Devra Jacobs, agent and owner of Dancing Word Group, talks professional flexibility, following submission guidelines, and red flags for authors.
Devra Jacobs is so much more than a literary agent for new age authors—this Taurian woman represents the books that speak to her soul. After working as a higher consciousness editor of Mystic Pop magazine, Devra felt the pull to be a literary agent. But she was a little tentative based on slimy, used-car-salesman stereotypes. Fortunately for the clients she now represents, she avoided that stereotype by just being herself, and in the last twelve years has sold over 60 books to publishing houses large and small!
Devra’s goal is to approach agenting with (compassionate) honesty while not hiding her spiritual side, and she has lots of good advice for aspiring authors.
Devra Jacobs founded and served as editor-in-chief of Mystic Pop Magazine for 9 years until its sale in 2008. She owns Dancing Word Group Agency, and has represented both mainstream and higher consciousness authors for the last twelve years.
Emphasizing ethics in her agenting work, Devra uses a wide-reaching model of networking. She has established contacts with both large and small publishing houses, and her drive to promote and coach her clients comes is bolstered by her wealth of experience in the field.
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Our interview with Devra Jacobs, Owner of Dancing Word Group begins here! We share an overview of her storied career, and she tells us about how she decided to embark on a (now 11- year-long) literary agency business. In spite of her concerns that it was too much of a “used car salesman” job, she was given the advice: “If you do you, you’ll do well.” By the end of the day she announced her intention, she had eight new clients.
Devra talks a little bit about the authors she’s worked with and all the genres she’s worked across. She was told to stick to one genre—metaphysical books—but she’s a total Taurus. If you tell her what NOT to do, she’s going to do it. Her philosophy: she’ll represent it if it’s a good book.
If I like it and I think it’s that good, I don’t think an agent has to stay in their lane. It just takes more work.
She talks about her experience as an agent working with both traditional and indie authors. Devra saw that authors were going into it blind and being taken advantage of, and decided to help self-published authors not get hoodwinked. She offers one on one coaching with people to teach them what they need to do to prep, what companies are trustworthy (and what aren’t), and what kind of work they need to do to be successful. She works with publishing houses of all sizes and send them to wherever she thinks will serve them the best. She also acknowledges the opportunities for success that are available to self-published authors, and how traditional publishers need to stay in the game to keep up.
So how does an agent decide who they want to work with? She uses her intuitive gifts in her daily work. At first she was a little shy about sharing that side of herself, but now she’s open about using all her abilities to figure out who is the best to work with and which publishing house they would vibe with best. She also shares with us how she was introduced to spiritual life after a childhood illness (which, if you listen, you’ll agree is a bit of an understatement) and how she’s come to be more open about her spiritual experiences even in her professional life.
If I’m gonna be me, I’ve gotta be me altogether.
Corinne wants to know how Devra likes author publicity vs. agenting. The answer: one is more financially rewarding and the other is more emotionally rewarding. Guess which is which?
Corinne asks Devra about what red flags authors should look for when trying to find an agent. Devra addresses the trend of “agent managers” who charge writers to find them agents. She thinks it’s an unnecessary step—and can often be a predatory system that takes advantage of authors with less experience. She points out that authors can find lots of free information online to help them go through the difficult process of finding an agent.
Unlike the 20–30 page proposals many of the managers she refers to ask for, Devra wants *mini* proposals. She also thinks they should be aware of easy mistakes—like forgetting to include a plot synopsis!!!
Also, you’ve got to include your marketing plan.
The hard truth is publishers don’t care who you are or even what your story is right off. They want to know what you’re going to do to market your book. THEN they go back to see what your book is about.
Devra talks about the difference between fiction and nonfiction when it comes for the need for a personal platform. She also talks about the difference between big platform numbers and engagement, and how publishers are getting wise to the difference. It doesn’t matter if you’re a five-dimensional person, this is a three dimensional world. You’ve gotta be ready to market that book (see Corinne’s last blog for a big agreement). Sometimes agenting involves a little tough love, especially when it comes to marketing.
I don’t care if you’re a five-dimensional person, you’re in a three dimensional world.
Devra tells the story of an author she had who didn’t make the publicity push he needed to until a few years after his book came out. When he finally decided to start blogging, it actually worked! Putting some free content into the world really helps with your author platform.
Devra shares some of the horror stories about how authors have been ripped off or almost ripped off. Remember: the agent fee is 15% of what the AUTHOR gets (not total sales). That’s the law. Management companies and vanity presses don’t always play by those rules. Watch the fine print!
You might not need a company to completely take the reins for your proposal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help! A good ghostwriter or editor, who knows how to write in your voice, can be a major help in your publishing journey. This is particularly true with nonfiction writers and subject experts
Devra recommends Publisher’s Marketplace to find agents and ghostwriters to research instead of throwing spaghetti against the wall.
Devra talks about how much she had to learn to found and edit her magazine, Mystic Pop. She shares how a desire to share a wide range of spiritual paths helped her make connections and get a popular, high-quality publication out into the world.
Notable: writing for magazines (online magazines like Thrive Global too!) can be really helpful in promoting your book. The downside is that these days, you can’t hope to get a lot of money out of it. But to take advantage of the publicity, find a medium that works for you and start writing for it. It’s amazing what can come out of that.
Guess what? You might not need to have a book. (GASP!)
You may want to help everyone in the world with your idea, which is wonderful. But do your homework and do some reflection. Who are you writing for? Who will you be helping? And are there already books that are saying what you plan to say?
The other tough truth regards the money you’re likely to make as a writer. Devra cites the stat that only 1% of authors make more than $10,000 per year on their book. Don’t go into writing a book with the idea that you’re going to hit the mother lode. The traditional—and even indie!—publishing process can be crushing. You don’t have to put yourself through that to prove your own self worth. For real.
We need to talk about manuscript submissions (yes, again). Devra shares how few manuscripts she actually reads due to the shocking number of people who don’t pay attention to submission guidelines. Some people don’t even edit before they send it in. Some people don’t even include their name or contact information! Read! Those! Requirements!
If you’ve taken the time to write it, take the time to edit it.
We circle back to talk about how to look for an agent. She highlights the differences between ethical agents vs. slimy agents vs. the most dangerous kind—completely amoral agents who just see you as part of a numbers game.
Be extra careful if you’re already self-published and someone solicits you. Don’t let them play on your emotional vulnerability.
You shouldn’t have to pay them to publish your book. If it’s going to be published for a traditional house, they will pay you.