The Agenting Process Explained - Part 1

Rick Frishman

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Every literary agent and agency operates somewhat differently; they may have a different emphasis, style or approach, but all follow a basically similar pattern. Some agencies may specialize in building and managing their clients’ careers, while others concentrate on making individual books into giant, blockbuster hits. However, when it comes to selling books, agencies take similar paths.

Contacting An Agent: Most writers initially contact agents via e-mail. Agents like e-mail inquiries because they're easy to answer. Responding by e-mail saves them time, which is critical because most of the queries they receive are about books that the agents don't handle or are not interested in handling. A declining number of holdouts prefer to receive query letters sent via postal mail, but they're in the minority. So check each agent's Web site to see if it states how the agent prefers to be queried. Potential clients can also initially contact agents at conferences and other events. For information on writers’ conferences, see Writer's Digest ( and ShawGuides (http://writing.

Many agents won't accept unsolicited telephone queries, and if you call, their screeners generally won't put you through. So, again, before you contact agents, check their Web sites to see how they wish to be approached. If, however, you do get through, most agents will ask you to submit something in writing: a query letter, a book proposal or your entire manuscript, if it's written. Agents want written submissions so they can get a sense of the writers’ ability to express themselves clearly. Written submissions also let agents see how well writers are organized and their skill in presenting themselves and their ideas. Agents get a lot of their new clients through referrals from their existing clients and their publishing contacts.

Think Like an Agent: So you're looking for an agent. Where are you going to find one? First of all, ask yourself this simple question: Where do agents go? To be more specific: What conferences do they attend? Where do they speak? What organizations do they belong to? Although we certainly aren't suggesting that you follow them around, we do want you to start thinking like agents think. If you do, it will improve your chances of being at the right place at the right time. Research the literary and publishing scene in your local area. See if, when, and where any writers’ associations, publishers’ groups, and literary clubs meet. Are any nearby bookstores, libraries or cafes conducting interesting programs or hosting book signings? Are local colleges or universities offering lecture series featuring writers, agents, and/or publishers? Since many writers teach, investigate whether any well-known authors are teaching courses that you could attend in your area, even if it's just to sit in. Go where book people congregate and make contacts.

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Rick Frishman President Planned TV Arts

Rick Frishman, president of Planned Television Arts, since 1982 is the driving force behind PTA's exceptional growth. In 1993 PTA merged with Ruder*Finn and Rick serves as an Executive Vice President at Ruder Finn. While supervising PTA's success, he has remained one of the most powerful and energetic publicists in the media industry.

Rick continues to work with many of the top editors, agents and publishers in America including Simon and Schuster, Random House, Harper Collins, Pocket Books, Penguin Putnam, and Hyperion Books. Some of the authors he has worked with include Mitch Albom, Bill Moyers, Stephen King, Caroline Kennedy, Howard Stern, President Jimmy Carter, Mark Victor Hansen, Nelson DeMille, John Grisham, Hugh Downs, Henry Kissinger, Jack Canfield, Alan Deshowitz, Arnold Palmer, and Harvey Mackay. Rick joined the company in 1976 after working as a producer at WOR-AM in New York City. He has a B. F. acting and directing and a B. S. from Ithaca College School of Communications.


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