Category Archives: Literary agent

On my way east- the glamorous life of a literary agent

Well, it’s that time of year again,  the pilgrimage to Toronto-the land of broken dreams and hard to reach publishers.   About twice a year I like to go and meet face to face with the publishers that I sell my books to, and set up meetings with prospective new clients. I also like to remind them all that there are amazing authors outside of the GTA.

It’s odd, but after all these years  there still seems to be an invisable force field around Toronto that some editors refuse to look past when it comes to buying manuscripts from Western Canadian writers. Some of the strongest writers in Canada are out here just waiting to be discovered, but don’t get a chance because Toronto doesn’t know who they are.

But that’s why I encourage so many writers to consider putting together a publicity platform before they start sending their work out to editors and agents. If Toronto knows who you are, there is a greater chance they will buy your book. Because in the end it’s really not the editors who are making decisions, it’s the sales people.

You have to convince the sales people that you can market and sell your book, because they are the ones that hold the purse strings. An editor can love your work, but if they can’t convince the sales people that they are going to make money, then forget it ( and a good scotch might not help).

Of course, some will just say “go to the U.S ,” there are plenty of publishers there who will take your book. Indeed, I know a few writers who have managed 3 book deals for fiction and can’t wait for their books to come out. Of course, most of those people have been writing for years and have an impressive writing resume. New novelists and writers, the ones that show up with blockbusters are one in a million. I’m not saying that you aren’t that one, but you also have to live in reality. That’s where I live. Actually I live in an apartment waiting for royalty checks to arrive.

But that’s another story. If you think you are going to make any money as a writer, think again. Think about publishing your book, doing a great amount of publicity, seeing some sales, and then getting paid maybe ( if you are lucky), a year later. And don’t forget, while you are waiting- so is your agent.

Your agent doesn’t get paid until you do. I sold two best sellers last year and I’m still waiting to see a dime from them. Yes, that’s right. Don’t expect anything for a really long time. So if you are into writing your book for money- do it online and focus your marketing that way, because retail sales are going to take a long time to show up.

Anyway, enough on the soapbox. I’m looking forward to visiting family, friends, and business partners in good old Toronto. And I hope to do some deals. I love that part of my job.That, and the fact that FOOTBALL is back on.

In the meantime, check out my submission guidelines ( Don’t submit through here- I hardly ever check my comments) and I look forward to discovering the next great best seller.
Oh and check out my associate Rachel Sentes and her site She’s one of those people that can help you with your platform.

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Working with a Literary Agent

As you can tell, blogging is not something I do very often. Who has the time? Blogging really isn’t on my list of things to do, but I thought I would share a thoughts about my work today.

A Sports Illustrated writer said to me today ” You are the hardest-working  (and lobbying) book agent in the biz.”

That kind of praise is something a literary agent doesn’t hear that often. Yes, I have to admit that for the most part, being a literary agent is a thankless job. Sometimes we get acknowledged in a book, or someone sends you a cigar or some scotch, but for the most part we are alone in our tasks.

When you decide if you want to work with a literary agent, there are a few things you should think about.

1. Is this the kind of person I could work with for an extended period of time?  ( up to 2 years)

2. What do I like about this agent? Is it their contacts, or their clients, or the books they have sold? Is it their personality? Their sense of humour? What has drawn me to this person?

3. Sometimes an agent is brutally honest about a prospect’s work. Are you ready to take the good with the bad?

4. When you submit your work you MUST read the tips for submissions that are often displayed on their websites. If you don’t follow those checklists, then chances are you are going to get rejected. There is nothing an agent hates more than a slapped together story with a “could you read this” attached to it. My answer is “NO, I can’t read this because you don’t respect my expertise. If you ignore my standards and submission requirements, I don’t want to spend time with your work.” And even sending a bottle of scotch may not placate me.

5. Treat your agent with respect. Don’t blow off phone meetings, when you book a time to talk to your agent-BE there. There is nothing an agent hates more than calling a client and getting their voice mail.

6. Remember agents don’t get paid until you do. And that can be a year down the road.

So in short, before you contact a literary agent, be very clear on what we do. Working with an agent is tricky. They spend countless hours of unpaid work in the hopes that they can sell your work.So be nice.

And don’t just say you’ll send scotch- go ahead and actually do it.

My gatekeeper will accept all your gifts.

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Does an Agent make money?

Now don’t get me wrong. I like being an agent. But there are some weeks that it just wears a person down. Sometimes I wonder if I’m in the right business. This is not a business for the faint-hearted. Neither is it for people with a thin skin. This last week I went through what every agent does once in awhile. Rejection. For quite a few of my proposals. Not a great feeling.

But I have faith in the work of my clients, and for the most part I know that I can sell their work. But sometimes it just takes longer than I would like it to. Of course there are books that I can’t sell. It’s happened to me before. I had a really great manuscript, but for whatever reason I just could not sell the piece. Sometimes it’s just timing, sometimes it’s just the style of work, but I hear the word No a lot more than yes. And that can wear a person down. It could even drive a person to drink! ( Glenmorangie- if you are so inclined).

But I guess for every lost sale there is a silver lining. I do get a yes and when those books land on the shelf or online I love  it. If I’m acknowledged in the book for my participation and work-that’s even better. Because goodness knows the money for selling books is slow in coming. A lot of people think that agents are rolling in cash. They are wrong. Very wrong. For every bestseller on a list there is an agent wondering where their next meal is coming from. Royalty cheques are the slowest form of payment, and some are divided up 4 or more smaller payments throughout the year. One time I got a cheque for $50.00 bucks after 3 months of almost solid work. I kid you not. This job is not for those that want to get rich.

Anyway, enough of my pessimistic pity party. But people need to know that when they have an idea for a book and they send me manuscripts and sample chapters they had better be high caliber. Without spelling mistakes and errors. I mean it. If you send my associate anything with errors in it, consider it rejected. And don’t tell me you’ve paid someone a lot of money to edit it, if it hasn’t been. I can tell, and believe me I’m not about to invest hundreds of hours trying to sell a book that needs a rewrite.

So that’s my educational piece today. Now, I’m off to Whitehorse for a few days to relax and take a little time off


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Why you should pick up the phone once in awhile

These days many people conduct their business by email. It’s usually reliable ( except online accounts which can log you out unexpectedly), and it’s a quick way to get your message across. But I think that many people rely too heavily on this type of communication. Texting and emailing have taken over and people are forgetting that there is a great deal of power in a voice vs the written word.

For those of you who know me, you know that I hate cell phones. I mean I REALLY hate cell phones. Up until a few months ago I didn’t own one. I had to be convinced that I might need it. And I have to admit that it has helped me out on ONE occasion. Generally, I don’t use it and rarely have it turned on. I don’t give my number out to anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary because I don’t want to be bothered by it.

But I love using a phone to connect to people. It’s a quick way to get an answer to a question or make that personal connection that can’t be done on facebook or in an email. Picking up the phone can make a world of difference to your business and I’m always amazed at what can be accomplished by talking on the phone.

When I pitch a book, I usually send the first proposal by email. But then I always follow up with a phone call. But that’s where I tend to run into problems.Very few publishers answer their phones. In fact often I’ve called and left messages and they will reply in an email rather than talk to me. I don’t know why they do that, I can be very charming. Or maybe that’s what they are frightened of. They might be scared that I will actually sell them a book and make them money.

It might be a good thing if they picked up the phone once in awhile. Maybe the state of publishing wouldn’t be in such disarray if more people answered the phone in a timely manner. It’s not like I’m calling to ask them what they ate for lunch that day. Or if they are going to watch the hockey game. Or if they wanted a glass of scotch. Well I guess it depends which publisher I’m calling for that question!! Not that they drink. No. I drink, but then again, I am an agent, and I wish they would PICK up the phone once in awhile!!

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The Pros and Cons of Being an Agent

Someone once asked me “Why are you an agent?”
I had to ponder on that question for a few minutes, because my first answer was ” I have no idea.”
Truthfully, I ask this question every time that a publisher doesn’t return a phone call, or they miss a deadline, or there isn’t a cheque in my mailbox, and I find myself working 12-13 hour days 7 days a week.

Self-employment isn’t for everyone, but for some of us it’s the only way to go. I would much rather set my own hours when the weather is gorgeous outside, so that I can play a game of tennis, than be tied to my desk until the clock hits 5:00pm everyday. I love the freedom that self-employment gives you. For the most part the pros outweigh the cons in this business. I get to meet amazing people, icons from my childhood, and authors that could be best-sellers.

Of course I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me a six figure income that had guaranteed payment! Many people seem to think that being an agent instantly means money. Nope. Not at all. I am still waiting to be paid from books I sold over a year ago. An agent generally doesn’t get paid until the author makes back their advance, and then I only receive 15% of that. So if the advance was $2,000 dollars ( for a first time author), and it’s paid out in 3 segments, then the author might receive a cheque for $500.00 and I get 15% of that. Yes I am ROLLING in money.

So before you think about trying your hand at being an agent, think very carefully. Can you afford to make it your full time job?

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Moving on Up

So if you landed here, then this website is actually working. And you may have noticed my new look. I chose this football header because I am crazy about football. I wish the NFL was on all year round.

There is nothing I like better than leaning back on my couch, with a scotch in hand, and  enjoying the excitement of the 3rd quarter.

I REALLY love sports, so it makes sense that I’m primarily a Sports Literary Agent. I sell other books, but they are generally non-fiction.

Next week I am off to the East to meet with clients and publishers. I haven’t been out there since last September, so I’m really looking forward to the trip. It’s also the first trip with my associate, publicist Rachel Sentes (gal-fridaypublicity). She hasn’t been there in over 25 years and is looking forward to meeting her new clients as well.  So stay tuned and I’ll update you on the exciting world of a Literary Agent!

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An Agent at the Olympics

Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve written on here. I guess I’m not cut out to be with the blogging trends. A lot of people chastise me for not jumping on the bandwagon of twitter and flickr and all those other social media sites, but to be quite honest, I’d rather spend my time working with clients then talking about it online. Is it really necessary to know every little thing about everyone?

Everyone’s lives are now sound bites less than 140 characters or 30 seconds of visuals. No wonder it’s getting tough for agents to sell books. I’m proud of resisting the temptation to spend more time online. Not that I don’t waste a lot of it fooling around on Facebook. But then again, that’s how I have connected with several new clients. So I can’t knock all of social media…at the moment.

And for those of you who know me, I finally broke down and bought a cell phone. For emergencies only. And no, don’t ask me for the phone number. You won’t get it. Not even if you buy the best scotch on the market. Well maybe you’ll get it after I drink the scotch, but not before!

So, now onto my topic. Being a literary agent at the Vancouver Olympics. It’s been crazy here,but the best part of being here during this time, is that 3/4 of my clients and potential clients are here working. It’s been an amazing time.

I am a huge sports fan, and this last week I’ve been able to meet some of my hockey heroes and enjoy the stories and inside scoop about the games and events being held here. This really has been a turning point in my career, and I am looking forward to selling more books this year. The life of a literary agent can be  be extremely frustrating. There isn’t anyone to bill when people don’t show up for meetings or miss phone appointments. But I have to say that this past week has made up for all of those missed deadlines and phone calls.

It’s been pretty exciting.

If you read my blog and feel like submitting some cool sports book or cook book, then please send all queries to my associate Rachel at She’s pretty cool.

So until I find the time to write again. Enjoy the rest of the Olympics!

Oh, PS- Click on this link to read a great column by Kevin Blackistone- with yours truly mentioned!!

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