As you all know, I have been seeking (and continue to do so), a literary agent to represent my children’s picture book “The Teapot and The Trumpet”. I have had numerous questions along the way, and to all you aspiring authors out there I am sure you do too. So I decided in an effort to help us all, I would seek out some answers.
Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Agency has graciously agreed to take a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
In a career spanning 15 years, I have made a practice of making bestsellers – either by spotting new talent or developing careers for multi-published authors. My list is varied and includes commercial fiction and nonfiction, literary fiction and memoir. All the books I represent speak to the heart in some way: they are linked by genuine emotion, inspiration and great writing and story-telling. I was born in New York City but grew up in Harrisonburg Virginia in a house full of books where I spent many lazy afternoons reading in a sunny window seat. I went on to England to get a BA/MA with first class honors from Cambridge University. After graduation I worked in magazines, bookselling and agenting, most recently at Trident Media Group, before founding THE BENT AGENCY in 2009. I now live in Brooklyn in an apartment full of books and while there are not quite so many lazy reading afternoons, I manage to fit one in now and then.
Follow Jenny Bent on Twitter
You can visit Jenny’s Website
And here we go.
Jenny it is a pleasure to have you here today to answer a few questions for us, thank you for taking the time to stop in. A question I had early on in my journey was, What is the most important thing for a writer to do when querying a literary agent?
Follow their guidelines! Go to the agent’s website or Publishers Marketplace page and follow the instructions very specifically. If you get it wrong, your query could be discarded without even being read.
I have seen a lot of submission guidelines that state, if you are querying multiple agents from multiple agencies, please inform us in your query. Jenny what is the purpose of this? And does it make a difference in how the agent will evaluate the submitted work?
My guidelines don’t say that, so I actually don’t really know what the purpose is. My guidelines state that you should absolutely query multiple agents. If you don’t, some agents take so long to respond that you could be waiting forever to get published!
Jenny when a writer is looking for an agent, what are some of the things to look out for, to be cautious of?
You want to avoid agents who charge any kind of reading fees, first and foremost. I would also look for agents who have a real, provable record of deals made (you can use Publishers Marketplace as a resource for this). Finally, there’s a website called Preditors and Editors, and you can go there to find a list of agents that might not be following legitimate business practices.
Are there certain times of year that literary agents look for a certain type of book to represent, or is it “open season” so to speak all year-long for all books?
This is a good question! Agents do tend to specialize in certain kinds of books. I focus on women’s fiction, crime/suspense, humor and memoir, but I want those kinds of books all year round—I don’t look for specific kinds of books depending on the season.
Jenny, for an unpublished author, finding an agent is a very big deal, as you know. What would your suggestion be to a writer to find the right agent?
The number one thing is to do your homework! There is so much information now available online to help authors research agents who might be the right fit for their manuscript. Find an agent who is looking for books in the genre you write and who has represented books similar to yours. Here are some resources:
- Publishers Marketplace. Pay the $20 for a few months and you’ll have access to the deals database so you can see what deals the agent is making.
- The agent’s twitter feed. This will give you a good idea of the agent’s personality and the kind of things they are interested in.
- The agent’s own website or Publishers Marketplace page
- The agent’s blog.
- Interviews with the agent on other people’s blogs. We have a list of various interviews on our blog, BENT ON BOOKS, but you can also just google the agent’s name and see what comes up.
Jenny, again thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions.
Also thank you to all my dedicated readers. I have learned a great deal on my journey to becoming a published author, and I hope this time with Jenny has help answer some of your questions. If it were not for the support of all of you, and the support from The World Literary Cafe, “The Teapot and The Trumpet” and my forthcoming novel would still be in my head.