Hey guys! Today I’m pretty excited to share an interview with my literary agent Victoria Lowes of The Bent Agency. Since signing with her in October, I’ve had peers ask and have seen questions posed in online writing forums regarding the digital market and digital-first agents. Also, since she’s a newer agent, I wanted to get into her experience a little bit more for anyone that’s doing agent research. Without further ado, here is my Victoria Lowes, Lit Agent Extraordinaire Q&A:
Ami: What led you to pursue a career in publishing and also, can you give us some more insight into your experience and training? Also, can you give us the scoop on becoming an agent–give us your version of getting THE CALL from Jenny Bent?
Victoria: I think like everyone in this industry, a love of books is what drove me to pursue a career in publishing. I started my journey to becoming an agent while I was in my last semester at Queens College. I was toying with the idea of becoming a literary agent so an internship at an agency was my first stop. I cold called every single literary agency in New York City and asked if they were hiring. I ended up at Serendipity Literary working for the incomparable Regina Brooks. After an immensely educational internship, I knew for sure that the literary agent track was the right one for me. I then began interning at the Carol Mann Agency. After about 6 months my boss at CMA told me that Jenny Bent was looking for someone to help review queries and that she’d recommend me for the position. I remember during my phone interview (which I took at my other job at a general contractors office- I used to juggle up to 5 jobs back then- I don’t miss it) I made a few terrible jokes that I now cringe thinking about but thankfully, Jenny found them funny or at the very least, didn’t hold them against me. So I began working remotely for Jenny while still interning at CMA. After a few months, my role at TBA grew and eventually Jenny hired me as her full-time assistant. After about six months of that, Jenny told me I could start building my own list.
Ami: Can you tell us a little bit more about being a digital first agent? What does digital first mean? And what does it mean for writers who are looking to submit their work to you?
Victoria: Digital-first means exactly what it sounds like- a book deal where your novel is sold digitally at first, and then if sales go well, into print. The industry is obviously changing & rapidly at that, so it’s been very exciting to be at the forefront of the turn towards digital.
For writers who are looking to possibly work with me, I always stress that while my focus is digital-first, I in no way intend to limit your options. I always like to talk to new & prospective clients, see what their goals are and then map out what we’re going to do. Some of my clients are really enthusiastic about digital-first and see themselves making a career that way, while some would prefer a print deal, so we pursue that while keeping digital-first as another potential route.
Ami: Are there certain types of books that might be better suited for the digital-first market? What types of books are editors looking for when it comes to digital?
Victoria: Well right now, romance titles of all kinds are the most popular. However, the digital-first market is rapidly expanding so mysteries, thrillers, YA & suspense are also very sought after in the digital-first world.
Ami: What about you? How do you read books? (Print? Kindle? iPad? Phone? Nook? All of the above?) Do you even have time to read for fun these days?
Victoria: Right now, I’m obsessed with my Kindle Fire though I have to credit my first eReader, a Nook, for showing me all the wonderful things eReaders have to offer. I also, of course, still buy tons of physical books. While it’s difficult, I try to read at least two books recreationally a month.
Ami: Now obviously, I know this answer now, but what are the benefits of a writer signing with an agent as opposed to submitting their own work to publishers that accept unagented submissions? Based on your experience and knowledge with contracts and insider info, is there any advice you can give for unagented writers who receive a publisher’s offer?
Victoria: Well, agents are familiar with publishing contracts so we’re well equipped to spot predatory clauses. We also know which kinds of royalty rates are fair and all of the smaller points to ask for to ensure that you have the best contract possible. If you’re submitting to publishers sans an agent, I’d just say to really do your research on the publisher you’re signing with before accepting a deal.
Ami: Your 2014 wish list can be found on TBA’s blog, Bent On Books, but are there any specific characters or plots you’d love to see in your inbox?
Victoria: I’d really love a contemporary thriller with a fresh take on witches. I’m also very much on the hunt for a sports romance series that features male POV.
Ami: Can you give any advice to writers who are currently looking for an agent? What are the biggest and most common mistakes you see in queries?
Victoria: Again, my advice would be to do your research. The most common mistake I find in my slush pile are queries from authors with projects that I don’t represent. There are so many wonderful resources on the Internet that specify exactly what an agent is looking for & I recommend all authors to utilize those as much as possible. Also, to all you authors in the query trenches, don’t give up. This business is so subjective so a rejection from five (or twenty) agents doesn’t mean that the perfect agent isn’t out there waiting for your query.
Ami: What can a writer expect their path will be upon signing with you? For instance, are you editorial? How many rounds of revisions, if any, can one expect their manuscript to go through before it’s ready to submit to editors? What’s your communication style?
Victoria: I can be very editorial if the manuscript calls for it, though it all depends on the client. I’ve had clients where I didn’t do any revisions at all and I’ve had clients where I’ve done 3 rounds of revisions for sending the MS out. So I suppose you can expect a certain degree of flexibility with me. I try to be as communicative as possible with my clients whether that means updating them on the status of their submissions ASAP or just having them know that they can come to me with any questions about their work.
Ami: What’s a day in your agent life like?
Victoria: Well, I’m also Jenny Bent’s assistant so between my assistant duties and managing my own list, my days are hardly ever uniform. They’re usually a hectic mix of emails, administrative duties for the office, managing my clients’ submissions, lunches with editors and then more emails. I do all my reading and editing during the evenings & weekends.
Ami: Finally, the most important question of all: You’re stuck on an island with an endless supply of ice cream and a TV that will play one television series on loop until you are rescued: What kind of ice cream and what are you gonna watch?
Victoria: Cookie Dough & Everybody Loves Raymond.
Thanks Victoria, for taking the time for this interview. As always, you’re wonderful! To follow Victoria on twitter, you can find her here.