She's awesome. Totally personable, upbeat, and very honest with her insight. I'm not someone who thought agents were scary to begin with (I mean, of course they might reject me--that's scary... but otherwise, they're people too and have the same fears/problems/joys/etc that the rest of us do.) But if I had been, I would feel much better now.
Jenny loves what she does--and, trust me, it shines through. In her words? She loves selling. She loves negotiating. She doesn't like to write, but she loves working with writers.
For more info, check out The Bent Agency website: http://www.thebentagency.com/
Or, Jenny Bent's blog: Bent on Books
And now onto the stuff she spoke about!
Querying/Finding an Agent
- Don't query agents based on location. NY agents are great--but so are the agents in locations all over the country.
- Don't overlook new agents. While older ones have more experience, younger ones often have more energy! Plus, with a smaller client list--they'll have more time for YOU.
- Do NOT write for the market. Do be aware of the market. Do let the market influence the way you pitch. But write the stories that YOU are driven to write!
- Along that note, don't listen to what people tell you will/won't sell. ALL trends circle back.
- Jenny found 1/3 of her clients from the slush pile. While she says publisher house slush piles are over, as a new writer you can still get picked up from queries. (PHEW! I didn't even know that people thought this wasn't true. Thank God because I would have panicked!)
- Credentials help you to stand out from the slush pile. Namedropping helps too.
- Also, when you query--allow your Voice to come through! Don't let 15 people read it (or your WIP) so that it ends up not sounding like you anymore.
- OH and if you need help with Voice in a query or synopsis? CJ Redwine is a GENIUS and holds very, very reasonably priced online workshops for both things. I'm taking the synopsis one now and loving it. And I'm taking her query workshop starting March 1st. She pays a LOT of attention to Voice. Make sure you check them out. (And make sure to say I sent you!) http://queryworkshop.blogspot.com/
- Don't query for multiple projects at once.
- It IS okay to mention that the novel you're querying is part of a series. But stick to information about the specific book you're referring to in the query.
- It's totally fine to query an agent with a new project that rejected a different one. Jenny rejected some of her current clients the first time through--and didn't remember them the second time they queried!
- More now than ever, agents are more hands-on with editorial process.
- Jenny offers representation.
- She doesn't do agency agreements (feels they're unfair to the writer) and goes on a handshake.
- Submission strategy meeting--discussions with the author about the best houses to submit to.
- Calls publishers.
How to decide between multiple agents offering representation (you lucky freaking duck--Sara's words, not Jenny's)
- Do your homework--know about the agents. Look at their client lists.
- Talk to them, ask questions.
- Remember: an agent has a sales job. Are they comfortable when they speak to you? Do you like them?
The numbers game: Jenny gets 50-100 queries a day. They're all screened by interns. Of those that come in, she sees about 10/day. She asks for about 1 manuscript/week. And she picks up 3-5 first time writers a year.
Jenny on E-Books: At this point, e-books haven't affected her ability to sell. There's a LOT to still be figured out about them. Like price points and royalties... Jenny's 100% sure that e-books are going to change everything. But right now? E-books only make up 4% of total book sales.
- Publishing Houses read submitted manuscripts online (e-readers, etc) so agents submit your manuscripts online.
- Most publishers don't pay for author tours anymore--it doesn't make sense. You fly, stay in a hotel, and sell 20 or so books if you're lucky at a signing... Book promotion techniques are changing.
- Someone asked if it was appropriate to friend-request an agent/editor on facebook. Jenny said that while she doesn't accept requests from people she doesn't know, she doesn't get mad when people try or think it's a bad thing to do in general, if you want to.
- But what about the RECESSION? And how HARD it is to make a sale these days? Well, to this Jenny says that in her 15 years of experience the SAME thing has been being said. It's always hard to make a sale.
- Hardcover books are NOT necessarily more prestigious than paperback. Not anymore anyway. Jenny doesn't even want to see her clients' first editions in hardcover. (Think of it this way, if you put something out hardcover in today's market, you'll sell like 5,000 copies. And mathematically when paperback comes out, you sell half as many as you did in hardcover. So that means you'll only sell like 2,500 in paperback.)