Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Finding a Literary Agent, Part II

I'm not sure why yesterday's post (notes from Finding a Literary Agent, Part I) looks like it was published last week. It wasn't. I just posted it yesterday.'s more from the Jan 11 talk in The Writing Life daytime talk series program.

{Also, if I've missed something key or you have something to add that the speakers mentioned, please add that to the comments below or email me and I'll update these notes.}

Our speakers:
Zoe Pagnamenta (ZP), founder of The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency
Sharon Bowers (SB), partner at The Miller Agency
Elisabeth Weed (EW), founder of Weed Literary

Q: What if you write in various forms - fiction, screenplays...
ZP: Agents at ICM and William Morris do both film and books. But most agents would work with you and connect you with the right people for the work.

{our agents had differing viewpoints on this question:}
Q: What should writers ask an agent they are looking to sign with?
EW: Ask "where would you send my book?". An agent should be able to answer that?. Ask to speak with other authors on their roster.
SB: If you want to speak to my other authors, that's a red flag for me. I might get the impression you're going to be difficult. What you're paying us for is our experience.
ZP: Ask "what do agents do everyday?" - they should answer that they take a book all the way through the process, because that's what we do. Ask "what do they see their role as?"
SB: Ask how many clients they have. If an agent asks you for money, that's a red flag. Agents should never ask you for money. We get paid when the book sells.

Q: How necessary is it to have an editor in advance for a first time author?
EW: I do 2-3 edits before sending to an editor. I suggest putting it away for a month, read it, edit again, send to friends you trust, put it away again. Get it as polished as you can first.
SB: It's not done till the agent feels it's done, so many edits may be necessary before sending it to publishers

Q: I'm writing memoir - how should I tell a prospective agent about it?
ZP: Your cover letter should outline the full story. There are some great books out there: Susan Rabiner's Thinking like your editor : how to write great serious nonfiction-- and get it published is a good one.
SB: Put your credentials at the top of the cover letter - if you're a doctor specializing in {blank} and your book is about {blank}

Q: Which chapter do I send as a sample? The first? last?
EW: For fiction, send the 1st 3 chapters.

Q: How much of a book must be finished before inquiring about an agent?
EW: For fiction, the whole thing.
SB: For non-fiction, I don't necessarily want the whole thing. Publishers will buy on proposal.

Q: Is it ok to send queries to more than 1 agent at the same time?
EW: 5-10 at a time ok, but say that it's a multiple submission
ZP: Definitely tell us that you're sending to other agents. We like to know if we have competition.

Q: What should the submission look like?
ZP: It should be as simple as possible
SB: 12 pt double spaced Times New Roman or Courier

Part III of the Q&A tomorrow....

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