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August 5, 2010

Notes from SCBWI 2010: Literary Agents View the Market Place

Kate Hart
As the only unagented author in our crew, I was very interested in the panel with four agents from very different agencies. Ken Wright from Writers House, Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown, Lisa Grubka from Foundry and Josh Adams from Adams Literary answered an hour's worth of questions from moderator extraordinaire, Lin Oliver. My notes are long, so I'll break this article into two parts, with the second half coming Saturday.

Introduction from each agent
GC: Wants mermaids and sirens NOW. I see people on AW lamenting all the time that no one reps fantasy, but Ginger mentioned she reps both high and mid YA fantasy. Publishers are looking for middle grade. She accepts both email and snail mail queries but prefers the former.

KW: Considers himself a hands on agent. He's seeing YA literary, MG series and young MG fiction selling. He also reps YA non-fiction.

JA: Works with wife Tracy, and they only rep kids books. He started by saying, "The state of the market is strong." They take e-queries and give priority to SCBWI members/attendees. He also pointed out that "timeless [stories] will always be timely."

LG: Reps both kids and adult books. She's very interested in YA/MG with an international focus, as well as stories based in reality, voice-driven, and strong characters. Editors are looking for boy MG. She takes email queries but tends to give paper queries a longer look.

A Look at the Foreign Market
GC: Feels an agent should hold on to as many rights as possible. Books that aren't super-American (i.e. focused on American football and baseball) do better. She suggested authors look for agents who have sub-agents for translations.

JA: Having the agency market foreign rights usually gets you a better split with the publisher. He's seen authors get a higher advance in foreign countries than they did domestically, but it's harder to sell stand alones abroad.

LG: Be sure to tell your agent about any connections you have in foreign countries or fluency in other languages.

Contracts and Subsidiary Rights
JA: Tries to keep them all. You wouldn't think you'd need theme park rights, but you never know!

GC: One current issue is publishers wanting to include audio rights as part of their boilerplate agreement. Another is multimedia rights, especially for enhanced e-books. Some publishers would like to "gently" animate picture books, but film companies usually want those rights.

KW: If publisher is insistent, he inserts language that returns the rights to the author after a short amount of time.

JA: The higher the advance, the more rights the publisher wants to take. Reversion language like Ken mentioned can help avoid a dealbreaker.

LG: No one's sure what the next big platform will be. Publishers are "like squirrels with winter coming," trying to store as many rights as possible just in case.

KW: Also includes "back language," which lets the author renegotiate the contract if the publisher isn't utilizing the rights.

Check back Saturday for the rest of the panel!

*I scribbled notes as fast I could, and apologize to the agents if I've misrepresented anything they said.


  1. Lisa Grubka sounds like the perfect agent for me to query with my current project. She's going to the top of my list. Thank you, Kate! Can't wait to find out your news and read more about the conference!

  2. Eeeeexcellent round-up, m'dear.

    wv: enarde. enarde? I just feel like that should be a real word. It's good.

  3. You are back! *hugs* There's no way I am not going to SCBWI next year. Too much talk of hot tubs. Must go!

  4. Hey, your notes are WAY better than mine---coolio!

    Plus, I'm jealous of the hill rolling!



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