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Oct 9, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Matt Belford

Matthew Belford spotlight image
A warm welcome to literary agent Matt Belford! Matt joined The Tobias Agency in 2020 after previously working at the David Black Agency and the Aaron M. Priest Agency. Once he received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Emerson College, he decided to apply his talents in representing authors, as opposed to writing himself. A lover of all things science fiction and fantasy, Matt accepts his nerd status readily.


Matthew Belford pictureCMTwo areas of focus for you are adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. Can you share any noteworthy publishing trends in these genres in the last five years? 
Matt: 
One of the changes that I’ve seen, which I absolutely love, is that more and more both authors and their readers are embracing the sometimes niche areas that they love and want to see more of. What I mean is that I’ve read lots of books recently that closely examine and play with DnD tropes, or SFF stories that have a big focus on food within the story, or even throwing in obscure references to old TV shows or music. It shows me that authors are able to have a lot of fun in their writing and that audiences exist to read and enjoy those same stories. 

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Matt: At this point in time, I represent about 20 clients. This might seem like a lot, but when you look at the projects those clients are actively working on, it’s a lot less. For example, I represent a group of people who are working on a comic book series that’ll come out next year, so that’s one project, but quite a few clients. And all of my authors are in various states in the writing process, some have works on submission, some have works that didn’t sell and are back to the drawing board, and some are in edits with publishers. When I started agenting, it was at an agency that had a heavy focus on nonfiction, and my client list was focused there. I love my nonfiction clients, but now that I have a bit more leeway, I’m very actively working to grow my SFF client list. 

CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing? 
Matt: This is a great question. Agenting in fiction typically means the agent is taking a step back and trying to get more querying authors to come to them—by nature, because we have to see a full manuscript, it can be difficult to know where to reach out to. But just because something is difficult or not the norm, doesn’t mean it’s impossible or that it shouldn’t be done. We’ve offered free query critiques, first page edits, and have reached out to a number of BIPOC authors, in both fiction and nonfiction, to actively engage and help authors.

CM: Addressing the elephant in the room… COVID-19. What is the demand for stories set in a COVID-19 world?
Matt: I think this one’s a hard question to answer right now. Publishing takes a long time, it could be a year or two from the time a book is sold to a publisher to when it arrives on the shelves as a book. With that in mind, I think this fall is going to be very interesting, since so many book publication dates were pushed back, and then going into next year (2021), we’ll start to really see the effects of COVID-19 and what people are looking for. 

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers? 
Matt: I’d say I’m very hands-on in the editing process. When I send out a manuscript to editors, I’m putting my name on that project as well, so I have to be confident in that it’s the best story that I can help it be. Sometimes that means we’re working on the fourth or fifth or sixth draft of a manuscript, but it’s all in trying to make it better. Editing is also a conversation, so I’m never saying “make this change or else,” but rather “this area doesn’t quite make sense to me, how can we fix it?” 

CM: Technology has notably disrupted the publishing industry in the last decade. What are some opportunities that were created for agents/authors from this disruption? 
Matt: There’s so much more of a push for authors to have clarity in the agents that they’re querying or reaching out to, which is a huge plus. You should be confident when you make the choice to sign with an agent. At the same time, I think it’s an opportunity for agents to offer that same clarity and engage in real conversations about what agenting is, and why it’s so important for authors.  

Matt's Clients 
Roland Heep & Jörg Alberts, Back to Fairtaylia, to publish in 2021 by 215 Ink.

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How to query Matt:
If you would like to query Matt, please send your materials via Query Manager at QueryManager.com/MWBelford.