Thursday, March 29, 2007

What One Agent Wants You To Know

Posted by Lynne

Buttonwood Bookstore hosted a Grub Street South evening talk for writers on acquiring a literary agent. This informative program was facilitated by Eve Bridburg, founder of Grub Street Writers and literary agent at Zachary, Schuster, Harmsworth in Boston.

Eve structured her remarks around the reality of work at a literary agency and in the world of publishing. There was something for everyone in her suggestions for approaching an agent and then developing a good working relationship with one.

She was generous with her advice on what writers need to do to secure the attention of a reputable agent, given the reality of the current volume of submissions. Whether you already have an agent or dream of landing one, Eve recommends that you always submit your best work. She strongly urges writers to network with other writers, agents and editors at writers' events like the upcoming Muse and the Marketplace Conference in Boston. There, Eve says, you can meet and connect with other writers with whom you may form a writers' group or lean on as trusted readers.

When it comes to querying agents, Eve reinforced what anyone who's done their homework already knows--do your research, follow submission guidelines, and write well. Again, only submit your best writing. Query letter and sample pages must sing; they have to stand out among the hundreds of submissions an agent receives each week.

The insights Eve shared into a day in the life of an agent was compelling. Acquiring work, offering editorial feedback, proposal development, negotiating contracts--in short shepherding a project from inception to completion--is hard work. But wonderful and rewarding work, too.

I enjoyed the part of the program where Eve defined some of the new industry buzz words. She feels strongly that while it's a tough time for "quiet books" and literary fiction, she believes this will turn around. It's a good time to be a debut novelist, according to Eve. Publishers are all looking for the next brilliant voice in fiction. When asked to define the terms upmarket books and high concept projects, Eve said, agents know it when they see it. Upmarket manuscripts bridge commercial and literary fiction, while high concept novels have a more than compelling hook.

In the end, Eve says the writer's goal is to charm and seduce the agent into reading the work. Falling in love with the writing is required, since an agent will read and reread a manuscript to provide direction numerous times.

Feel free to post a question in the comments section of the blog. Perhaps Eve answered it during last night's program and I can pass along her insights. Already have an agent? What advice would you give someone looking to charm and seduce an agent into reading their work?


Anonymous said...

Is Eve Bridberg taking on new writers? Thanks

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi anon,

Eve's agency takes solicited manuscripts only, which means you will need to network with writers represented by the agency or attend conferences she and her colleagues do. Good luck in your agent search, and don't forget to utilize resources like publishers marketplace to find the right agent for your style and genre.


EveB said...

Hi all:

This is Eve. I am, in fact, taking on new clients. I'd love to hear from you. Please feel free to query me about your project at That goes for anyone else as well.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi Eve,

Thanks for clarifying. With your wonderful background, anyone would be lucky to have you for an agent. And thanks for stopping by.