Wind Up for The Pitch: Meet Dawn Frederick

Posted on Thu, Feb 8 2018 3:00 pm by Loft Staff

image of Dawn Frederick, a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary


As we get ready for the 2018 Pitch Conference (April 20-21) here at the Loft, we're getting to know some of the agents and editors who will be in attendance. They can't wait to hear your pitches and read your work. If you have a finished manuscript to pitch, here's your chance—register now!

Dawn Frederick is the owner of Red Sofa Literary, established in 2008. She tested her agent chops in her early publishing days at Sebastian Literary Agency. She has B.S. in Human Ecology and a M.S. in Library & Information Sciences. In addition to many years of bookstore life, she is a co-founder of the MN Publishing Tweet Up, on MPR's Twin-Cities Advisory Council, and a teaching artist at the Loft. She can be found on Twitter at @redsofaliterary, she also is a huge fan of all things female superheroes.

We asked Dawn a few questions about books, reading, and her perspective on publishing.

What's the best book (or books) you've read this year?

It just so happens when I send out my holiday card every year, I list some of my favorite books to read. Here’s my list for 2017.

Rabbit Cake by Anne Hartnett
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
The Girls by Emma Cline   
Thornhill by Pam Smy   
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor  
We Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson  
Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes   
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah  
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas  
Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance  
Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barberry  

What's the most common misconception about agents?

That we are “gatekeepers” – which sounds so negative. The reality is that more people want to write than the number of people who read on a regular basis. Publishers can only publish so many books a year, and editors only can work on a limited number of books in a calendar year. The role of agents has evolved into something of a filter, so that the process from editor to publishing house to publication is a smoother process. Part of our responsibility is bringing smart and well-written books to the editors, so that they can focus on the marketing well in advance and beyond the publication of the book (which takes just as much time as answering unsolicited queries).

What's the most rewarding part of your job? What's the most difficult part?

Honestly it comes in three parts: FINDING the idea that I’m beyond excited to work with, SELLING it to a publisher and seeing the joy my author experiences, and literally HOLDING THE BOOK after the fact. It’s a birthday x 3, and it’s just the best experience seeing my authors reach these goals.

The most difficult part is just having a enough time in the day. I have made myself draw a figurative line, in that I allow myself to take breaks. My authors will benefit from this, my tired eyes will too, and my brain is able to feel refreshed (vs. burnt out).

If you could change one thing about publishing, what would it be?

I truly believe more risk taking needs to happen. There’s no need to publish the one idea(s) that works every time. Editors should be allowed to take a risk on a new, experimental idea without feeling stretched by the constraints of a few folks on an editorial board who aren't necessarily “getting” the idea. I know of several books that were nay-sayed in some boards that went on to huge success, of which a few folks who didn’t “get” the idea were the reason those books were passed on. Some of the best ideas are the ones that take a few risks.

When you aren't out finding the next literary superstar, what keeps you busy?

If I’m not chasing down my barn cat, I’m hitting up shows at First Avenue, hanging with my roller derby friends, and generally trying to have fun without getting into trouble. ;)