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Interviews with a few junior agents


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#1 AQCrew

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 11:54 AM

Mother. Write. (Repeat). blog http://motherwrite.blogspot.com/ has a series of recent agent interviews with several associate agents. Junior agents (especially the ones affiliated with great agencies) are a great way for any newbie writer to snag an agent because they're actively building their client lists.

Here's a summary of some of the specific things these agents are looking for:

Amy Boggs - Donald Maass

http://motherwrite.b...-amy-boggs.html

I am looking for fantasy and science fiction, especially urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steampunk, YA/children's, and alternate history. Historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, Westerns, and works that challenge their genre are also welcome.
I'm looking for a manuscript that takes the idea of steampunk but draws from 1st century Maya instead of 18th century Europe. Too specific? ;) I'm looking for plenty beyond that, of course, but if someone already has it, send it along! In broader terms, I want something that draws me right in and refuses to let go. Some aspects that can help with that are unique and complex settings, characters who challenge or break the mold while retaining that appealing blend of strength and humanity, plots that are tightly woven and keep me guessing, and writing that can effortlessly make me cry one paragraph and laugh the next.


Brandi Bowles - Foundry Literary + Media

http://motherwrite.b...ndi-bowles.html

Right now, I’m really focused on bringing in books with strong platforms, meaning the writer has invested a lot of time into honing his or her writing (as evident by their acceptance in major newspapers, magazines, lit journals) or, for nonfiction, in building his or her personal brand. I put a lot of work into editing, developing, and selling my clients’ projects, and only want to work with people who are just as committed. Beyond that, I consider everything a team effort. I’m very transparent about my side of the business.


I’ll consider almost anything in the nonfiction realm, with the exception of trauma memoir, political narrative, history, or current events. My tastes really span the gamut otherwise--I enjoy books on sociology, business, fitness and health, sex and relationships. I love narrative nonfiction, pop-culture, humor, and music books too. Memoir is fun to work on, although the author must have that winning combo of truly unique story combined with fantastic writing to knock it out-of-the-park.

My fiction tastes are more limited. I’m looking for really gripping literary fiction, women’s fiction (but nothing that might be called Chick Lit), urban fantasy, and YA. I’ll consider middle grade novels as well, but no picture books.



Susan Hawk - The Bent Agency

http://motherwrite.b...gent-susan.html

I’m open to just about anything, my reading tastes are broad. I’d love to find a great mystery, and I’m looking for humor. Sci-fi is at the top of my list. I’ve always read fantasy, but I’m not looking for epic, high fantasy right now. Historical fiction is another favorite. I love boy books. I’m very picky when it comes to paranormal and romance, and am looking for something in those genres that feels fresh.
What pulls me into a book faster than anything else is that magic combination of great concept and authentic voice. I’m looking for exciting stories, told in a compelling way, with characters that are true to life. I’m drawn to the quirky and unique and have always loved books about people who see things just a bit differently. But story is key, I do want something to happen to those lovely characters!


Molly Jaffa - Folio Literary Management

http://motherwrite.b...olly-jaffa.html

I’m just starting to build my list, and while I do have a few things in the pipeline, I’m signing clients very selectively.

I represent mainly middle grade and YA fiction, especially works with literary voices that challenge the reader to explore new ideas and modes of thinking. I love books set in another time or place, magical realism, multicultural fiction, “edgy” YA, verse novels, and almost anything that will make readers feel that the narrator understands them and what they’re going through.

I don’t represent picture books, “boy” books (no bathroom humor, etc.). She's interested in magical realism but not paranormal fantasy (and gives a great description of the difference).


#2 bigblackcat97

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 01:13 PM

Oh hey awesome, they've all rejected me. Posted Image

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#3 mwsinclair

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 02:14 PM

Geez, sorry to hear that BBC. But I must say, I love the quick summary, AQC.

#4 Pete Morin

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 04:59 PM

I wonder about this:

In a BIG AGENCY, say there are 25 agents. Each one is vying at some point to get one of a half dozen BIG HOUSES to sign one of their clients.

Along comes Junior Jane, who's building her list. She signs Donny Debut, who's got a kick-ass manuscript. She wants to bring it to, say, St. Martin's, where Ellen Editor is up to her eyeballs in manuscripts, a bunch of which are repped by Junior Jane's senior colleagues.

Is Junior Jane in competition with the big agents in her own agency? Do the big agencies experience an internal triage system where they might tell a junior agent her client's "not ready for submission yet" because they've got hot prospects in the queue?
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#5 bigblackcat97

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Posted 14 October 2010 - 06:59 PM

I wonder about this:

In a BIG AGENCY, say there are 25 agents. Each one is vying at some point to get one of a half dozen BIG HOUSES to sign one of their clients.

Along comes Junior Jane, who's building her list. She signs Donny Debut, who's got a kick-ass manuscript. She wants to bring it to, say, St. Martin's, where Ellen Editor is up to her eyeballs in manuscripts, a bunch of which are repped by Junior Jane's senior colleagues.

Is Junior Jane in competition with the big agents in her own agency? Do the big agencies experience an internal triage system where they might tell a junior agent her client's "not ready for submission yet" because they've got hot prospects in the queue?


That's a great question Pete. I guess it depends on the personalities within the agency. Also, does Junior Jane have undeserved clout with the publisher since she made it into BIG AGENCY in the first place?

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#6 Robin Breyer

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Posted 15 October 2010 - 12:09 AM

Lots of interesting information and questions. Lots of thoughts......

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#7 DMF

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Posted 16 October 2010 - 05:48 PM

Thanks for a great post!
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#8 dana

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 12:05 AM

So it all comes down the pyramid with the giant anteater at the pinnacle, to the senior toads, then the junior frog, to me: the ant - and not an already published ant, but one straight from the dung pile. I see my chances are getting slimmer by the moment. :humph:

#9 normaj

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 12:18 AM

Informative....eh.

#10 AQCrew

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 12:36 PM

So... there's so much to say about Peter's question and so little time.

First of all, we'd say that there aren't any agencies with 25 literary agents. The biggest agencies like WMA and ICM have literary departments that are smaller than you think, and everything else is entertainment rights.

Okay, so let's look at agencies like Trident Media, or Curtis Brown, or Sterling Lord -- long-standing venerable agencies with about 10+ agents -- both veteran and junior level.

First thing you need to realize is that "Junior Jane" is actually getting a salary to work at these agencies. Yes, that's right. Many agents--especially those at the bigger houses--do not just work off of their commission (despite what you've been told). That's the biggest misconception floating around. Many agencies pay all their agents a salary based on the pool of profits from the entire agency. So what's good for one agent -- in terms of sales and commissions -- is good for all the agents at the agency.

It's also the reason why the junior agents are also handling other issues for the agency -- like subsidiary rights. And it's the reason why if "Junior Jane" doesn't make a sale in her first year, she's moving on to other "personal endeavors" or other agencies (because she's sucking up salary $ and not contributing to the pool.) It's also the reason why successful mid-level agents who build up an amazing client list move on quickly, and set-up their own agencies. They prefer to keep all their commissions than pool them.

Every agency handles their commission/salary pay-outs differently, and every agency handles their hierarchy differently.

In some large agencies, the principals are very active (through weekly staff meetings, etc.) in tracking the projects that their junior agents are accepting as clients and pitching. We've heard several instances of the principals actually re-assigning projects from one agent to another. And the reasons for this are always based on the principal's own agenda (although as an outsider--and even the client--it's impossible to know what that agenda really is).

In other large agencies, the agents are very autonomous, and barely know what their "colleagues" -- much less "Junior Jane" -- are pitching and if they're pitching to the same editors. Nor does it really matter.

We would also add that it's important to remember that publishing--because it pays pennies--is a very, very, very young industry. Most "editors" at these big publishing houses are under 30. And most of them are associate editors or editors or even managing editors, but not acquiring editors or publishers (the top dog at an imprint).

So "Junior Jane" has probably had a cocktail (or several) with "Editor Under 30" at the same "NYC Publishing Singles Club" Party.

Meanwhile, Veteran Agent is busy pitching Acquiring Editor (who already bought and published two other books from Veteran Agent, and they're in their second printing and they're developing a series) because Acquiring Editor treats Veteran Agent's clients well, and because Acquiring Editor has the power to push a deal through the editorial committee--unlike "Editor Under 30" who needs full committee approval, and has to hustle, hustle, hustle on every project in order to get approval (but often doesn't.)

That's where you come in -- the writer. "Junior Jane" offers to rep you; she pitches to "Editor Under 30" who loves it; but she--and your book--get shot down by the Editorial Board. No book deal. Game Over. Thanks for playing.

As you can see, there's a lot to be said here. But the bottom-line is that it's a business with relationships and personalities and agendas and seniority -- just like any other business.

What Does This All Mean For You, Little Junior Writer????? If you're querying Junior Agents, always look for the ones that seem to be making deals, (not just selling foreign rights or other ancillary rights for the agency). That's a very good sign, especially since it's hard to do as a junior mint.

#11 Jean Oram

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 12:38 PM

Cool. Thanks for the insider scoop, AQ Crew.

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#12 redwood

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Posted 22 October 2010 - 08:47 PM

Yes, thanks AQ. Gives us a glimpse into the shadowy agent offices.
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#13 S.K. Keogh

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 10:25 PM

Oh hey awesome, they've all rejected me. Posted Image


Awww, don't worry; you aren't alone. Three of the four have rejected me. :tongue: Fools. :wink: That leaves one more victim for my query... :cool:

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#14 aworkinprogress

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 07:54 PM

Thanks for the great info into the business. We all need hope and this has given plenty.

#15 Brenna

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 12:00 AM

This is an old thread, but it was a real eye-opener. Thanks AQCrew for the information about the power of junior agents vs. veteran agents.






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