Six with Chris interviews Donald Maass, agent, author, and past president of the AAR

It’s highly apropos that this week’s guest on Six with Chris is my amazing and highly talented agent, Donald Maass. Last week’s guest, Shelly Shapiro, introduced me to Don and the rest is history in the making.

If Don’s name rings a bell, it should. He heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in New York and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers: The Career Novelist (now available as a free download from his agency’s website –, Writing the Breakout Novel, and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. In May 2009, Writers Digest Press published his latest book, The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great.

1. Why did you choose publishing for a career?

Isn’t it obvious? Books! As to why I’m an agent, it’s because I get to work more closely with authors than I did as an editor.

2. What’s the future look like for book publishing?

There’s been a lot of excitement and hype about e-books in the past year. Funny, it’s been like that for the last 15 years. The truth is that the growth of e-books (and so far it’s been pretty small) isn’t going to change our industry’s fundamentals. Books will still have to be good. They will still have to be published well. There also will be no successful e-books without paper books. You can see that now. What are the best selling e-titles? The same as the best selling paper titles.

3. What advice would you give someone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Working as an agent means not only loving authors and books, but having a head for editorial work, pitching and selling, contracts and networking. It’s an unusual combination of skills. One minute you’re talking story, another you’re hashing out the legal language of a film option, another you’re speaking at a conference, another you’re holding an author’s hand as they angst. Overall, I’d say love books, authors, publishing, legalese and learning.

4. What author or publishing insider living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Irwin Shaw: an under-appreciated American novelist. Second, Neville Shute: a forgotten best seller and amazing story spinner.

5. If stranded on a desert island without the cast of Lost (or the S.S. Minnow,) what five books would you want to have with you?

If stranded with “Lost” cast: “How to Survive the Smoke Monster”. Otherwise, impossible to choose. Perhaps the complete works of Shakespeare, that would keep one busy for a while.

6. Why do books matter?

Books change the world. If you don’t believe that consider the countries in which authors are banned, arrested, jailed or even murdered.

Thank you, Don!

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