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Posts Tagged ‘literary agents’

NumberfiveWe have five agents scheduled for the conference this year, which means that more of you will be able to meet with one of them to discuss your project. Thanks to Lee for working so hard to make it happen!

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We are happy to announce we have added Mark Gottlieb as our fourth literary agent for this year’s conference. We expect to announce a fifth agent very soon.

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The importance of tenacity is one of literary agent Jenny Bent’s observations in an interesting and informative interview with her about how she became an agent and how she regards her role in book publishing. Among her insights is this: “There are a lot of ways to attract the attention of an agent these days.” Want to know more? Take a look at “Bent on Books.” Jenny will be at our conference next Saturday, October 20.

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Popular favorite Jenny Bent is back and we have three great, new agents available for meetings with participants of the WriteAngles conference. Read more about them.

Agent meetings are arranged on a first-come, first-served basis once registration begins in September. To get our announcement of the start of registration, be sure to subscribe to this blog.

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Lindsay Edgecombe is an agent at the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She represents journalists, debut novelists, crafty sorts, and cartoonists, among many others. She loves to uncover new talent and to work with her clients to develop great proposals from the spark of an idea. Her authors have contributed to NPR’s This American Life, written for the New York Times, and have been on Oprah and The Daily Show. She was interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

How did your time at Barnard College, Columbia University prepare you for your role at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency?
I loved Barnard and chose it because it was a place that has grown so many writers, from Zora Neale Hurston, to Mary Gordon, to Jhumpa Lahiri. I loved books before Barnard, but I was a much deeper reader by the time I left. The English Department was thrilling. There are some afternoons when I still long to sneak into lecture halls. The other thing that was incredibly helpful about Barnard was working as a writing fellow – helping other students talk through their papers. Great editorial training. It taught me to really believe in the process of turning a rough first draft into a great piece of writing. The work I do as an agent is very collaborative in that way.

Your client list is filled with socially conscious writers who tackle tough issues with fiction and nonfiction titles. Why are you drawn to this type of writing?
Hm, thanks for noticing that. I like tough, socially conscious, ambitious books. I think I like a challenge. But I also like and represent many other kinds of books – from stories that take me on some weird, internal, psychological journey, to illustrated books, to books that are just FUN and make me laugh. It’s wonderful, as an agent, to be able to work with such a range.

Can you describe your typical day?
Every day is different. Let’s see, I’m not a morning person, so every day starts with great coffee and the Times online. If the news is too terrible to wake up to, I highly recommend their travel slideshows. Once I get into the office, it’s a mix of pursuing writers I’ve come across and love, working with them to develop proposals (which I love doing), going out on submission, negotiating deals and contracts, and from there, working with editors and my authors on the editorial process, planning publicity, and everything else. Also dealing with any issues that come up, which they do, and working to get everyone on the same page. I’m also always meeting with editors – for lunch, drinks, etc, and thinking about what they’re looking for. Some of my favorite days, aside from the thrilling ones when I sell a book or something amazing happens, involve working at home and making the time to really devote to a proposal or think deeply about what to take on next.

Is there anything you are currently looking for?
Yes! I keep a running list of ideas. Any narrative nonfiction that’s almost too strange to be true. And great fiction.

What is one of the largest misconceptions out there about agents?
Tough question. Maybe that we’re all a little crazy? I’ve learned that I need to be an agent in my own way. Levine Greenberg is known for being tough negotiators, but also for being very collaborative and fair-minded.

How important is attending conferences when you are seeking representation?
Good question. I think that other agents may have different advice on this, but writers should know that I (and any agent) will read a fantastic and personal query letter. Email me; I may not be able to respond to everything, but if I’m interested, you’ll definitely hear from me. So I think conferences are most helpful not for meeting agents, but for learning how to craft a great pitch and for getting feedback about your project. Of course, many writers have found their agents at a conference as well. Another thing about conferences that can be helpful: get into a network of dedicated writers. Many of my authors say that that support has kept them going and made them better writers.

Do you have any advice for writers who pitch at conferences?
Publishing is a big game. (Your book is not a game.) Enjoy learning about it and don’t worry too much about critical feedback. Learn to take what’s useful, accept criticism gracefully, and then keep going.

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Jessica Sinsheimer has been reading and campaigning for her favorite queries since 2004. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she went east for Sarah Lawrence College and stayed for the opportunity to read soon-to-be books for a living. Now an Associate Agent at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency, she’s developed a reputation for fighting office members to see incoming manuscripts first – and for drinking far too much tea. She was interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

How did your various internships prepare you for your role at the Sarah Jane Freymann Literary Agency?
I was lucky enough to see a large range of workplaces before ending up in an office that’s ideal for me. I interned at an enormous agency that I sometimes jokingly compare to the Mad Men office – but without the cool vintage clothes — at a medium-sized publishing house with excellent books and overworked edit-staffers, and at a small, radical magazine that regularly received death threats. Having these experiences not only got me accustomed to the normal parts of agent life (evaluating incoming work, editing, making deals, taking care of clients) but showed me that there are so many different ways to approach these common tasks, and to approach work in general. I also happen to have the best boss in the world – I’ve been with the company for more than five years. And I’m pleased to say that we’ve never received a death threat.

Can you describe your typical day?
It starts before I even leave home. I usually make some French press coffee, check my work email, rush to the subway, read manuscripts on the train, check email when the train goes over the Manhattan bridge, get to work and make a cup of tea, and then settle in to really get started. Most of my day is spent, frankly, answering emails – that’s the main way I communicate with writers and editors. There’s usually at least one phone meeting, whether to talk strategy, go over my edits, or brainstorm with a writer or client. Sometimes there’s a lunch or coffee meeting with an editor. I feel lucky when I can spend 25 percent of the workday reading. After work, I read manuscripts while traveling and at home, and often attend a reading or other book or food event in the evening.

Is there anything you are currently looking for?
The easier question is probably what I’m not looking for. I’m not currently looking for picture books, short story collections, or poetry. Pretty much anything else is fair game. We care much more about quality than genre. That said, I’m especially fond of YA and MG (all subgenres), women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, and historical fiction – and, on the nonfiction side, memoirs, cookbooks and food memoirs, travel, psychology, self-help, and parenting.

What is one of the largest misconceptions out there about agents?
I think a lot of writers don’t realize – until they have an agent of their own – how much work goes into their project between signing an Author-Agent Agreement and sending the work out to editors. This is, in a way, my favorite time; I love to help works take shape and fulfill their potential – but it doesn’t happen instantly. There was one outlier where I made an offer on the book on a Tuesday, did three rounds of edits, and sent it out the following Wednesday, but that’s unusual, and that author is, frankly, an overachiever – in the best way possible.

How important is attending conferences when you are seeking representation?
If it’s something you’re willing and able to do, yes, I think it’s very helpful. It’s always good to surround yourself with creative people, to meet potential critique partners, to find writers who share many of your experiences. It’s also very important to see that agents and editors are, in fact, real people – seeing that we also come with occasional bad hair days and common coffee addictions will probably help calm you down before writing your query.

Do you have any advice for writers who pitch at conferences?
Have a conversation with us – don’t just read us your query. We can read that any time, but having a sit-down with an agent is something that may, depending on where you live, and when and if you’re signed, not happen again for years. I also love it when writers come in and say, “Hi! I heard ______ about you and that’s why I can’t wait to pitch you” versus “Hi. You’re an agent. Guess you’ll do. Let me read you my pitch…”

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Literary agent Jenny Bent founded The Bent Agency in 2009 after six years at Trident Media Group, most recently as a Vice President. She specializes in fiction, from the very literary to the very commercial, as well as memoir, women’s lifestyle, and humor. Her New York Times bestselling clients include Jacqueline Sheehan, Lynsay Sands, Julia London, Michael Farquhar, John Kasich, and Laurie Notaro. She was interviewed by Cheryl Malandrinos.

What prompted you to start The Bent Agency?
I’ve worked at a number of different agencies since I started my career; both large and small, and I’ve seen what works in terms of client representation. I wanted to start an agency where I could put to use everything I had learned in a way that would most benefit all of my authors. At TBA, I’m able to use the best of a big agency approach and the best of a small agency approach in a tailored way – every client is different and so the work I do for each one needs to be individualized. I wasn’t able to do that when I was working for someone else.

You’ve been part of this industry for over 15 years. What are some of the changes you’ve been happy to see?
Technology has made my job one thousand times easier in so many ways. The web is a phenomenal author resource and it means I don’t have to spend so much time educating each client about the process. E-mail submissions are a wonderfully efficient (and green!) way of finding an agent. And online marketing is just as effective, if not more so, than traditional publicity.

Can you describe your typical day?
Basically, I wake up and hit the computer and the phones. I’m negotiating deals, reading contracts, discussing revisions, fielding offers, requesting information, strategizing promotion and publicity, having lunch or coffee with editors. The night is reserved for reading and editing.

Is there anything you are currently looking for?
I’m dying for literary suspense. Also women’s fiction and contemporary young adult fiction. I’d also love to find a beautifully written memoir on a very interesting subject.

What is one of the largest misconceptions about agents?
That we are haughty, snobby gatekeepers. I find we are mostly a friendly bunch who love reading and working with authors.

How important is attending conferences when you are seeking representation?
I think conferences are important for writers because they provide an opportunity to interact with your peers, both published and unpublished, and learn about craft and the industry. Meeting agents and editors is the icing on the cake and it’s certainly a great way to find the agent who may eventually represent you. But it’s not the only way: I have many clients who I signed up because they sent me a query over the internet not because I met them at a conference.

Do you have any advice for writers who pitch at conferences?
Don’t read a paragraph from an index card! If you need to have notes on a card, that’s fine, but try to speak naturally and extemporaneously. Be prepared to tell me some other books that may be similar to yours. Try to have a great title; that will really get an agent’s attention. If you can come up with a great one-sentence pitch that’s also very helpful.

Is there anything you would like to add?
I’m looking forward to meeting everyone at the conference this year! Last year I was very favorably impressed with the pitches I heard.

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