Monday, April 1, 2013

Why it’s not foolish to find a literary agent…

Bree Ogden
So you’ve written and polished your manuscript and you’re ready to send it to… an editor? Or to an agent? Good question. So I contacted Bree Ogden at D4EO Literary Agency in Weston, Connecticut.

What I learned is that having an agent is like having a fighter in your corner. And, as it turns out, Bree is just that. Literally and figuratively. In addition to being a walking encyclopedia of relevant, useful information regarding the publishing world, she boxes!



Tell me about yourself – the important stuff….
Well, I grew up a creative-type, even if all my creative ventures fell flat. I attended a performing arts school (yes, like the one in Step Up) from 7th-12th grade. Which is definitely what led me to my current career. I sing, play classical guitar, the accordion, have been in multiple horrible garage bands and was a pretty hardcore dancer for 17 years in a former life.

Now I'm in my late 20's and I am (obviously) a literary agent, I'm an instructor, columnist, and class facilitator for the wonderful Web site* , I co-founded and co-run the children's horror literature and art magazine UNDERNEATH THE JUNIPER TREE, and I am a judge for the Ghastly Awards. These are awards that celebrate excellence in horror comics once a year, though we do monthly reviews of horror comics. I'm a GIGANTIC horror fanatic and comics fall right under horror for me in terms of obsession.

I have a terribly large family. Two brothers, three sisters. All married, with children. Twenty-one nieces and nephews. I love them with the heat of a million suns. ::Deep breath:: I think that's me in a nutshell.

What qualifications helped you get your job?
I received my BA in Philosophy which I don't think helps anyone get anywhere in life. But I then received my MA in journalism with an emphasis in expository writing and editing. In my undergrad, I was the editor-in-chief of my college newsmagazine and wrote for it as well. I believe these all led up to my internship at Martin Literary Management. My love for writing, editing, and great literature (that's something I've always had) helped me land the internship. But it's the internship that qualified me to become a literary agent.

There is no schooling for literary agents. The schooling is interning. In order to learn the agenting business, you really need to study under a successful agent and I was lucky enough to study under the highly successful Sharlene Martin. I interned for about 8 months and then began taking on my own clients. I am now with D4EO Literary Agency.

What skills help you do your job well?
Reading. Reading a lot. Of course, it's important to be able to edit and know all that English class stuff, but a crucial skill is knowing what is going to sell and what is not going to sell, where the market is at, what works in successful books and what doesn't, etc. Agents are anthropologists of literature.

What do you like most about being a literary agent?
Oh by far, the talent I get to work with. Never in my life have I been surrounded by so much talent. I'm constantly blown away by the things my clients write. And some of the manuscripts I get to read, whew. Amazing. The successes are fantastic as well, but the talent. That's the biggest perk.

What do you dislike most about your job?
Having to break bad news to my clients. But also, there are those moments when you KNOW that something is just SO amazing and you feel like no one else is seeing it. That is insanely frustrating. To have a manuscript that you know is pure gold and then to have no one else see that shimmer, it's devastating.

On average, how many clients do you have?
I had a client boom recently, so I am at roughly under 20 right now. But normally I stay around 15 clients at a time.

What does your typical day look like?
Make myself some tea, answer emails, read, answer more emails, drink some more tea, pitch manuscripts to editors, answer frantic emails from clients (wink), go to my boxing training to blow off steam from my day of work, come home and read a lot more.

There is a lot of reading and writing/answering emails. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't slip in a few episodes of The Mindy Project, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, and Bob's Burgers in there somewhere.

Why is it a good idea to have an agent?
Well, if you want to traditionally publish, you have to have an agent. The traditional publishers will not accept submissions from unagented authors. (There is the very rare exception to that rule.)

But also, once you have an agent, you have a champion for your work and career. We want what is best for you and we are going to do whatever we can do to achieve that. Ask any agented author and they will tell you how nice it is to have an agent to take care of all the business junk so they can concentrate on their passion—writing.

Is the agent world changing? If so, how?
We have noticed a lot of little agencies opening up that have no qualifications. And it's a bit scary. Writers need to be aware of that. A lot of people think they can agent if they have a degree in English. But an agent needs to have experience in the publishing world (or train under someone with experience in the publishing world). If you are a concerned writer looking for an agent, always check sites like Absolute Write or Predators and Editors before signing with an agent.

Another change I see is an obvious one. Self-publishing has hit an all time high so a lot of writers don't feel the need for agents. It hasn't hurt us. There will always be enough writers who want an agent, but self-publishing has changed the dynamic a bit.

Query letters are—at least for me—a nightmare to write. Any do’s / don’ts?
DO follow submission guidelines. That's the first, most important thing to remember. DON'T write a query longer than 600-700 words. Even that is too many words. Try to stay around 500 words. DON'T give away the ending in the query. Entice the crap out of us. Build and build and build and then... "Would you like to read my manuscript?"

I'm actually going to direct you to two links that will help answer this question. One is a column I wrote for and the other is a podcast that my colleague and dear friend Mandy Hubbard posted that talks about how to query.

Any other advice for illustrators/writers?
Use all the resources that are available to you. Agents’ blogs are such a great resource. Follow agents, editors, and publishers on twitter, read articles and interviews. There are so many amazing websites, blogs, podcasts, conferences, and seminars out there to help you achieve your goals, use them. Don't go at this uninformed. And definitely don't go at this alone. Join a solid critique group. Always use beta readers. Never be afraid to ask questions. If you really want it, go after it with all you've got.


Are you accepting new clients? If so, what genre are you looking for? And what catches your attention?
I am, but I am extremely picky right now. I am especially looking for adult horror, in the vein of Joe Hill. I'm always looking for that fantastic gritty graphic novel. I also like extremely unique concepts, for example, I just signed an adult mystery written completely in verse. I'm also looking for fun nonfiction like F*ck! I'm In My Twenties and great DIY (do it yourself) books like 712 More Things To Draw.

 And I will always be looking to represent a fantastic artist for a fantastic art book like Camilla d'Errico or Nicoletta Ceccoli. I love pop surrealism and low brow art. Think Mark Ryden. I've yet to find that client.
You can see all of my particulars on my agent page here.

#Agent #D4EO #BreeOgden

*LitReactor is an amazing community for writers. It is run by the same team who brought us Chuck Palahniuk's Web site, so they know what they are doing. Chuck’s name is sort of inherently attached to the site and he personally offers a lot to the different LitReactor events, contests, etc.
The site consists of different classes which range from shorter seminars to month-long classes. All taught by industry professionals, published authors, etc. There is magazine content, columns and what-not. A lot of these columns offer fantastic writing, editorial, and publishing advice. Some are more fun, silly articles. Others are reviews and interviews.
But one of the greatest things about LitReactor is the Writer's Workshop. You pay a fee (it's minimal) and are given 15 points. You can then upload your writing to the site. It costs 15 points for each story upload. Then other LitReactor members give detailed feedback on your work. This is a flawless system because in order to gain more points, you HAVE to review other writers' work. If you want to upload more stories to the site you have to review. It's a give and take. And a participant can't just throw some sloppy review out there and get points because the reviewee gets to rate the review and that determines how many points the reviewer gets. It's a great way to get some initial beta reading on your work.