Today, I’m pleased to interview Laurel Symonds, literary agent with The Bent Agency. Laurel will be doing a First 15 pages workshop for Inked Voices next month. Welcome, Laurel!
Before becoming a literary agent, you were in editorial at a major publisher, you did marketing for a smaller publishing house, you worked as a bookseller, and you worked in a library. What have you learned from these experiences? How have these experiences informed your approach to agenting, and to the industry?
When I started in the industry nearly a decade ago, I never could have predicted the path I’ve taken! At the end of the day, though, my passion has always been about connecting young readers to the right book. Being an agent allows me to combine these experiences in unique ways. For example, I am a very editorial focused agent who finds joy in the revision process. Working in marketing and as a bookseller means that I am confident I am the right partner to see clients beyond the initial sale and through a robust marketing and sales process.
What kinds of clients do you represent, and what are you looking for in new clients, writing-wise?
My client list is diverse and that’s exactly the way I want it! My clients write (and illustrate) picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult novels—both fiction and nonfiction. In new clients, writing-wise I’m looking for earnest voices (I want the next Willowdean or Dimple or Lara Jean), immersive worlds (I’m a big fantasy reader), and the unexpected (whether a unique concept, plot twist, or something else).
Do you represent clients on a book-by-book basis or on a career basis?
I always look to represent clients on a career basis! I want to build a strong relationship full of trust and openness that will allow my client and I to face anything the industry might throw at us.
When reading queries…Do you prefer to see the pitch at the top of the query letter or a short personalization? Do you prefer to see comp titles?
I do like to see a query at the top of the pitch along with some personalization as to why an author is querying me personally. Comp titles are great to include in that pitch. Although a strong pitch can open the door, only amazing writing will entice me to sign up the author as a client.
Tell us some of your favorite books, aside from those of your own clients.
This is always such a tough question for me because I have different favorites at different times. Classic favorites include Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, and Ella Enchanted. Recently, I read Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu and Finale by Stephanie Garber and loved both!
And, just for fun…
Coffee or tea? Always tea. I’ve never been a coffee drinker.
Favorite season? It used to be fall (I was always the kid who was eager to go back to school) but lately spring, with all the blooming flowers and post-winter sunshine, has taken the lead.
A place you hope to visit some day: Places I haven’t yet been to that are high on my list include the Everglades, Croatia, Mexico, and Australia.
Jessica Murray is a poet and children's writer. Her poetry collection Singing Without Melody is forthcoming from Galileo Press in spring 2022, and her poems are featured in journals such as AGNI Online, Barrow Street, The Cortland Review, Free State Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and Memorious. A member of Inked Voices and SCBWI, by day she works in higher education, non-profit, and educational media production spaces.