Poets & Writers

We Mean Business

To say there are a lot of literary agents out there is an understatement—almost like saying there are a lot of writers looking for an agent (but not quite). The Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1991, currently lists more than four hundred agents as members, all of whom meet certain experience requirements and abide by an established code of ethics. Another, more general, online database claims to offer details for nearly a thousand agents of varying levels of expertise and areas of emphasis. The carefully curated and focused database of literary agents at pw.org lists more than a hundred, including contact information, submission guidelines, and client lists.

No, the challenge for writers is not a dearth of agents, but rather picking the right one out of the crowd. (Of course, the same could be said about the challenge for agents.) To help narrow the field, I contacted a dozen hungry agents who I know are eager to receive an e-mail from an as-yet-unknown writer and asked each of them for some basic information about what kind of work they want to read and how to reach them, as well as some not-so-basic information that will help you get to know them a little better. Remember, publishing is a business of relationships. You don’t want to simply fire off an e-mail to any agent you happen to come across. Read carefully. In the following profiles, a dozen agents are dropping some subtle (and not so subtle) hints for you. Have you written a piece of narrative nonfiction that gets to the heart of what it means to live in a specific geographical region? Duvall Osteen might be a great fit. Do you have a novel set in North Carolina? Adam Eaglin could be your man. Are you from Detroit and love music? You may need to look no further than Carrie Howland. Are you a writer of smart horror fiction and just can’t get enough of the work of Joe Hill and Nathan Ballingrud? You should take the time to get to know Renée Zuckerbrot.

These twelve agents all have distinct personalities, aesthetics, work habits, backgrounds, proclivities, and peeves—and so do you. So take your time, do the research, read books by their clients, and listen to what these professionals are saying. One of them might be speaking directly to you.

KEVIN LARIMER is the editor in chief of Poets & Writers, Inc.

Julie Barer

The Book Group

Who she represents: Joshua Ferris (), Bret Anthony Johnston (), Lily King (), Celeste Ng (), Cristina Henriquez (), Helen Simonson (), Mia Alvar (), Madeline Miller (), Alice Sebold (), Kathleen Kent (), Nicole Dennis-Benn (), Megan Mayhew Bergman (), Paula McLain (e), Kevin Wilson (), Charles Yu ()

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