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5 Tips for starting out as an agent

Hattie Grunewald is an agent at Blake Friedmann agency. She assists Carole Blake, handles short fiction and permissions on behalf of Blake Friedmann clients, and has been building her list since the start of 2016. Hattie is looking for women’s fiction, crime and thrillers, and realistic YA and middle-grade fiction. In non-fiction, she is looking for personal development, accessible books about politics, economics and science, and funny and clever narrative non-fiction.

1. Get out and meet writers

Agents are nothing without writers so when you’re first starting to build your list it’s important to meet as many as possible. I’ve been going to writers’ groups, holding pitching sessions and Q&As and taking every opportunity that comes my way to introduce myself to the writing community. It builds my profile, prompts hundreds of polished, high-quality submissions and broadens my sphere of contacts – and you never know when you’re meeting the next bestseller.

2. Say yes to every invitation

It’s not just important to meet writers – agenting is a relationships business and it’s vital to build contacts in publishing houses, scouting agencies and with your colleagues in agenting. Networking when you’re new to the industry and don’t know anyone can be very daunting, but whether it’s coffee with an editor or a huge summer party, it’s important not to pass up any opportunity that will broaden your network.

3. Always follow up and say thanks

It’s vital to follow up with any new contacts via email. Not only is it basic manners to thank people for a party invitation, lunch or half an hour of their time, it also confirms that they have your details and can contact you if they wish, and can reinforce a good impression of you. And it’s not just for the hosts – if you have a great discussion with someone at a party, a follow-up email can take that contact to the next level… and the next time you go to a party, you know you’ll have a friend.

4. Find your own USP

As agents we’re very used to coming up with ‘Elevator Pitches’ for our clients, but often we spend less time thinking about how to pitch ourselves. But agenting is becoming increasingly competitive, with new agents and agencies springing up every week, and it’s important to think about how to make yourself stand out, both to clients and to editors. This is about both the kind of agency you work for – and talking to your colleagues might help clarify this – and your own identity as an agent. Getting a clear idea of your tastes and preferences will not only help you locate new talent, but will also let authors know why they should come to you.

5. Look for the silver lining

When you’re first starting out as an agent, there can be a lot of disappointment – whether it’s a book that doesn’t get sold or a dream author who chooses another agent. It’s important to stay positive, confident and optimistic. You can often learn more about an editor’s tastes from a rejection than an offer, and either way you have made a new contact. Every setback teaches you lessons you can learn from next time round – and when it comes, your success will be even sweeter for it.

agent, agenting, being an agent, Blake Friedmann, book agent, books, career in publishing, elevator pitch

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