Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, with "internship" in the subject line. Put your cover letter in the body of your e-mail and if you have a resume, you can attach it, but it's not necessary. Tell me the last 5-10 books you read and your 5-10 very favorite books. I'm looking for someone who can commit to reading at least 50 queries a week, and reading and writing a readers report for at least one manuscript a week. Don't worry if you don't have publishing experience; I really just want someone who loves to read and knows a lot about contemporary fiction/memoir.
If you've applied in the past, feel free to apply again. My needs often change and if you weren't right before you might be right now.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Anyway, as I was saying....here is that original post.
I'm at a really wonderful writers conference this weekend (Moonlight and Magnolias, held by the Georgia Romance Writers association) and it has me thinking about, of all things, failure. And it also has me thinking about bravery, two things that are inexorably (boy, I hope I'm using that word right) linked.
When I'm sitting across from a writer who is pitching their book to me, I'm often feeling a little overwhelmed and a little bit overtired. A conference is an intense experience for everyone, writers and agents alike. But here's what i want you to know: when I'm sitting there I'm also thinking about how brave I think you are and how much I admire you for taking a chance and telling me about the book that is, after all, your heart and soul. It takes real guts to expose yourself like that. Being a writer is so personal that trying to "make it" really does require so much more courage than other professions.
What's really brave is that you're doing this even though chances are high that you're going to fail. Now, let's qualify this: we are all going to fail. We will fail in our careers, we will fail as parents, as friends, as spouses or boyfriends or girlfriends. And if you're reading this, you're going to fail as a writer. (And by the way, don't forget that I will also sometimes fail as an agent.) What this means is that when you're sitting across from me you're bravely embracing your failure. You're acknowledging that it will happen and you're steeling yourself to move on. For at the other side of failure lies lessons learned. And lessons learned are the only authentic way to success.
So be brave. Fail. Try again. Succeed. Rinse and repeat.
And I'll see you across the pitching table some day soon....
Monday, July 26, 2010
Sunday, July 25, 2010
When I first heard that Jenny was looking for a few good interns, I was -so- excited to finally get to see how real authors write their queries and communicate in the uber professional writing world.
Boy was I in for a big surprise.
Before I was an intern, I had read that something like 90% of authors disqualified themselves without us even reading their query. I felt for sure that all those previous query-reading interns must have been wrong. I was going to blaze in there and find all these fab books and spend my time happily reading future bestsellers.
That’s not what happened.
Here’s what did:
That first time I logged into Jenny’s queries inbox I found it full to bursting.
About thirty percent of those queries didn’t match what Jenny was looking for (posted in her easy to find submissions guidelines). Instant rejections.
Another five percent of spam. (yes, agents get spam too) This included junk mail blasts of book promotions, invites to social media, etc. Instant deletions.
Half of those remaining didn’t include the requested ten pages (also posted in her submissions guidelines). If we didn’t like the query, we didn’t bother to ask for the ten pages. If we did like the query, we had to write back asking for them. Their query then went back to the bottom of the pile.
Another chunk, say fifteen percent of those remaining, were thank you letters for Jenny rejecting them so nicely. Jenny writes an amazing rejection letter.
When all is accounted for, that’s only about 20% of queries that come in that are formatted correctly.
And that’s not counting the ones we have to decline because of off-the-wall and copycat plots…or those that aren’t ready to be querying agents yet because they don’t have a good grasp of spelling or punctuation or grammar.
But every once in a while, a query would stand out. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but they nearly always follow Jenny’s guidelines to a T. Those stellar books were worth hours of slogging through the queries pile. They made me rush to the “Fwd:” button and zip a copy off to Jenny with glee and then I’d wait by my inbox salivating, hoping I’d get a chance to read the novel in question.
My own query went from 0 out of 10 requests for more to 7 out 10 requests for more after joining Jenny’s query reading team. Every author should intern.
So how can you be one of those precious few that stand out? Here’s a few of the most common mistakes that we see. You can bet that those standout queries didn’t make these mistakes. Make sure your query doesn’t either.
Ten Common Query Mistakes
Spelling: You’ve proofed your MS to within an inch of it’s life (right? RIGHT?) so why would you rush through your query? Take a moment and make sure all your words are correctly spelled. You’d be amazed if I told you how many times someone has spelled query ‘queery’ or ‘querry’ or ‘quury’ (one out of every ten, usually).
Not knowing who you’re soliciting: If you query an editor, don’t say ‘Dear Agent’ because they are not an agent. Likewise, don’t address a query to a lady agent by saying ‘Dear Sirs.’ Giving us a choice (‘I am seeking a publisher or a literary agent’) means that you haven’t given the proper thought to who you’re sending the query to. Along that line, don’t say that you’re looking for a publishing house to represent you. Agents represent, not houses. There’s no need to say that you’re looking for an agent to represent you either. We know that any emails sent to the query address are queries. Just get to the point, *your book*
Not having the cajones: Don’t spend two paragraphs apologizing for ‘wasting’ our time by sending us your letter. If you don’t think you and your book are the bees knees, then how’re you going to convince us?
Using cliché/vague phrases: ‘Then a manipulated act sets a chain reaction of grim events into motion,’ could be said about anything; The Wizard of Oz, Titanic, Harry Potter, Winnie the Pooh, Prada & Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, etc. What sets YOUR book apart?
Oopsie: If you make a mistake, don’t send another email. The only time this is appropriate is if by some strange reason, your cat jumped on your mouse and clicked ‘send’ before you had a chance to paste in the appropriate amount of sample writing. In that case, immediately send the same query with the right guidelines followed. A good way to avoid this is to put the email address in last. An email cannot be sent if it doesn’t have anywhere to go. Don’t send an email apologizing for the misspelled word in paragraph three. Change it in your master query and don’t make the same mistake twice.
Not being passionate: Don’t say that the only reason you’ve written this book is because you were laid off last year/your wife left you/you found yourself with some free time. If you’re not serious about writing, why even bother? Are you just looking for a quick million? ‘Cause that ain’t gonna happen. If writing is just a hobby and you’re not willing to put your all into it, why not just use a print-on-demand service instead and save a lot of time?
Email: if your email has a different name attached to it than the one in the email, that sometimes triggers spam filters. Make a new email address with your name on it and use it solely for queries. Be sure to disable any ‘pingback’ emails that say that you don’t allow unapproved email and that we need to fill out a form.
Telling: ‘This novel is a story about the destructiveness of war and hatred, and the redemptive power of love’ is a waste of space. Let your book do the talking.
Anything other than a query: Don’t email and ask us how to query. That’s what Google is for. That’s what submissions guidelines are for. That’s what agent websites and blogs and query help blogs are for. Use them. Queries inboxes are for queries.
Sample pages: If the sub guidelines ask you for ten pages embedded, it means ten pages embedded. It doesn’t mean the whole manuscript attached. It doesn’t mean seventeen pages because the first chapter was only nine pages long and you didn’t want to cut the second chapter off. If we write to ask for those ten pages, it is NOT a partial request. It’s us giving you a second chance to follow the guidelines.
BONUS – Comparisons: It’s one thing to say that your book is a cross between Watership Down and The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (Funny bunnies in space? Heck yes!) but it’s quite another to say that you’re the next JK Rowling or Stephen King. They already exist. Be the next YOU, not a copycat.
Seriously, by following the submissions guidelines for each query you write and double-checking that all is professional and spelled correctly, you’ll be ahead of 85% of all other queries.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Now, don't misunderstand: I am not saying that you should deliberately set out to not follow instructions, as it were. But this is a confusing industry, and there's lots of conflicting information out there, and you probably have lots of on-line writer friends weighing in as well, and this is a really stressful experience anyway because you are following your dream, afterall, so I would say it's probably pretty near impossible to get everything right, for every agent, all of the time. I always compare the process to writing your college essay. When I was working on mine, far too many years ago to remember (except that I do), I had far too much input on mine, and I completely over thought the entire thing, with the result that I wrote a pretty flat, lack-luster little essay which didn't do much to tell college admissions counselors what kind of person I was. I played it safe and that hurt me in the end.
Better, I think, to be a little loosey-goosey with this stuff. If you be yourself, a little quirky, a little original, yes, you might turn somebody off. But you have a far better chance of attracting a kindred agent spirit I think, the one that loves your letter and then loves your work. Again, please don't take this as carte blanche to ignore all the advice you've ever heard when it comes to query letters. But do take it as permission to relax a little, have some fun, and yes, let your query freak flag fly.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I realized when I sat down to write this that John is the fourth TBA client to hit the NYT list since I opened my doors a little over a year ago. Here's a run down (and allow me to toot the TBA horn for just a moment):
Another long time client, Jacqueline Sheehan appeared on the trade paperback fiction list with her literary novel, Now and Then. Her first novel, Lost and Found, was also a NYT bestseller. http://www.jacquelinesheehan.com/
I've also represented both Julia London and Lynsay Sands for many years. Each have had multiple titles on the NYT mass market bestseller list since March.
Julia London's Highland Scandal, Summer of Two Wishes, and Courtesan's Scandal all made the list.
Lynsay Sands has had five books and one anthology on the list: Devil of the Highlands, The Immortal Hunter, The Renegade Hunter, Bitten By Cupid, Taming the Highland Bride, and The Hellion and The Highlander.
I'm thrilled to pieces about all of this, particularly because I've worked with all of these writers for such a long time and their talent and their drive never cease to impress and delight me.
If you're a brand new author reading this however, I don't want you to be a. confused by how different these authors seem and b. discouraged by how established/high profile they are.
First, all of these books do, as my website says, combine great story-telling with emotion and inspiration. As a child I read everything and anything I could get my hands on--from cereal boxes to Proust--and I'm still not a snob when it comes to subject matter, genre, or style. A great story is a great story in my book. If you need more specific guidelines, they are on my site.
And secondly, I continue to be committed to finding new talent. While I've worked with all of these authors for multiple years and multiple book contracts, I don't want to suggest that my list is full up. In fact, I've submitted and sold two new, unpublished clients from "slush" since I opened my doors, both in six figure deals. I've also signed up an additional four unpublished authors whose works are in various stages of editing. Every agent I know agrees that one of the greatest parts of this job is discovering a wonderful new writer and selling his or her first book.
But what are the chances of being discovered, you ask? Well, back in April, my interns and I sat down and estimated that we had received 25,000 unsolicited queries in a little over a year. Six new authors out of 25,000 might not seem like great odds. BUT you should consider the fact that a large portion of the queries we receive are either completely unsuitable (i.e. in a genre I don't represent, like science fiction), don't follow query guidelines, or contain multiple spelling, punctuation, and grammatical mistakes. Which means that if you deliver a well-written, proof-read query which follows the query guidelines, your chances are better than you think. I've asked my fabulous intern, we'll call her INTERN X, to blog on this very topic. Look for it in the next week or two.
P.S. Just kidding about the Proust.
P.P.S. Just got next week's list and Every Other Monday is #5!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
email to email@example.com
Friday, April 9, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
I asked Susan Hawk, the new children's book agent at the Bent Agency, to do a guest blog to introduce herself and let you know a little bit about what she's looking for. As you all know, I am thrilled to pieces to have Susan join the team here. Over to Susan....
This is Susan Hawk, the new children's book agent at The Bent Agency. I'm happy to introduce myself here and tell you something about the kind of books I'm looking for.
I’ve been in children’s books for over 20 years, and I’ve worn a couple hats in that time. Actually, the first job I ever had was at The Cheshire Cat Bookstore, a children’s only bookstore, in
I mention this because it feels like where it all began for me. I re-stocked the shelves, so I touched almost every book in the store. It was here that I saw not only how many truly wonderful books there are in the world, but I saw how happy books can make a person – happy to give, happy to receive, happy to read. And from that time on, books have been a big part of my life.
Fast forward. I moved to
My daughter was born two years ago, and I took some time to be with my kids. I knew I’d go back to working in books, but was ready to try something new. I was considering agenting when a post on a neighborhood parenting list-serv from Jenny Bent caught my eye. She had just started her own agency and was looking for readers. We had coffee on her stoop and agreed that in exchange for me reading, she’d answer my questions about the business. Time passed and we kept talking about agenting. When Jenny suggested that she’d like to add a kids’ book agent to her company, I couldn’t have been more pleased, and here we are today! I feel incredibly lucky to have connected with Jenny, who is smart, funny, so knowledgeable about the business, and who has been incredibly generous to me of her time and wisdom.
Now enough about me – on to what you really want to know: what I’m looking for!
My interests are broad and I’m reading in lots of areas. I plan to work with authors of middle-grade and YA books, both fiction and non-fiction. In the latter I’m looking for something commercial and topical – think of Chew on This. In fiction, I would love to find a wonderful new mystery or historical fiction. I've always been a fan of fantasy, though not really epic, high fantasy. Science-fiction is a particular favorite and I wish there was more of this for kids. I'm interested in boy books, and seeing something that really makes me laugh would be great. I don't run across many things in which religion plays a role, so I'm looking for that as well.
More than any particular plot or genre though, I’m looking for wonderful characters (the kind that you come to know so well that you're still chatting with them long after the book ends) and a unique, arresting voice, wrapped up in a great story. Story is key -- I can never resist a good plot and strong pacing. My tastes run more towards the literary, but I think the best books can’t be typified as either commercial or literary, they are just the sort of books that you can’t help but swallow in one gulp, while never wanting them to end.
I think it’s helpful to know who some of my favorite books and authors are, so I’ll list some here, in no particular order: MT Anderson, Elise Broach, An Na, Adele Griffin, Gennifer Choldenko, Nancy Farmer, Jack Gantos, Katherine Paterson, John Bellairs, Sid Fleischman, Zilpha Keatley Snyder.
So that’s a bit about me. Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing your submissions! For information about submitting, please visit: thebentagency.com.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Sunday, January 31, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
A novel should make the reader keep reading because it immediately poses a “what will happen next” question. So it should open with a bang, some sort of exciting happening that makes the reader go, “oh my gosh, what’s going to happen to resolve this. There should actually be two questions, an internal one and an external one. Internal is: Does she get the guy? External is: Who killed John? Along the way, there’s are existential issues being explored: what is family? What is love? Etc.
I will use a good example. Over the break, I read THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins. Collins was a contemporary of Dickens, in fact kind of a protege of Dickens, and this book was a huge sensation when it was published in 1860. The edition I was reading, published by Barnes and Noble Classics with an intro and notes by Camille Cauti, is actually a really fun one, because it includes all the reviews that the novel received. It's funny to see how the book business really hasn't changed that much.
I digress. The Woman In White is a classic mystery thriller and it's a fantastic read. And it follows all the rules above:
It opens with a bang, with the protagonist encountering a mysterious woman in white on a deserted road in the middle of the night. She references a dark secret and then disappears.
External question posed: who is this woman? What is going on here? WHAT IS THE DARK SECRET?
Soon the novel poses an internal question: will our hero get the girl he is in love with? He is a poor artist, she is a member of the gentry.
And along the way, the novel asks questions about the role of women in this society, how they are treated, how they are in so many ways powerless to create their own destinies.
So there you have it. These roles hold true even if you're not writing a suspense novel--they hold true for almost any novel. And I have one more tip for you: end every chapter with a cliff-hanger. When Collins and Dickens were writing, they were publishing their work serially, so they did this as a matter of course. It works marvelously to keep the reader turning pages.