Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking For An Agent?

You should be looking for a partner.

Four agents talk about the business of writing at the 2009 Romantic Times Convention

Despite the bevy of buff, handsome cover models wandering the halls of the Wyndham Resort in Orlando, Florida during the April 2009 Romantic Times Convention, literary agents Laura Bradford, Christine Witthohn, Lucienne Diver and Miriam Kriss were able to focus on the business of writing itself, and gracious enough to share their wisdom with the rest of us.

While these four agents differed in style, they had similar views on the industry, and what they look for when considering a new client. It’s not just about selling your book— it’s about communication, expectations and professionalism on both sides. The author/agent relationship is a partnership, and like any partnership, nothing to be embarked upon lightly. Many aspiring writers are so eager to get an agent that they fail to do their homework, both when it comes to the technicality of submissions themselves and to what to expect if—or when—a literary agent agrees to work with them. (Read that sentence again, and make sure you recognize the “work with” part.) A good agent is business-minded, professional, and career-focused, and that’s what they expect from you in return.

All four agents gently but firmly emphasized that writers who are thin-skinned, overly demanding, uncooperative about critiques, edits, deadlines or have unrealistic expectations regarding advances and/or publisher support are going to find themselves floundering. Good agents do their best to help their authors manage expectations and hone both their business and their writing skills, earning their 15% commissions through career counseling, advice, informed contract negotiations, and unabashed enthusiasm for your books. They’re your best advocate, and your best chance at getting your works in to the hands of an editor who will love it as much as they do. They are, in short, the “gatekeepers” of the industry, and as such, they have their own professional reputations to maintain with the editors and publishing houses they deal with.

Laura Bradford (far left in the photo) has over fourteen years of experience in the world of books, and formed her own agency, Bradford Literary, in 2001. She acquires and sells all genres of commercial fiction except for inspirational, poetry, screenplays and short stories, and is particularly interested in works that “push the envelope”, as she loves nothing better than to discover the new and different. At the current time, she is particularly interested in historicals, and is happy to accept e-queries (one-page query letter only, no attachments) via email at or a full proposal (query letter, synopsis and first three chapters) via regular mail. Detailed submission guidelines and her mailing address can be found on her website at, along with a list of her current clients.

Christine Witthohn (second from left) began Book Cents Literary Agency in 2006. She’s very interested in contemporary romance, women’s fiction, paranormal romance, mystery and loves young adult novels. She is NOT interested in erotica, category romance, science fiction, inspirational, historicals or the horror genre. She accepts e-submissions only, and prefers two separate attachments to your email, one for the synopsis and one for the manuscript itself. Her email address is and more detailed information about her agency and submission guidelines can be found on her website at

Lucienne Diver (second from right) has been in the literary business for over 16 years, and joined The Knight Agency in 2008 after spending most of her career with Spectrum Literary. She is interested in all genres of commercial fiction, feeling that a great voice and great characters are paramount over genre. She has a particular interest in mystery, suspense, and paranormal, and is fascinated by stories with a psychological or forensic aspect. Lucienne recommends that an author be a “leader”, not a “follower” when it comes to the current trends in the market. Trends change and what might’ve been considered “hot” at the time it sold can be passe by the time it’s actually published. She is happy to accept one-page queries (no attachments) via email at, and will request further material if she has an interest. Detailed guidelines and specifics about Lucienne and The Knight Agency are available on their website at

Miriam Kriss (far right) began her career with Irene Goodman Literary Agency in 2004. She represents all genres of commercial fiction, and all genres of romance except for inspirational. At the moment she has a particular interest in young adult, but she only takes on clients whose voice she is passionate about. Miriam urges aspiring authors to recognize that no agent enjoys rejecting an author’s work, and that true professionals will do their best not to take rejections personally. She recommends a fascinating online article called “Slushkiller” to help them gain perspective on the process. Miriam accepts e-queries (query letter, first 10 pages and a synopsis) at More detailed information about Miriam and the Irene Goodman Literary Agency can be found at
*Terri Garey is very happily represented by her current agency, Jane Rotrosen Agency, LLC, but feels very strongly that it’s good karma to share as much information about the industry as she can, particularly when she’s fortunate to attend a convention swarming with a bevy of buff, muscular cover models. She is a two-time RITA finalist and the winner of the 2008 RITA Award for Best First Book, as well as the winner of the 2008 PRISM Award. Visit her on the web at or

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