Agent #40 – 20 Feet Underground

With agent #40 I stayed in New York. This agency is quite large. Their list of agents numbers nearly 20, including a CEO, a chairman, a couple of vice-presidents, three agents who only handle foreign rights, one who just does audio rights and another one who does children’s books. Their list of authors is ENORMOUS – it must number over 500 which is the most I’ve seen since I started this process back in January. No wonder Publisher’s Market rated them #1 in sales for 2010…the sixth year in a row they’ve held that position. Impressive!

So clearly this agency has a lot of muscle and anyone lucky enough to be signed by them (including Mel Brooks, Belinda Carlisle, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Colbert, Barbara Eden, Brian Herbert and the DUNE estate, the Issac Asimov estate, Engelbert Humperdinck, Neale Donald Walsch, and a New York photographer cleverly named “F-Stop Fitzgerald”) have quite the team representing them.

It took me more than an hour to read through the pages for each of the agents at this company to find the best fit. I eventually chose to approach a guy who said he was “especially interested in taking on new literary and commercial novelists” which isn’t something you read on these websites very often. For obvious and understandable reasons, most of them state their preference for “previously published and established authors with a proven track record”…or variations on that theme. That’s all very well if your name happens to be Agatha Christie but for those of us further down the publishing totem pole (especially us who are currently squished at the bottom, 20 feet underground) reading something like that is very encouraging.

But first I had to do something that I’d not encountered before. I had to read an 8-point Terms & Conditions policy and then fill out an online form detailing my name, address, email, phone number and the agent I was about to approach and submit it to the agency before I submitted my query to the specific agent. Not that there was anything in the Terms & Conditions that I would consider unusual or worrying – just the usual stuff like how submitting a query places the agency under no obligation to take me on as a client. But I guess being such a large and all-encompassing agency means they’ve come across more than their fair share of legally grey issues–enough to warrant such a step, at any rate.

So I did that, and then sent off my query in which I reminded him that he stated he was interested in hearing from new authors…just in case he found himself wading through my query thinking, Where’s the bit where he tells me how many of his books have made it to the New York Times bestseller lists…?


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
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