Nathan Bransford: From Literary Agent to Published Author

Nathan Bransford's middle grade novel Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow is his first published work.

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Nathan Bransford is a name well-known by both published authors and those looking to find success in the literary world. During his time as a literary agent, he started a blog, offering advice on every aspect of the world of publishing: what it takes to be a success, what the business is all about, the proper way to write a query letter, the care and feeding of a writer’s psyche, and much more.

Though the popular and informative blog lives on, Bransford has since left his job as an agent to pursue a career in technology and social media. He has also become a published author. His middle-grade novel Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow was published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Bransford via email about his life, career, and, of course, the Jacob Wonderbar book series.

What was life like growing up? Was reading a big part of your childhood? Did you spend time in the library just for fun?

I grew up in a very small town in northern California, and reading was a huge part of my childhood. I always had a big stack of books next to my bed and I would take home books five and six at a time. I definitely spent a lot of time at the library, and since my town didn't have a bookstore, whenever I found myself in one I did a lot of damage.
 
Can you name your favorite authors then and now?

Roald Dahl was my favorite and I read everything he wrote. I also loved Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, Harry's Mad by Dick King-Smith, By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman, The Indian In the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks, and the Calvin & Hobbes comics. Some of my favorite contemporary writers are Ian McEwan, Jonathan Franzen, China Mieville, Jon Krakauer, John Green, and Marcus Zusak.

How did you get to be a literary agent? Did you work your way up the ladder in the agency or was it a position you were offered right out of school?

I started as the assistant to the president of Curtis Brown right out of college, and spent a few years working my way up. After a couple of years learning the business I started taking on a few clients, and a few years that I was an agent on my own.

What were the most frustrating and rewarding aspects of being an agent?

Absolutely the most rewarding element was working with my clients who were and are completely brilliant. It was thrilling to work with them on their manuscripts and to try to help bring their careers along. The most frustrating aspect was just how hard it is to sell a book in today's publishing climate and the day to day challenge of trying to help my clients navigate the publishing process.

You’re known for offering excellent advice to authors and those wanting to write professionally. Even when you were working as an agent you found time to read submissions for the contests you ran and write your blog. How were you able to do all that and eat dinner, sleep, etc.

Well, I won't lie, it wasn't easy! I just worked a whole lot, I don't know that there was a secret to it.

Why did you decide to leave your job as a literary agent?

Last year I just felt like I was ready for a change. Working in publishing had been my first job out of college, and I have always been really excited by technology and for the last few years by social media. When the opportunity came along to work as the social media manager at CNET I knew I couldn't pass it up. It was difficult to leave publishing but it's been a really great and exhilarating change.
 
Where did you get the idea for Jacob Wonderbar?

My first idea was an image of a kid trapped on a planet of substitute teachers. I built around that basic idea, and that's how Jacob Wonderbar  was born.

Did you receive many rejections before your book was accepted for publication?
 
Definitely, I received quite a few rejections from first agents, and then from publishers when it went on submission.

Did you take any inspiration for Wonderbar from your own childhood experiences? If so, can you give a few examples?

A bit! I think people have a tendency to think the hero is the character the author identifies with, but I was actually more like Dexter, the timid kid who is afraid of getting into trouble. So I think I channeled some of my childhood anxiety into that character. But the actual events and background stories are invented.

Humor is predominant in your writing. Are you a funny guy?

Ha, in person? I think I have my moments, but I'm pretty mild mannered and don't tend to be the life of the party.

The great news is that Wonderbar is to be a series! What are your plans for Jacob and his friends as they rush headlong into their teenage years?

Well, in book #2 Jacob Wonderbar runs for president of the universe, and the stakes become very significant when he learns that an Astral military group wants to destroy the planet Earth, and only the president of the universe can stop them.

Will you be doing a book tour to promote Wonderbar?

Since I have a very busy day job I'm mainly focusing my publicity efforts online.

Do you have aspirations to one day write mainstream fiction or, perhaps, a book on writing?

Perhaps! I need to complete the third book in the Jacob Wonderbar series, and then I'll have to sit down and figure out what's next.
 
Any words of wisdom for those hoping to someday be published?

Enjoy every step of the process. Writing a book and trying to find publication is a long and arduous process, but it's important to have fun along the way.

Nathan Bransford's blog

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning Blogcritics.org website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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