certain number of tickets that we can sell. So it's very smart for people to book their seats super early. And that goes on until I'm actually not sure when we actually are finishing the early bird, I know that we have a number for sure. [00:21:35] Marisa: And then we do offer some discounts and I'm going to share the codes with you. And maybe you could share and look at the description. We do offer military service and teacher discounts and some group discounts and local writing associations can also a discount code. I'll try to share all of the codes applicable to you. [00:21:53] Marisa: So whoever wants to use them and share them, I'm happy to give discounts. [00:21:58] Christopher: That's awesome. Okay. We'll put those in [00:22:00] the show notes for sure. So if you're curious about the conference, we'll have the link, we'll have the codes in the, show notes and you can find out all about it in there. [[00:22:08] Gena: Yes. Thank you so much. [[00:22:11] Marisa: My pleasure. Thank you. [00:22:13] Gena: Yes. It was such a pleasure to have you here today. If you have enjoyed this podcast, we invite you to go back and check out all the ones. We've been doing this for a while now. And would you also please rate, review, subscribe, and share this. Share this with other writers. Share it with people who would be interested in knowing more about when they should get an agent. [00:22:37] Gena: There's just a lot of good stuff here. Yes. [[00:22:39] Christopher: Yes. And the reason we like doing this is because together, what Gena? [[00:22:44] Gena: Together we have writing momentum. [[00:22:47] Christopher: Bye bye. [[00:22:47] Marisa: Beautiful.