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A Guide to Agents

A "Boutique Literary Agency":
A Website Case Study of Adams Literary

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In my article Finding and Choosing Literary Agents I suggest that one way to learn about an agent is to review their website. Here is a website from a smaller agency founded in 2004, and more focused than larger firms such as Writers House. Adams Literary is a family agency--the principals are wife and husband. Though their site is different in some ways from what you'll see from a more established agency, it is easily distinguishable from an agency that isn't really an agency. Watch for what you could call "signals of quality."

Impressions: The site itself is simply laid out, using an attractive template. On the home page, a few paragraphs introduce the agency, making it clear that they are a children's book agency, among other things. To one side, I see a slide show of jackets from what I quickly learn are recent books by agency clients. Good signs already--no hard sell, and evidence that this is an agency that makes sales.

Qualifications: The bios of the three agents on staff are easy to find. Tracey Adams, the chief public face of the agency, has impressive qualifications, having worked at two well-known literary agencies, and for Margaret McElderry Books. Her husband Josh has also editorial experience, and a business/media background as well--useful at a small agency. Quinlan Lee is a published author and also has business experience. These are the kinds of qualifications you want to see.

Clients: Information about the clients of the agancy is located in an entire section of the site dedicated to them, which not only lists all clients from the well-known to the not-yet-published, but includes bios, website links, and book lists (with an appropriate disclaimer that not all of the books listed were represented by the agency). If you want to ask any of them about their experiences with the agency, that won't be hard to do. Again, information about existing clients is a clear sign of quality.

Other sections of the site showcase recent releases and art by illustrator clients.

Terms: Submissions information is clear and complete, and a form for submissions is easy to use. Adams Literary gives a general statement about how they work with clients, but does not include information about commission rates, which I'd like to see. Still, from everything I've seen on the site I can assume they follow the industry-standard 15% rate, and I'll be surprised if that is not the case.

Conclusions: This site has all the information I would expect to find on a legitimate agency's website, and none of the red flags I've learned to associate with agencies to avoid. And that's not surprising, as you can find Adams Literary listed in the standard guides to agents (which you should always consult if you aren't familiar with an agency, even if it looks fine). On top of that, the agency's site provides information and an introduction to the people behind the name, which helps a writer know what it might be like to work with them, before contacting them.

For comparison purposes, some other "boutique agencies" I know are Barry Goldblatt Literary, Dunham Literary, Herman Agency, The McVeigh Agency, Red Fox Literary, and Scott Treimel NY. You'll see some differences, but if you browse through the websites you will start to develop a sense of what to look for in a website for an agent you don't know.

Information given here is based on visits to the Adams Literary site during the second week of September, 2011.

Disclosure: I know and like the principals of Adams Literary, Tracey and Josh Adams, but decided that I shouldn't let that stand in the way of using their agency's website as a case study; it is a good example of an independent agency's site, and, after all, I do know a lot of agents.

Copyright © Harold D. Underdown. May not be reproduced in any form without prior permission. Terms of use

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