Interview with Signature Literary’s Gary Heidt, Part I

As some of you may know, I am a contributor to Writer’s Digest Books.  One of the many fantabulous things I’ve done as a contributor is interview literary agents for Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog.*

Recently, I interviewed Signature Literary Agency, LLC’s Gary Heidt, and he had much to say about the industry, writing and his preferences in terms of fiction and nonfiction.

Since he had already been featured on GLA, I wanted to show him some literary love right here—so please enjoy part I of the interview.**

Before Heidt became a literary agent with Imprint Agency in 2003, this Columbia University grad was a DJ and station manager at WKNR-FM, a musician, a poet, a columnist and a theatre administrator.  He has been with Signature Literary Agency, LLC, since 2009, and he represents both fiction and nonfiction.

Click here for Gary’s “wish list” to see the types of projects he currently seeks.

RS:  Why did you become an agent?

GH: I love to read, and I love to spread the word about a book I love. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and now I get to read for a living.

RS:  Tell us about a recent project you’ve sold.

GH: I just sold Jameson’s Crossing by Jason Myers as a part of a two-book deal to Simon and Schuster’s teen division, Pulse. Jason’s first book, Exit Here, is a raw and literary novel about a group of young people who were drifting into serious criminality.

I sold it to an editor at Pulse, and it was released as a low-cost paperback. Every semi-annual accounting period since, the number of sales has almost doubled—the word of mouth on the book has been amazing. Now with the two books out and two books on contract, Jason is an established author with a serious career.

RS:  Are there any books coming out now that have you excited?

GH: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu is coming out from Pantheon this fall. It’s a brilliant, funny and will make you cry. It’s Charles’s first novel—his book of short stories, Third Class Superhero, was an international critical sensation.

Another imprint of Random House, Watson-Guptill, is bringing out The New Face of Jazz by Cicily Janus and Ned Radinsky, which profiles about 200 of today’s jazz musicians! As a jazz fan, I’m really excited about that.

RS:  What are you looking for right now and not getting?

GH: Everyone wants high concept, but it’s hard to be high-concept and original and not hokey. But high concept is really essential. These days, everything has to be absolutely thrilling. Smallness is really hard to sell.

But I think the thing I really love and look for is someone who’s doing a lot of work. I don’t mean a lot of work, I mean a lot of work per word. By work I mean research, revision, reading and soul work.

RS:  Your Web site says one area you seek is young adult literature “with a bit of an edge.”  When I see the word “edge” with respect to YA, I think two things: sex and drugs.  For you, is there more to it than that?

GH: You should also think of rebellion, alienation and discontent. The bildungsroman is reborn with each generation. Hypocrisy is exposed, established conventions are tested and great tension is exposed in the literature of teens in trouble.

RS:  What are your thoughts on what the publishing industry must do in order to thrive in the coming year?

GH: The only way the industry will survive in the next year is if they buy all of my projects and frontlist them. [RS comment: Hee!  No problem!]

RS:  Will you be at any upcoming writers’ conferences where writers can meet and pitch you?

GH: Yes, the American Independent Writers conference [Saturday, June 13] in D.C.

RS:  What is something writers would be surprised to learn about you personally?

GH: I am into cooking. (But please, no cookbooks or cooking-related fiction.)

*Click here to see some of my lit agent interviews on the GLA blog.  Chuck’s got my name & pic on the ones I’ve done.

**Stay tuned for Part II of the interview.

In the Blogosphere: 1/4-1/8

“In the Blogosphere” is a weekly series, which lists links to writing-related blogs I’ve stumbled upon throughout a given week.  Most posts will be from that week, but if I find some “oldies but goodies,” I’ll throw those up here as well.

I never find as much time to read blogs as I want, but here are a few posts that struck me this week.

**This week’s blogosphere post is going to be a bit longer because next week’s might be shorter—or nonexistent.  I plan to go a bit MIA starting tomorrow so I can get my YA manuscript out by Friday.  WISH ME LUCK, PLEASE!!!


My virtual friend, Wendy Toliver (author of The Secret Life of a Teenage Siren, Miss Match, and the forthcoming Lifted) is the newest member of Buzz Blog: “where YA authors from Berkley JAM, Flux, Dutton, Puffin, Delacorte, HarperCollins, Harlequin Kimani-Tru, Houghton Mifflin, and Simon Pulse discuss writing, promotion, and of course, hot guys…” Check out her first post in which she talks about her famous “Fave Fives” that got her on track to being published.  As well, if you comment on her introductory blogs (there are seven this week), you have a chance to win a $10 Borders gift card!

New York Times bestselling author, original Nerdfighter, and Printz Award recipient John Green (author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns as well as collaborating author of Let It Snow and the upcoming Will Grayson, Will Grayson) offers an optimistic view on the future of reading—complete with quirky footnotes and all—on School Library Journal.


According to David Carr at The New York Times, Twitter is it.  I believe I’ve discussed the usefulness of Twitter and its hashtags in terms of writing and publishing before, but the folks over at What the Hashtag?!, the user-editable encyclopedia of hashtags, break down what these valuable Twitter tools are and how to effectively use them.

Greg Pincus, a guest blogger over at Writer’s Digest editor Alice Pope‘s CWIM blog, talks online audience optimization: you blog, vlog, tweet, and comment, but how do you reach your target audience?


Here, you’ll find FinePrint Literary‘s Colleen Lindsay‘s take on word counts and novel length.  According to her and other agents’ tweets, 2010 has already seen its share of this kind of faux pas.

However, the aforementioned post will be one of the last of its kind, according to Lindsay’s last post of 2009Side note: I’m actually interviewing Ms. Lindsay for the Guide to Literary Agents blog, so look for that interview in the coming months!

Nelson Literary Agency‘s Kristin Nelson advises writers to wait a week before querying over at Pub Rants.

In the style of FinePrint Literary agent Janet Reid‘s post from last week’s blogosphere roundup, Del Rey Books‘ editor-in-chief, Betsy Mitchell, examines her manuscript rejections of 2009.


Writer’s Digest‘s Chuck Sambuchino uses Superman IV to say there’s no such thing as selling out on his GLA blog.

In this post, the good people of Writer’s Relief explain that even a few minutes is enough time to write.

YA author Dawn Metcalf says, “chill, baby, chill,” on her blog, Officially Twisted.  Publishing comes to those who wait.TRUTH & LIES

Grammar nerd that I am, I love the book Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English.  Over at mental_floss, WII author Patricia T. O’Conner debunks five grammar myths.

On his Web site, science fiction writer, photographer, Web designer, and editor Jeremiah Tolbert dispels five lies writers believe about editors.


Run Leia Run‘s Adam Bertocci, an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter, shows the world what would have happened if Shakespeare had written The Big Lebowski.

The Dude abideth.


I, for one, forgot most of what’s been going on the last two seasons of LOST.  Don’t want to sit through those annoying “pop up” episodes ABC is sure to unleash in the coming weeks?  Thanks to Holy Kaw posting this YouTube link, here is a recap of the entire first five season in eight minutes.


As I mentioned, I am sending out queries for my novel next week (yeeks!), so these two posts are of particular interest to me this week.

Author and WordServe-Literary-agent-Rachelle Gardner-client Jody Hedlund talks queries and their aftermath.

I am perhaps most interested in posts of this nature.  On her Web site, Kimberly Pauley, a YA author, shares two of her original query letters for her popular vampire series Sucks to Be Me—both of which she says got her partial and full requests and led to her eventual publication.