Two Agents, Two Views..
SCBWI kicked off their conference Saturday with a presentation by agents Tracey Adams and Kate Schafer.
Tracey Adams, who used to work at larges agencies (McIntosh & Oits, Writers House) started her own agency, Adams Literary, in 2004. The staff consists of her and her husband Josh, and they represent more than 50 authors and illustrators. She feels like Adams Literary is a part of the family. Both Tracey and Josh handle all aspects of the agenting business from reading submissions to selling subsidiary rights. They handle all kinds of children's books from picture books to YA and also represent illustrators.
Kate Shafer works for Janklow & Nesbit Associates. They're big and have been around for many years. (The old school agency does not have a website.) She does not handle picture books but is interested in mid-grade and YA material, anything from teen chick lit to urban fantasy, adventure stories, and humorous romance.
One point of this panel was to contrast the differences between working with an independent agent vs. one who works for a large agency. Here are some highlights:
- Adams attends the Bologna Book Fair each year to push her titles to foreign publishers for sub right sales and Hollywood producers. Shafer, who is part of her agency's sub rights department, attends Bologna as well as the Frankfort Book Fair.
- Neither agents require exclusive submissions, although Adams prefers them--she says she responds to exclusive submission more quickly than non-exclusive. Shafer says that if she's considering a non-exclusive sub and the writer gets interest from another agent, this lights a fire under her to get make a decision about the manuscript.
- As a small agency, Adams says they are more aggressive when it comes to pushing publishers to send author check. (They have a mortgage to pay, after all.)
- These agents also talked about why a writer should have an agent. Agents have relationships with editors that a writer can't possibly have. "We know about their boyfriends, we know about their relationships, we have lunch," said Shafer. "We know if they are cat people or dog people," said Adams.
- A big disappointment for both of them is when they get a great query, request the material, and the writing is just not as great as the idea.
- if an agent asks for revisions, don't send it back in 24 hours or a week.
- When you're talking to your potential agent, be prepared and ask questions.
- Agents are all in touch with each other all the time and are actually friends. They will suggest another agent for projects that are good but not quite right for them.
- Adams said they post material on Publishers Lunch that they think would be of interest to Hollywood producers and that they always get inquiry calls after they post a deal.
- Don't send them pirate and vampire books--there are too many of them any no one's buying them now.
- Picture books are still a tough market. Mid-grade and YA are really what there's a need for.
- What do agent's want in a submission: According to Shafer, an "elusive feeling." And if your manuscript makes it into Tracey Adams' dreams, she'll probably sign you.
- Tracey Adams sends an e-newsletter. You can sign up on her site.