Thursday, April 8, 2010

Agent Roundtable (VA Festival of the Book)

So this is my final post about this year's Virginia Festival of the Book. Hopefully you're not sick of them yet!!

The last session that I attended was an agent roundtable where four agents discussed what they look for in writers and offered insight into the author-agent relationship. Here's who and what they had to say!

Simon Lipskar (SL) is a partner in and an agent for Writer's House. At Writer's House they work with a boutique approach. He follows passion, not trends, and compared agenting to a marriage. He also explained that the publishing industry is in a tough transition right now.

Jenny Bent (JB) has been an agent since 1992. She recently opened her own agency, The Bent Agency, and was recently joined by Susan Hawk (who reps MG/YA). Susan has 15 years in the publishing field. Some of you might remember that this was not my first time seeing Jenny. For details about the first time, click here!

Laura Rennert (LR) is a senior agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Andrea Brown also follows a boutique approach to agenting. Laura's been an agent since 1998, and specializes in Picture Books through Young Adult. She holds a PhD in English Lit and taught at the college level for 8 years.

Erin Cox (EC) is a part of the Rob Weisbach Creative Management Team, an agency that opened its doors a year ago. Erin has a background in PR (fun! just like me! Okay, well KIND OF. I majored in it during college anyway...) The Rob Weisback Creative Management Team is a group of five people who concentrate on public relations, film, acquisitions for production, and editorial services. Erin prefers literary fiction, memoir, and non fiction.

So here's what they had to say!
About finding an agent:

SL: There are fantastic agents working at every kind of agency. Look for:
  • Experience
  • Knowledge
  • Passion
  • Real interest in your work
You should never pay an agent. They make money when YOU make money, not before.

Also, check out the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR). Agents who join must follow a Cannon of Ethics. The site's also a good place to find questions to ask agents who offer you representation (there's a list of questions in the FAQs).

About ending agent relationships:

Be open and honest.

Before you leave, try and work out whatever the problem is. Communication is key!

About the agent-author relationship:

LR: Both parties should be honest about what they hope to achieve.

SL: It's a business marriage. NOT an at home marriage--please don't do unscheduled drop-ins, whether or not you're a client.

LR: Educate yourself! (About the industry and the way things are done.) It makes the relationship better.

JB: Have a list of questions to ask.

SL: Don't forget that writing is a job and you should treat it as such.


SL: Do NOT say you're novel has movie potential. He's not a big fan of traditional queries--he really likes to know the Voice of the author through the query. If you query him, send it through e-mail. SLipskar(at)writershouse.com

JB: Be yourself, don't lose your Voice. She's a fan of gimmicky queries. She can be reached at Jenny(at)thebentagency.com.  Her website is http://www.thebentagency.com/.

LR: Looks for Voice. Also wants to know who, what, where, and why should she care? For YA, why is the longing different than what's already out there? Do you have visibility? She wants to know if your blog has a large following! She can be reached at LJRennert(a)mac.com, or you can find her at http://www.andreabrownlit.com/.

EC: What will make you stand out? One line opening pitches are good, followed by a short description of what the book is about.  She can be reached at Erin(a)robweisbach.com, or http://www.robweisbach.com/.

SL: It does help to know people. Also, you should spend more time writing a good book and less time worrying about finding an agent.

Other notes:

The first three chapters need to raise questions. Don't wait til chapter 5.

Lots of agents have other day jobs.

Alright, so in the query section--did you notice the repeated word? VOICE. Agents want queries that let your Voice as an author shine through. You know who can help you with that? CJ REDWINE! She offers two week query workshops specifically designed to help your Voice come out through your query. I can not recommend you take this workshop enough. Seriously, by the end? You'll have an agent-ready query. It. Is. So. Worth. It.

Check her query workshop out here: http://queryworkshop.blogspot.com/ And if you get there fast, you could still nab one of the 3 spots left for April's workshop.

PS. CJ didn't ask me to plug her--I'm doing it on my own because her workshops are amazing.

Still reading? Wanna see some pretty pictures of the DC Cherry Blossoms? Check out my other blog! I've been posting pictures all week! http://simplysaradise.blogspot.com/

Here's a sample:

♥ me


  1. Oh, look! An agent with the initials SL! I think it's meant to be...

    Or not.

    Great post, good lady. Nicely done with the series.

  2. Thank you so much for all of this. Great job sharing the Festival with us. :)

  3. great information here! thanks so much. and it's so weird, it never occurred to me agents have other day jobs.

  4. I dream of seeing D.C. during cherry blossom time. We took our kids there last summer for a family vacation. Oh, how we all loved it!! :-)

    This has been a week of fantastic posts, Sara!

  5. I was surprised that a lot of agents have other day jobs!

    I really want to take CJ's query workshop, but I'm going to wait a few more months. I'm nowhere near the querying stage yet.

    Thanks for all of the great info this week:)

  6. Thanks so much for sharing all your experiences! I've really enjoyed reading the series.

  7. I love hearing about writer's conferences. This agent round table sounds like a lot of good information was shared.

    P.S. I love your tattoo! :)

  8. What a helpful bit of advice. I stressed so much about finding an agent and I really should have spent more time on my manuscript. Then maybe I wouldn't have had to do so many rewrites!

  9. That's good info. I've heard a lot of agents mentioning the same things. I know some agents don't like gimmicks in their queries and stuff like that, and some do, but that's all dependant on each agents, which hopefully we'll have done our homework on.

  10. You rock. So good to see these sorts of posts. But it's daunting, too. *sigh

    Your pictures are beautiful, though. And yes, CJ is awesome, even if she does have a wicked yellow highlighter.

  11. Hey chickie, I left an award for you at my blog ;) Two, actually. Muahahahaha

  12. Voice is apparently the key! Not that big a surprise, is it :)

  13. These are great! I'm going to forward the link to the person doing the publishing pulse for QT. I think it's valuable information!

  14. ...taking notes, saving links, soaking up info...thank you Sara:)

  15. Thanks for sharing! Some great stuff in there. Off to work on that VOICE of mine ;o) By the way, you totally rule for doing all this work for us!

  16. Thank you for letting me live vicariously through your VA book experience. You are a wonderful note taker.


Yay! I love when you have things to add :)