Today, we have a very special treat. My wonderful, amazing, fabulous, super-smart and brilliant agent, Rachel Brooks of BookEnds Literary Agency (can you tell how highly I think of her?), has agreed to answer some questions. Ever wonder what an agent is thinking? How they go through their queries and decide who to offer representation to? Rachel is here to give you one agent’s impression of this exciting, yet sometimes overwhelming industry that is publishing.
And as you will see, she gives clear, precise answers while I forgot what I was asking in the middle of the question. But being the fabulous mind-reader that she is, she knew exactly what I was trying to ask!
So without further ado, here is the best agent ever, Rachel Brooks!
LLB: Hi Rachel! You first came on my radar because you liked a pitch I did for #PitMad back in 2017. Have you found many clients through online events? Or more through good old-fashioned querying?
RB: 2017…wow, where does the time go? I used to participate in online pitch events frequently, but have stepped back from many of them now (and social media in general). Although I occasionally peek in or colleagues share things if they partake. Some authors find success with contests, others with cold querying agents they’ve researched, and some a mix of both. It’s the same way on the agent side of things with finding clients. Whatever works for the authors and works for the agents, go for it!
LLB: Do you usually know right away from the first sample pages if you’ll be excited by a project? Or has there been others that didn’t grab you until later?
RB: With most of the books I’ve offered on, I was excited right away. Every now and then there is one where the sample pages that came with the query had a seed—I could see there was something there and maybe the author didn’t start their story in the strongest way—and then request the full to see if it 100% grabs me a few more pages in.
LLB: I signed with you after doing an R & R for you. Can you tell our readers what an R & R is and why you request them?
RB: An R& R (revise and resubmit) is when an agent or editor sees strong potential in a project but it’s not quite where it needs to be in order to offer. They give feedback and if the author wants to undertake those revisions, then they can resubmit the new version for a second chance.
Even if one person invites you to do an R&R, another might offer as is. This could be because of subjectivity in what the person thinks makes the book work for the market. Or maybe the person is asking for such large changes, they want to make sure the author can pull them off, rather than finding out after they are a client that they have very different definitions of “extensive” edits.
With me, I think the author should only undertake the work if they feel that my notes and the revisions would make the book stronger for submitting it to anyone. Because I can’t guarantee I’d offer even after the R&R. There may be substantial work that still needs done, or maybe it’s now clear our editorial visions are not aligning in a major way. The hope, though, is that the author nails it and I offer representation!
LLB: I signed with you for my third book. But you had requested the full on my second book also. I had a question I was going to ask you related to this but now I can’t remember where this was going (you know, pandemic brain) so I’m leaving this here in case you think of something relevant to say about an author you once requested a full from querying you with a new project – LOL.
RB: This happens probably more than people think, when agents sign someone and it’s not for the first manuscript they queried that same agent. The first thing queried wasn’t quite right—maybe it was too similar to something we already represent, or we didn’t think the writing was quite there yet. Maybe it was a good book, but in our opinion, not marketable in the current market. There are so many reasons why we might pass and say to please remember us if this one doesn’t work out elsewhere. (I’m so glad you decided to try me again, Lyn!)
LLB: Does your wishlist stay pretty much the same from year to year? Has it changed during the pandemic? What are you wishing for now?
RB: Generally I gravitate toward the same type of genres from year to year. I also see similar interests pop up across genres on my list. For example, I seem to like signing up books that relate to food in some way. I have a book with a baking competition, another centered on a food truck owner, one where the heroine wants to open her own pastry shop, one where ice cream is the family business, and another with a heroine who runs a produce booth at the farmers market. (Maybe I am simply hungry a lot? Hmmm…)
That said, sometimes I don’t know a book is the book I’ve been needing in my life until the pitch hits my query inbox. Right now, a fun (or funny) book that helps me escape and forget about the pandemic is a plus!
LLB: One of the things you taught me about the publishing business is how SLOW it is. Not just the querying process, but the submission process, then the entire publishing journey itself once a project sells. What’s your advice to writers who are agonizing over how slow this industry is?
RB: Ugh, it’s awful, isn’t it? I understand how hard it is for authors to adjust. Because even when someone is warned like you were, it’s several times slower than that person is likely imagining. You think you know how slow? Make it about 5 times slower than that. Now 5 again. We can all secretly stomp our feet and suffer together, which might be frustrating advice, but at least nobody is alone in disliking this aspect of the business!
After three years as an agent at the L. Perkins Agency, Rachel Brooks moved to BookEnds Literary in June of 2017. Since joining the publishing industry, she’s had the opportunity to work with many award-winning and bestselling authors, as well as wonderful debuts.
Rachel’s focus is representing fiction, including women’s fiction (commercial or upmarket), romance, mystery, and YA. You can find more details about what she’s looking for on our Submissions page.
When not working, Rachel is likely hanging out with her husband and chatty rescue cat trying new recipes, watching K-dramas, or playing World of Warcraft.
Lyn Liao Butler
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