Ambit Creative
Rachel Zurakowski

Rachel Zurakowski is an agent with Books & Such Literary Agency ( Rachel has more than four years of agency experience and training; she works closely with agents Janet Kobobel Grant, Wendy Lawton, and Etta Wilson. She specializes in fiction and nonfiction for teens, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings. Her goal is to develop strong relationships with her clients and to help them to develop lasting relationships with their editors and publishers.

To Be An Agent

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? How your eye caught a glimpse of him or her and returned for a second glance? How you relished spending time with the new person in your life? You wanted to talk about your special someone; you wanted everyone to appreciate that person’s qualities. You couldn’t help yourself. And your enthusiasm was contagious—even your mother started to like that person.

That’s the sort of enthusiasm every agent wants to feel about the projects they represent. We see something in a manuscript that catches our interest and we think, “Hmm. There may be something unusual here.” We start to love the protagonist and worry about him or her. We want to set aside all our other work and finish the story—we’ve got to know what happens. And then we share it with everyone in the office, with our families, our friends and, finally, an editor. We can’t contain ourselves—the writing simply makes our souls sing.

When I pitch my clients’ manuscripts to editorial houses, I am pitching projects I love. Because of my excitement about my authors’ writing, I am highly motivated to see their books published and on bookstore shelves. As I receive news for my clients from the editors who are reviewing the manuscripts, I share their fluctuating emotions—from every glimmer of hope to every sting of rejection. I feel impatient during the waiting-for-responses time. I chew my nails and pray while the project is considered at committee.

I was at a writers’ conference recently when I received news that a publishing house was making an offer for a project from one of my debut authors. I called my client to share the good news. It was SO fun to make that call. My author went speechless when her dream came true. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole conference, and I’m still smiling now.

The book will be published next year. I’ll be in the local bookstores making sure that my client’s book is on the shelf when it releases, and I’ll be telling all my friends to buy a copy.

Our agency receives hundreds of queries a week from good writers with unique ideas. As a rule, however, our agency won’t represent a project we aren’t excited about. Even if the book has the potential to make money, we want to be enthusiastic in representing our clients for three reasons:

1) If I pitch a project with enthusiasm, an editor is more likely to want to take a look. Enthusiasm is contagious. And if I love the story, I’ll know it well and thus be able to answer any questions about the project.

2) Agents want to feel good about what we’re selling. If I represented a manuscript I knew would sell for a lot of money, but it contained elements I’m not comfortable with—raw language, gratuitous sex, glorified abuse, etc.—I would never feel good about putting that book on the shelves. I want to be able to go into a bookstore, point out the book I represented, and tell everyone in the store it’s terrific.

3) Enthusiastic representation fosters good client/agent relationships. If I connect with an author’s characters and love his or her manuscript, chances are I’m going to get along fabulously with the writer. Forming relationships with my clients is one of the joys of being an agent. We are friends, and even though we’re discussing business, it’s comfortable and fun because of our common bond: love for their project. My clients know I enjoy their writing and that I want the best for their work. They also know I will give my honest opinion on new projects to help them improve their stories.

Enthusiasm for certain genres also plays a role in our ability to represent projects well. Every agent is different. We like different books, we have different connections, and we have unique personalities. Like any reader, agents have their genre preferences, and while they can represent projects outside of their personal interests, they tend to be more excited about those they find more interesting. For example, I enjoy contemporary romance, contemporary fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense, fantasy, fairy tale stories, and most teen fiction. I often request proposals and manuscripts from these genres. I rarely like supernatural stories, spiritual warfare, science fiction, or non-romance historicals. The likelihood I would take on writer in a genre I’m not interested in is slim.

Many of you are in the process of looking for an agent, and I hope you’ll keep this article in mind as you move toward representation. Try to find an agent who loves your work and will stand by you for each step of the publishing process. Before you sign with an agent, be sure you can establish a relationship of respect and trust with that agent. And ask yourself the big question: Is this person enthusiastic about my writing?