LIT­ER­ARY AGENTS

TWELVE AGENTS WHO WANT TO READ YOUR WORK

Poets and Writers - - Features - BY KEVIN LARIMER

A spe­cial sec­tion on iden­ti­fy­ing the agent who is right for you and your work, and what to ex­pect from the evolv­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween au­thor and agent.

“Re­mem­ber, pub­lish­ing is a busi­ness of re­la­tion­ships. You don’t want to sim­ply fire off an e-mail to any agent you come across. Read care­fully. In the fol­low­ing profiles, a dozen agents are drop­ping some sub­tle (and not so sub­tle) hints for you.”

To say there are a lot of lit­er­ary agents out there is an un­der­state­ment—al­most like say­ing there are a lot of writ­ers look­ing for an agent (but not quite). The As­so­ci­a­tion of Au­thors’ Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (AAR), a non­profit mem­ber­ship or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 1991, cur­rently lists more than four hun­dred agents as mem­bers, all of whom meet cer­tain ex­pe­ri­ence re­quire­ments and abide by an es­tab­lished code of ethics. An­other, more gen­eral, on­line data­base claims to of­fer de­tails for nearly a thou­sand agents of vary­ing lev­els of ex­per­tise and ar­eas of em­pha­sis. The care­fully cu­rated and fo­cused data­base of lit­er­ary agents at pw.org lists more than a hun­dred, in­clud­ing con­tact in­for­ma­tion, sub­mis­sion guide­lines, and client lists.

No, the chal­lenge for writ­ers is not a dearth of agents, but rather picking the right one out of the crowd. (Of course, the same could be said about the chal­lenge for agents.) To help nar­row the field, I con­tacted a dozen hun­gry agents who I know are ea­ger to re­ceive an e-mail from an as-yet-un­known writer and asked each of them for some ba­sic in­for­ma­tion about what kind of work they want to read and how to reach them, as well as some not-so-ba­sic in­for­ma­tion that will help you get to know them a lit­tle bet­ter. Re­mem­ber, pub­lish­ing is a busi­ness of re­la­tion­ships. You don’t want to sim­ply fire off an e-mail to any agent you hap­pen to come across. Read care­fully. In the fol­low­ing profiles, a dozen agents are drop­ping some sub­tle (and not so sub­tle) hints for you. Have you writ­ten a piece of nar­ra­tive non­fic­tion that gets to the heart of what it means to live in a spe­cific ge­o­graph­i­cal re­gion? Duvall Os­teen might be a great fit. Do you have a novel set in North Carolina? Adam Eaglin could be your man. Are you from Detroit and love mu­sic? You may need to look no fur­ther than Car­rie How­land. Are you a writer of smart hor­ror fic­tion and just can’t get enough of the work of Joe Hill and Nathan Ballingrud? You should take the time to get to know Renée Zucker­brot.

These twelve agents all have dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties, aes­thet­ics, work habits, back­grounds, pro­cliv­i­ties, and peeves—and so do you. So take your time, do the re­search, read books by their clients, and lis­ten to what these pro­fes­sion­als are say­ing. One of them might be speak­ing di­rectly to you.

KEVIN LARIMER is the ed­i­tor in chief of Po­ets & Writ­ers, Inc.

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