An Interview with Literary Agent Brandi Bowles
Brandi, a literary agent at Foundry Literary + Media, will be one of our featured agents at this year’s Agents and Editors Conference. To find out more about Brandi and what she represents, visit our Featured Agents page and read her Q&A below.
How would you describe your personal approach to working with a writer/client?
Brandi Bowles: I understand that publishing is a new, complex world for a lot of my clients, so I strive to make myself as open and accessible to them as possible. There are many stages involved in the process, from developing the pitch or proposal, to submitting to editors, to negotiating terms and contracts, and from there the multi-layered publishing experience (covers, publicity and marketing, sales launch meetings, etc). It’s my job not only to make sure each stage goes smoothly, but that my authors are prepared to approach each stage intelligently, confidently, and with realistic expectations. In other words, once they’ve trusted me with their book, I want to give them the tools, beyond just editing, to make their publication a success by every measure.
If a potential client could do one thing to make the experience of working together even better, what would it be?
BB: Most of my clients are pretty well-behaved, but I can’t say the same for publishers! Authors can give themselves better protection by cc’ing their agent on all marketing, publicity, and design conversations. We are paid (via commission) as advisors as well as sales representatives, so I encourage clients to get their money’s worth by leaning on me for questions, protections, and advice.
What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to receiving submissions, reading work, etc.?
BB: It’s frustrating when authors send retaliatory emails over a pass. If I decline to represent someone, which I do at least a dozen times a day, it is either because a) I didn’t personally like their work, b) I didn’t think I could sell it as well as someone else. Angry emails telling me how “wrong” I am are nonsensical, as it’s a completely subjective decision. And I certainly do not have enough time in the day to represent everyone!
You often hear that it’s the first ten pages – or even the first page – that sells a story. Is there something particular that you look for in those first few pages?
BB: I’d like to hear a unique voice on the page, whether that’s through dialogue or style or a unique way of entering into the plot.
If you could give writers one piece of advice, what would it be?
BB: Practice, practice, practice!
Tell us about a project you took on, even though it wasn’t like projects you usually take on, because there was something special or unique about it that you couldn’t say no to. Or, tell us about an exciting or proud moment in your career as an editor or agent.
BB: I try not to limit the kinds of books I represent. If I love something and “get” why it works and who might buy it, I am willing to give it a shot. An especially proud moment would be when I sell a book I’ve submitted several times. When I love something I am relentless, and there are a few books I’ve sold after as many as three rounds of submissions, because I wasn’t willing to give up.