Think Like an Agent: Commanding Authority: An Agent’s Negotiation Edge

Not all literary agents are created equal. Agent Kristin Nelson and author Karen Dionne have seen the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. In this article series, “Think Like an Agent,” they pool their expertise. 


kristin nelsonIn January, one my clients emailed me a great note to kick off the new year. She wrote:

“This is going to sound random, but I feel the need to do a bit of effusive gushing to you. As you probably know, authors eventually turn to gossip (about their contracts too) and I recently found out that several writers I know are stuck with joint accounting, one of them being a NYT bestseller. To say the least, I was agog. My next, immediate thought was that I have the best agent ever.”

Because my client knows that all our contracts here at NLA have separate accounting. I really appreciate when my authors recognize a good job well done because let me tell you, great contract negotiation is not the sexy part of agenting. But it’s the backbone of a great career for my authors.Read More

Think Like an Agent: Agent as Savvy Business Manager

Not all literary agents are created equal. Agent Kristin Nelson and author Karen Dionne have seen the good, the bad, and the truly ugly. In this article series, “Think Like an Agent,” they pool their expertise.

kristin nelson


Simply put, a literary agent is the person an author hires to manage his or her publishing career.

Literary agent is actually an odd career. It’s the only job in which the the agent picks the client first, and then the client decides whether or not to hire the agent. What other job is remotely like that? None. It’s unique to this industry.

Regardless, once an agent offers you representation, saying “yes” and hiring your agent is a business decision—one with real consequences that directly impact the success of your career.

And not all agents are equal—especially in their skill set.Read More

Think Like an Agent by Kristin Nelson

kristin nelsonWriters Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

For years, I’ve been friends with the Backspace Co-Founder Extraordinaire Karen Dionne. Over the break, she reached out to me to see if I was open to doing the 2016 Salt Cay Writers Retreat in the Caribbean.

Like I need to think about that. Conference in a warm, tropical setting? Oh, heck yeah, I’m in. But as we were chatting, we started talking about how writers sometimes want an agent so badly, they are willing to sign with an average or even a below-average agent. Trust me, not all agents are equal.

And I said, “Well, writers don’t know what they don’t know.”

In that moment, a lightbulb went off for both of us. Writers don’t know what a good agent does. How could you if 1) a writer has never experienced it and 2) a writer has had one agent and no way to assess just how strong they might be at the job.Read More

Why Prologues Often Don’t Work by Kristin Nelson

kristin nelsonKristin’s incomplete list of why prologues don’t work:

1. When the sole purpose of the prologue is to fill the reader in on the back-story so the real story can begin.

This is so easy to point out but harder to explain.

In the example of UNDONE, Brooke Taylor needed a prologue to show how it all started. To juxtapose who the girls were when they first “meet” versus who they are when chapter 1 begins. The prologue also serves a strong purpose. It sets tone, character, and sets up several questions. Why did Kori become a “I-puke-cheerleaders-for-breakfast” kind of girl? Something has happened but what? Why is Serena obsessed with her by her own admission? And it’s very clear that these two girls have nothing in common in this bathroom scene yet Kori calmly states that they are more alike than Serena knows. They are connected.

This is a prologue with a clear purpose. The reader should want to know more by the end or it doesn’t work. It’s also masterful. Brooke managed to accomplish quite a bit in just 4 short paragraphs and this leads me to the second reason why prologues often don’t work.Read More

Why Literary Agents Attend Writers Conferences (It’s Not What You Think) by Karen Dionne

Karen Dionne

As co-founder of the online writers community Backspace, I’ve been organizing the Backspace Writers Conferences held twice-annually in New York City for the past 9 years. Recently a writer who is considering attending Backspace’s newest offering, the Salt Cay Writers Retreat taking place this October on a private island in the Bahamas, wondered how we’re able to assemble such a high-level group of bestselling authors, editors, and agents for a week-long workshop.

“Other than the locale and swimming with dolphins,” she asked, “what do you think the faculty members hope to get out of this retreat?”

It’s a great question. Literary agents in particular receive hundreds of query letters from aspiring writers every week. Why would they take time from their busy schedules to go to a writers conference or retreat and meet yet more writers in person?Read More

The Writer’s Guide to Rocking It on Twitter by Molly Jaffa

molly-jafaReposted with permission from Between the Pages

You’re a querying or soon-to-be querying writer. You’re on Twitter, doing your research, following agents and editors, carefully choosing which agents you want to query, and networking with other writers. You’re doing a lot of work to learn the ropes, and now you want to make Twitter work for you. How can you make that happen?Read More

Jeff Kleinman’s Guidelines to Good Conference Attendeeness

jeff-kleinmanStep #1. TALK to fellow participants.

A couple of months ago I whined about how tough it was to get a project that was really ready to go – a project with a great voice, great writing, great concept. Do you realize what a huge boon you have at these conferences, literally tripping over published authors and – possibly even more intriguing – other wannabe writers who could be an enormous asset to you – reading drafts of your manuscript, offering a different perspective on your work?Read More