Agent Ad­vice

Regina Brooks of Serendip­ity Lit­er­ary Agency

Poets and Writers - - Contents -

Regina Brooks of Serendip­ity Lit­er­ary Agency.

My lit­er­ary agent failed to sell my his­tor­i­cal novel, and she dropped me from her client list. Should I try to pitch the same novel to other agents, or would they shy away from it when they find out an­other agent failed to sell it?

Cindy from Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia

The first thing you should do is ask your agent if she would send you a list of the pub­lish­ers that re­ceived and re­viewed your man­u­script. This will help you re­ally de­ter­mine the prospects for fu­ture sub­mis­sions to ed­i­tors. A new agent will de­ter­mine the vi­a­bil­ity of your project once the agent can as­sess how many pub­lish­ers have seen it. Many projects have gone on to be­come su­per-suc­cess­ful once a new agent puts a fresh spin on the work and the pitch. I would, how­ever, con­sider any ed­i­to­rial feed­back that was pre­vi­ously pro­vided and re­vise ac­cord­ingly prior to re­sub­mit­ting.

I am a re­cent MFA grad ready to query my first novel. A pro­fes­sor who worked with me on an early draft was com­pli­men­tary, and we got along re­ally well. How­ever, the pro­fes­sor did not say, “Keep in touch.” I’d like to query his agent be­cause I think her list is com­pat­i­ble with my work. Should I e-mail my pro­fes­sor and ask for a re­fer­ral so I can at least use his name in the agent e-mail sub­ject line (thus hope­fully bump­ing me up the slush pile)? Or I could just men­tion in the let­ter’s open­ing that the au­thor was my ad­viser and his guid­ance greatly im­proved the man­u­script. I’m hav­ing trou­ble suss­ing out the bound­aries of when to ask for a fa­vor and know­ing if that fa­vor re­ally means that much.

Michelle from Michi­gan

Great ques­tion. As an agent I would def­i­nitely con­sider a re­fer­ral from an ex­ist­ing client with more weight. So if you feel like your ad­viser would pro­vide the rec­om­men­da­tion, I would ask for it. If you feel that it might be a fifty-fifty chance he might not re­fer or pro­vide a half­hearted re­fer­ral, I would go ahead and in­clude the in­for­ma­tion about him be­ing your ad­viser. Depend­ing on how close I am with the client, I’d prob­a­bly reach out to the ad­viser and find out more about you, es­pe­cially if I’m se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion. But I would have at least read the work first.

I have a self-pub­lished book that is cur­rently avail­able on Ama­zon in print and e-book for­mats. Can I ap­proach an agent with this project?

Scott from Win­ter Springs, Florida

You can cer­tainly ap­proach an agent with your project, but here are a few things I would en­cour­age you to do prior to pitch­ing an agent: (1) Know how many books you have sold (e-book and print) and be able to pro­vide those sales fig­ures when asked. (2) If you have fu­ture books you’d like to see pub­lished, please be sure to men­tion those. It’s more likely the agent will get ex­cited about the new projects. (3) Please don’t say to the agent, “I didn’t put a lot into mar­ket­ing this book.” This is the kiss of death. Agents want to work with clients who are will­ing to put their heart and soul into mak­ing sure their books reach an au­di­ence. (4) Try to find en­dorse­ments or blurbs from other au­thors or in­flu­encers. (5) Keep a data­base of re­view­ers and their praise for the book.

What does it mean when agents say they ac­cept only sub­mis­sions based on re­fer­rals?

Travis from Berkeley, Cal­i­for­nia

It means they re­spond only to projects that are en­dorsed by in­di­vid­u­als with whom they al­ready have a re­la­tion­ship.

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