Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interview with Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency

I’d like to welcome our guest agent today, Jenny Bent from The Bent Agency. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.

What’s your publishing background? Will you please give us a little information about your new agency? How many clients did you bring over with you? What other genres do you represent?

I started out in 1992 as the assistant to a very smart and talented agent named Raphael Sagalyn. He's represented many, many New York Times bestsellers. After that I worked for Michael Cader--Michael is a fantastic guy and also pretty much a genius and he started Publishers Marketplace after I worked for him. Then I worked at Graybill and English, Harvey Klinger, and most recently Trident. I have similarly good things to say about all of these places--basically I am very grateful to everyone who helped and taught me along the way. I started THE BENT AGENCY a little over a month ago. It's always been my dream to have my own agency and my name on the door. I brought over almost everyone although not everyone will have a project to sell right away. I represent commercial fiction, literary fiction, memoir, humor, and fun women's lifestyle.

What fees (if any) does your agency charge? What is your agency’s commission rate?

No fees. I am 15% and 20% for foreign.

What’s your response time for queries, partials and full manuscripts?

Right now I don't have the best response time. I've had to ask people to stop querying for the time being because I have over 1,000 queries. I'm going through them now with the help of a few assistants. Ask me again in about a month!

What new author have you recently signed?

I recently signed Kieran Kramer, a first time writer. We just made a deal for her -- four books to Jen Enderlin at St. Martins. We are both thrilled. I recently blogged about selling books by first time writers--it's absolutely one of the best things about the job.

What new project made you grab for that hidden piece of chocolate in your pencil drawer?

Wait--does that mean a good project? Because I grab for chocolate in times of stress. And it would be a box, not a piece. Or better yet, one of those enormous chocolate bars. If you follow me on twitter you know all about my unhealthy, sugary, stress eating.

What can an author do to grab your attention?

Great writing, great ideas.

What houses have you recently sold to?

Since I've been here I've sold two projects to St. Martins and one book to Counterpoint, which is a very prestigious literary publisher. I am working on deals for four other authors and four other houses so check back with me in a few weeks.

What do you love/hate most about being an agent?

Right now, starting my own business, I am rediscovering everything I ever loved about being an agent. Truly, it is all wonderful and exciting right now, from negotiating a deal, reading through queries, editing proposals, talking on the phone to editors and authors--I feel so lucky and blessed to do what I do.

What trends do you see for the future of publishing?

I think that the rise of electronic publishing is being hastened by the fall of our economy. As bookstore chains falter, the e-book format benefits.

Any other chocolate nuggets you can give authors looking for representation?

This advice isn't new, but it may bear repeating. The best way I think to find an agent is to pick five books that are close to yours. Find the agent in the acknowledgements and query them, mentioning that they represent x author and you think your work has some similarities.

Also, I know it's cliche, but an agent's reaction truly is subjective. Just because I don't see a way to sell something doesn't mean it's a bad book. I pass on great projects every day -- and I know they are very strong -- for the simple reason that I'm not completely in love. If I'm not in love, I'm not the best advocate and I'd be doing a writer a disservice to pretend otherwise.


Thanks Jenny! Great insight.

Check out the agent’s website at


Mary Marvella said...

Jenny! Hey, lady. It's about time you became your own boss.

Erin Quinn (aka Erin Grady) said...

Great interview--and great to "meet" you Jenny. Best of luck with your agency!

Hope Tarr said...

Wonderful news, Jenny. Congratulations.