Ask a Literary Agent: Amy Cloughley Answers Your Questions

Posted by July 13th, 2015

Amy CloughleyPlease welcome literary agent Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to the blog today! Amy’s in the market to acquire the following types of books: Historical; Literary; Mainstream; Mystery and Suspense (all types but NO paranormal); Thriller (legal, grounded, psychological); Women’s Fiction; Adult Nonfiction (pop culture and humor, sports, narrative, memoir–travel). Like Book Country, Amy will be at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference at the end of this week. If you’ll also be at #PNWA15, you’ll be able to find Amy at the Agent Forum on Friday, July 17, at 10:00am, and at Power Pitch Sessions A, D, & E on Friday and Saturday.

When do you need an agent?  How do you know when you are ready as a writer to take this step? – Claire Count

There are a variety of great options for publishing your work, but if your goal is to be traditionally published, your odds of success increase quite a bit if you work with a qualified agent. Although many small/mid-sized publishers will consider unagented work, most of the larger houses will not, and the publishers who do often give priority to agented submissions.

You will know you are ready to take this step when your manuscript (or book proposal for nonfiction) is your best, most polished work. Although an agent will often provide some feedback to clients, an agent is typically looking to take on projects/clients who are as close to ready for the marketplace as possible. So be sure to do your research and due diligence. What is the typical word count for your genre? Is your POV clear and consistent? Are your main characters fully developed? Is your pacing appropriate for your genre? Did you have quality beta readers provide feedback? Did you identify a few current comparable titles to include in your query? There are numerous websites such as WritersDigest or here at BookCountry, as well as countless books and classes, that cover how to prepare your manuscript for publication. Applying this information will help your manuscript get an agent’s attention.

When a writer is looking for an agent, should they hope to find an agent who will represent them in only one genre? Or will most agents be happy to represent an author involved in a mix of genres. For instance, I write mostly YA fiction, but I am also working on a chick lit novel. – Lucy Basey

That will certainly be something you should take into consideration when choosing which agents to query. Check out the agents’ websites, Publishers Marketplace profiles, and books such as Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents and you will be able to see which agents will be the best fit for your spectrum of work. There are certainly instances where having multiple agents could be the best option—for example, if you write children’s picture books and business related non-fiction, there may be a smaller pool of agents firmly established in both of those areas. But many agents rep both YA and women’s commercial fiction, so finding someone who does both is very doable, and in my opinion, preferable because that one person is looking out for your career as a whole.

I have published nine eBooks. Six are from The Terasrael Chronicles series. The biggest success I’ve had so far is that it peaks enough interest to those I tell about the series for them to jot down the information I supply. What more can I do? – Allen Curtis Meissner

Publicity and promotion are on the fringe of what an agent typically focuses on, but I do tell all of my clients that it is ideal to be active on Twitter and Goodreads, so they can engage in the reading and writing communities. Also, authors should ideally have author pages on Amazon and Facebook as well as a personal author website. Once these pages are all up to date, you will be ready to actively seek book reviews, which is a great way to get the word out about your series. Theindieview.com lists many, many independent bloggers that you could reach out to and request that they consider reviewing your books. Good luck!

What should an agent expect from a writer? What should a writer expect from an agent? (And what should a writer not expect from an agent?) – Claire Count

As I mentioned earlier, an agent expects writers to come to him/her with their best work. That said, I always look for clients who are open to collaboration and who demonstrate professionalism. Before diving into an author/agent partnership, I like to have a dialogue about the direction of the project and the client’s career path to make sure we are in sync. Personally, I am looking for clients who aspire to publish multiple books, so a writer can expect that I will invest my commitment and resources beyond our first book together. Agents each have their own approach to the job—varying communication styles and levels of availability—but when a manuscript is ready for submission, authors can always expect their agent to get the manuscripts in front of the editors who will be the most interested in the projects and to do whatever they can to secure the author the best deal for the work.

On the flip side, I do get submissions that are clearly not ready for submission. I wish I could help develop all of the great ideas that I see, but sadly that just isn’t practical. If I see something really special in a project, I might ask for a revision and a resubmit, but an author’s odds are so much higher if he/she does the work before submitting in the first place. One of the thrills of agenting is reading a clean, compelling submission that I want to champion—agents go to battle over those—so it really is worth the effort.

Amy Cloughley has been with Kimberley Cameron & Assoc. since 2012 and working with her own select client list since 2013. She has studied creative writing, journalism, and literature and holds a B.S. in magazine journalism. Amy worked in editorial and marketing roles in magazine publishing and corporate business before shifting her professional focus to her lifelong love of books. She leverages her background in both words and business to benefit her clients.

You can find her at kimberleycameron.com and on twitter @amycloughley

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2 thoughts on “Ask a Literary Agent: Amy Cloughley Answers Your Questions

  1. Lucy

    Thank you so much for this post. My question has niggled away at me for some time and the other answers are insightful too!

    Reply

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