3 S.R. Johannes: The Bent Agency - Susan Hawk (Literary Agent)

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Bent Agency - Susan Hawk (Literary Agent)

NEWSFLASH: Agent Pitch Contest starts tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9am EST!

Work on your 1-2 sentence pitch!

Here is our agent of the month - Susan Hawk with The Bent Agency

Who you are and tell us about yourself/your agency.

I’m the children’s book agent at The Bent Agency, where I’ve been working since the turn of the year. Before this, I worked for close to 20 years in marketing for children’s books. The last position I held before becoming an agent was as the Director of Marketing at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where I oversaw the marketing efforts geared towards teachers, librarians, booksellers, online and in publicity. Previous to that I was the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers.

With the birth of my second child, I decided to take some time off, but had been considering agenting as a next step. One day, I read a post on an online group that I belong to, asking for interns at a new agency. The post was from Jenny Bent, and we hit it off. Over the course of the next months, we began talking about me becoming an agent, I decided to take the plunge, and here I am!

It's amazing how kids can change everything and give you a new perspective. Especially on work. Whether we are moms or writers, we all have to deal with balance. How do you, as an agent, encourage your authors to market themselves?

There are lots of ways to go about marketing your books, but there are two key things to consider before doing anything:

What kinds of marketing are you suited for? Some authors love public speaking and would be happy to present to an audience of 100. Others shudder at the thought, but would jump at the chance to work with a small group of children. Some are excited to attend an industry conference, for others this is very draining. Creating a strong online presence can be very successful, but only if you welcome the time commitment, and understand the various tools out there used to build one. I work with authors to think through not only the various options available to them as marketers, but which of those options are best suited to them. I’ve always found that the most effective marketing comes from a genuine interest in not only the object marketed, but in the tool you’re using for marketing itself. Obviously, authors are enthusiastic about the book they are marketing. We talk together to pick a tool that allows them to share that enthusiasm best.

That said, I do think it’s important for authors to have some sort of online presence. How complex that is can depend, but it’s good to make sure that all the basic information about your books and who you are as a writer is out there.

The other key issue is to keep your publisher informed of your efforts; this way you don’t duplicate each other. Also, there are some things your publisher will prefer to do themselves (such as contact national publications). Others may be something that you can handle directly, but this differs from house to house, so you need to loop them in. Working with your publisher on marketing will net the best impact in the end, and as an agent, I work to make sure that this communication goes smoothly.

I think it's important to be genuine too or it can actually backfire. In your opinion, as budgets are cute, how have things changed with agencies promoting their author books? What things do agents/literary agencies do to help promote their author's books?

We all know that promotion continues to become a more central part of any book’s success, and as that has changed over time, agents’ focus on the marketing plans that publishing houses create has grown as well. For instance, when I started in publishing, it was unusual for an agent to request a marketing plan before the book was sold, less so now.

As I mentioned above, I work with my clients to think through what marketing efforts they might want to take on themselves, and help them plan that. I’ll be launching a blog soon, and that will be a way to promote my client’s work. A particular skill that I bring my clients is an understanding not only of some strong marketing tools, but of how the process works in a publishing house, when to ask questions about the marketing plan, and when we might be able to give some input.

Can't wait to read the blog! Speaking of online presence, how important is it when you are evaluating whether to take on an author or book?

I do look to see what might be out there, but I don’t feel that an author needs to have any particular web presence in advance of us working together. That can come later.

As an agent, what are you looking for in 2010?

I’m open to many different things. I’d love to find a great YA or middle grade mystery. I’m looking for boy books and humor. I’ve always loved fantasy and sci-fi. What really captures my interest is strong story-telling, a unique, sometimes slightly off-kilter voice and memorable characters that stick with me long after I finish reading.

Come back tomorrow for deets!


Unknown said...

Awesomeness! I'm in.

Anonymous said...

Great info--thanks!! :D

chocolatecovereddaydreams.blogspot.com said...

Thanks for the information. That's great!

Robyn Campbell said...

Hey Shelli girl, How are you? Great info and great questions. Thank you Ms. Hawk. I'll be back in the a.m., Shelli.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great interview - looking forward to seeing the pitches :)

Kelly Polark said...

Another great interview and contest! Thanks, Shelli!

Little Ms J said...

Always at the top of your game, girl!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Thanks for the interview with this agent. It's always interesting to see how they differ on certain things like web presence.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Great interview! I've heard really good things about this agency. :)