"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

Galley Cat Interviews Ken Atchity

Lit Manager, Ken Atchity: Tougher for Male Novelist than Female

Dr. Kenneth Atchity of AEI is a Yale graduate and Intellectual Property brand manager and producer of such films as the forthcoming Jim Carrey film, Ripley's Believe It or Not.

In this interview, he shares with us why his company has shifted focus to building brands rather than individual titles and why he's looking for the next Ann Rice.

What have you done to brace yourself for the economic changes to the industry?

I've moved my intellectual property management company, AEI, into brand launching (see www.thethrillionaires.com, as our first official example of a brand we've launched) and motion picture financing (currently in casting with "Boobytrap").

What can authors do to avoid eating Ramen noodles and counting pennies?

Somehow focus and diversify at the same time. And never give up.

What do you think about all these technological changes happening? How have they changed the marketplace?

They've put the marketplace, in both LA (film and television) and NY (publishing) on edge and in a tailspin, if you can imagine that mixed metaphor. Coupled with the Recession, we're dealing with the toughest marketplace I've ever seen in my long career. Everyone's afraid to be stuck holding the wrong goods, when the delivery vehicles for stories are changing at an exponential pace. Not surprisingly, this skittishness on the part of the established companies will accelerate their decline. Instead of meeting the situation head on and being aggressive about maintaining their way of life while also adapting (ebooks still account for less than 5% of the market), they are hiding their heads in the sand for the most part, afraid to introduce new authors, afraid to spend money and, in the end, afraid to lose their jobs.

Of course the public's desire for stories has grown instead of diminished, creating a fertile field for the new media that will deliver them. Today's author must be a media entrepreneur and use all the tools at his or her command, especially the Internet to get the attention of a readership. Thinking outside the box is the only way to succeed in a world where all the boxes are collapsing around us.

What's hot now, what are editors looking for? And what type of manuscripts and proposals are you currently looking for that you never seem to get?

Editors are looking for thrillers, romance, action, and compelling storytelling of all kinds. That hasn't changed. That's what we're looking for. Especially in the Young Adult arena, especially stories written by women for women. It's such a tough market for male novelists I urge nearly every unpublished male author to publish through an entrepreneurial publisher until the majors beat a door in his path.

Most of all what I'm looking for is a new BRAND to launch the next Sue Grafton, the next Ann Rice, the next Chicken Soup.

What's the best way for writers to approach you?

By email, at kenatchity@aeionline.com Keep it under 4 lines in the original query. If I'm interested, I'll ask to see more. If you're a nonfiction writer, add another 4 lines about your platform and how you know you can sell your book.

What's one of your pet peeves when writers query you?

Emails that begin, "Dear Agent." For one thing, I'm a literary manager, not an agent. For another, it shows that the writer hasn't bothered to do his homework and is just spamming the universe hoping for a positive response from ANYONE.

And finally, what is something about you that very few people know?

Very few people know that I'd rather be a gumbo chef!

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