Posted On September 7, 2009 by Print This Post

Agents are People, Too

agent photoSo often, writers are told in excruciating detail what they should not do when approaching agents and editors. Although knowing what not to do is helpful, I’ve always heard positive reinforcement is much more effective. So today, Lucienne Diver with the Knight Agency is joining us to talk about well-behaved writers.

Welcome, Lucienne!

Kelsey: Pre-published writers are often nervous about talking with agents. In a conference setting, how do you suggest someone approach you and introduce herself?

Lucienne: “Hi, my name is ___.  I’m a huge fan of your authors X & Y.”  Or something like that.  Then springboard into a conversation.  As you mentioned, agents are people too.  We have things we geek out about (like Joss Whedon or So You Think You Can Dance).  I’m not suggesting you bone up on every agent’s likes and dislikes pre-conference, but if you happen to know them, they can be a great place to start.  Pitches, though, should be kept to pitch sessions.  If you’ve met an agent you’d like to query, a simple, “Is it possible to get your card; I’d love to query you” will do just fine.  You get the same benefit, the ability to say in your letter that you met the agent at a conference, without pitching over pasta or pit stops.

Kelsey: Do you prefer the national or regional conferences for low-key interaction with authors?

Lucienne: At the national conferences I’m usually so busy running around to see my various authors and their editors that I have very little time for the relaxed, coincidental meetings that are often the high point of my trip.  I love how much I get done at nationals, but for low-key interactions, the regional conferences are priceless.

Kelsey: Which small talk topics are acceptable for writers to use when first meeting an agent?

Lucienne: The best thing you can do when meeting an agent outside a pitch session is to forget that you have an agenda.  Just talk to them as people.  You already know you have one thing in common – the love of books.  None of us got into publishing because we thought we’d make scads of money – that’s just a bonus <g>.  We got into it because we love words, intelligence, creativity, voice, stories.  You can start there.  Questions are always good ice-breakers, because they express interest in the person you’re talking to.  As long as the question isn’t, “Can you tell me some of the reasons you turned down my query?”  Unfortunately, unless an author was referred to us or we took the time to write a very personal rejection, we won’t necessarily remember yours out of the hundreds we read every month.

Kelsey: Are there some topics best avoided in a social setting?

Lucienne: Pitching.  Pretending not to pitch while grilling the agent about your genre.  For example, “What do you think of the possibilities for a funny contemporary romance involving a white witch and a possessed broomstick?” 

There’s also a right way and a wrong way to show that you’ve done your homework.  Right way: I love your blog.  So informative!  Wrong way: How old is your kid again?  If I’ve met you before and we’ve exchanged stories that only a mother could love, asking about my family is perfectly acceptable.  If not, well, it’s sort of creepy.

Kelsey: What impresses you when you first meet someone?

Lucienne: Personality and professionalism.  I met Vicky Dreiling, whose debut historical romance series I’ve just sold to Warner Forever for 2011 release, over a dinner at a conference.  It was casual.  She sat down next to me and we just hit it off.  She didn’t have to pitch to me.  If I remember correctly, I liked her so much I asked what the book was about and then insisted she send it.

Kelsey: Could you offer some suggestions for acceptable dress for pitch appointments?

Lucienne: Business or business casual are good.  Basically, as long as we don’t remember you as the girl in the Daisy Dukes, you’re probably fine.  We’re really looking for the material to speak for itself, so there’s no need to get the cold sweats worrying about whether the red power suit in your closet washes you out.

Kelsey: What catches your attention about a writer’s online presence/website?

Lucienne: I don’t go looking for a web presence for a prepublished writer, though if they have one – for instance they host a very well-known blog – that’s great because it can help in marketing.  A successful web presence isn’t about the sales pitch.  It’s about personality and content.  You want to provide information and entertainment.  Rachel Caine is a wonderful example.  Her blog is funny and full of extras.  It’s not about soliciting readers, it’s about giving back to them.  For that reason, she runs contests, posts bonus stories and does all kinds of wonderful things.

Kelsey: At what point is it acceptable for a writer to follow up with an agent after sending a requested partial? A requested full?

Lucienne: Most agencies have their guidelines posted on their websites.  It’s a great idea to check these before ever querying, because agents or agencies will sometimes close to submissions to catch up on their backlog.  Those guidelines will probably list an agent’s general response time.  If they’ve gone beyond, a polite e-mail inquiring about the status is just fine.  If you’re concerned about your material arriving, use a read receipt (if e-mail) or delivery confirmation rather than bother the agent with a call.  If your follow up e-mail doesn’t elicit a response, a second e-mail or polite phone call at that point is just fine.

Kelsey: If you return a manuscript with suggested revisions, do you welcome questions from the author if s/he needs clarification?

Lucienne: It depends how detailed I am in my letter.  The more information I provide, the more likely I am to welcome questions, but also to have answered them with examples.  In other words, “I just didn’t connect with the material” or “I couldn’t suspend my disbelief” are not specific enough revisions that I’m suggesting the work is close enough (for me) that I can advise the author on exactly how to bring it up to snuff.  This is a very subjective business, however, and another agent may feel entirely differently about it.  If an agent does give pretty specific suggestions and you decide to revise accordingly, you may want to query him or her again to see if s/he’d be amenable to giving your novel a second look.

Kelsey: What do you see as your particular strengths as an agent? What type of relationship do you like to have with your authors?

Lucienne: With over sixteen years in the business, I bring a lot of experience, as well as enthusiasm and attention to my work.  I haven’t learned to relax or give anything less than 110%, so my authors get the benefit of my workaholism.  I’m also very communicative on submissions, rejections, negotiations and editorial input, helping my authors hone their work before it ever sees an editor’s desk.  I like that I have a very close relationship with my authors and that some have given me nicknames I’d love to put on my business cards, if it wouldn’t mess with my, ahem, gravitas.

Thanks so much, Lucienne. You can be sure I’ll read this post more than once!

RUers, stop by on Wednesday when Wayne Levine joins us for the first installment of Wayne Wednesday, a monthly feature where he will discuss men and relationships.  This week Wayne tackles how men talk to other men about their woman troubles.

Lucienne Diver joined The Knight Agency in 2008, after spending fifteen years at New York City’s prestigious Spectrum Literary Agency. Over the course of her dynamic career she has sold over six hundred titles to every major publisher, and has built a client list of more than forty authors spanning the commercial fiction genres, primarily in the areas of fantasy, romance, mystery, suspense and erotica. Her authors have been honored with the RITA, National Readers’ Choice Award, the Golden Heart, and the Romantic Times Reader’s Choice, and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. 

She’s also an author in her own right with her debut YA Vamped released in May 2009 by Flux.  Further information is available on The Knight Agency website: www.knightagency.net, her author site: www.luciennediver.com and her blog: http://varkat.livejournal.com.

Similar Posts:

Share Button

Publishing Career

Discussion

18 Responses to “Agents are People, Too”

  1. Hi Lucienne,

    Thank you so much for joining us at RU!

    I have two questions (yes, I’m greedy!).
    1) What basic marketing initiatives do you expect from your new authors? OR Do you think she can market her book best by writing the next one and not worrying about blog tours and such?

    2) If you were to offer representation to a writer, what are three questions you would love for her to ask?

    Thanks again,
    Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | September 6, 2009, 4:57 pm
  2. Lucienne –

    Thanks so much for blogging with us, especially on a holiday!

    What about a person’s writing normally persuades you to take the time to write a personalized rejection letter rather than a form letter?

    Happy Labor Day!
    Kelsey

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | September 7, 2009, 2:36 am
  3. Hi Lucienne and thank you for being with us today. I’m curious what your feelings are toward the romantic suspense market. I was in a workshop at RWA where the agents were talking about how hard it is to sell romantic suspense right now. Is that because of the economy or is romantic suspense just tough for a new writer to break into?

    Thanks!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | September 7, 2009, 9:56 am
  4. Dear Kelsey,

    If I’ve met someone at a conference or via a referral or think his or her work is particularly promising, I’ll generally write a personal response, especially if I can think of something to say that might help them along the road to publication, whether it be revision suggestions or the name of another agent who might be more enthusiastic about their work.

    -Lucienne

    Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 10:31 am
  5. Dear Adrienne,

    Romantic suspense has been difficult for new writers to break into for some time, but that’s not to say impossible. I don’t handle as much as I’d like because many of the ideas I see don’t strike me as particularly new or intriguing (a lot of stalkers and serial killers). It’s not to say that what’s old can’t be new again, but the more something has been done, the more writers have to find a really unique angle at which to approach it. But the market will always make room for a really original storyline with a fresh voice.

    Best wishes,
    Lucienne

    Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 10:38 am
  6. Dear Tracey,

    1) It’s very important for writers to help get the word out on their books! With publishers’ promotional funds not what they used to be and a lot of traditional print venues not enjoying their previous circulation in this market, the Internet has become a great way to promote books with banner ads, guest blogs, group and personal blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. I’ve got a whole article up on promotion here: http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/?p=578 if you want to check it out.

    2) What 3 questions would I like an author to ask me if I offer representation? Actually, I love it when authors have already done their research on me. They know who I am, how I work and what I represent. I have a blog (http://varkat.livejournal.com). Our agency has a website (www.knightagency.net) and I do a lot of on-line and other interviews. However, if they have questions that aren’t answered, they’re certainly free to ask any they like.

    Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 10:50 am
  7. Dear Tracey,

    1) It’s very important for writers to help get the word out on their books! With publishers’ promotional funds not what they used to be and a lot of traditional print venues not enjoying their previous circulation in this market, the Internet has become a great way to promote books with banner ads, guest blogs, group and personal blogs and social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. I’ve got a whole article up on promotion here: http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/?p=578 if you want to check it out.

    2) What 3 questions would I like an author to ask me if I offer representation? Actually, I love it when authors have already done their research on me. They know who I am, how I work and what I represent. I have a blog (http://varkat.livejournal.com). Our agency has a website (www.knightagency.net) and I do a lot of on-line and other interviews. However, if they have questions that aren’t answered, they’re certainly free to ask any they like.

    Best wishes,
    Lucienne

    Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 10:52 am
  8. Lucienne,

    First, I want to say how excited I am about Healing Luke. I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    How do you balance your agent career with your writing?

    Also, can you give my your take on historical romance with paranormal elements, specifically Highlanders? And then too, on Western Romances, which I heard at Nationals were dead, but heard afterward from others that westerns are making a comeback.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

    Renee

    Posted by Renee | September 7, 2009, 12:30 pm
    • Dear Renee,

      I wake up extra early in the morning to write before my internal editor wakes up. Then, generally, I go back to sleep for an hour, wake up and voila, agent-self is ready to go . I have an agent to represent =my= work so that during the business day I can focus on my authors.

      Historical romance with paranormal elements seems to be doing well. (Actually, anything with paranormal these days!) Westerns…I keep hearing they’re coming back, but I haven’t actually seen much evidence of it. Sorry!

      Best wishes,
      Lucienne

      Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 4:27 pm
  9. Thanks for the informative blog.

    When you receive a query with a synopsis and the first chapter, what do you look at first? Like so many writers, I hate writing a syopsis, and it probably shows. My writing voice does not seem to come through when I write the dreaded synopsis.

    Do you give more weight to the voice in the first chapter or the synopsis?

    Posted by Tina Spear | September 7, 2009, 12:34 pm
    • Dear Tina,

      I definitely give more weight to the chapters. I need the synopsis to see where the plot is going, to make sure it’s not too out-there or predictable, to make sure the pacing looks good and the ending satisfying, but I don’t grade synopses. I’ll generally read the query letter, then chapters, then synopsis. However, the writing of them is a good skill to learn. Early in your career you’ll be selling on a full manuscript, but down the line it’ll be just chapters and synopsis, so the need will always be there.

      -Lucienne

      Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 2:11 pm
      • Thank you, Lucienne.

        I’ve heard some agents say that they only read the first page or two and if it doesn’t grab them, they don’t read on. Do you generally read the full chapter if you liked the query letter and hook?

        Thanks again,
        Tina

        Posted by Tina Spear | September 7, 2009, 3:28 pm
        • I stop reading at the point that I know something isn’t for me. If I see potential, I’ll generally read on even if something isn’t quite grabbing me, because beginnings are often difficult, and, of course, we all know about revision. But agents get so many submissions that we just can’t dedicate the time to reading thirty or so pages of every single one.

          Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 6:14 pm
  10. Hi Lucienne!

    Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat today!

    I’ve never gone to nationals or a regional meeting, and there’s a good chance that for quite some time I won’t be able to either. I too am a workaholic, holding down 3 jobs while also writing. =) Is it really possible to get an agent via querying? or will only meeting in person do?

    carrie

    Posted by carrie | September 7, 2009, 12:47 pm
    • Dear Carrie,

      A lot of my authors have come to me via the query process – Lynn Flewelling, Diana Orgain, Rosemary Clement-Moore to name just a few, so yes, it’s perfectly possible to land representation through querying.

      -Lucienne

      Posted by Lucienne Diver | September 7, 2009, 2:12 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by BethCiotta and Kelsey Browning. BethCiotta said: RT @RomanceUniv Lucienne Diver on Agents are People, Too. The "dos" of approaching agents http://bit.ly/3Baho7 […]

  2. […] Tips on how to interact with agents at conferences from Lucienne Diver of The Knight Agency.http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/09/07/agents-are-people-too/ […]

Post a comment

Upcoming Posts

  • Nov 24, 2014 And They All Lived Epiloguey Ever After by Anna Campbell
  • Nov 26, 2014 Writing Down the Holidays with Suzanne Johnson
  • Nov 28, 2014 Emotional Description: 3 Common Problems with Show & Tell - Angela Ackerman

Subscribe

Writer's Digest: 2013 Best Writing Websites (2013) 100-BEST-WEBSITES-2014 Top 10 badge 2012

Follow Us