Ambit Creative
Sandra Bishop

Sandra Bishop began working with MacGregor Literary in spring of ’08. She is currently working with a mix of fiction, non-fiction, and memoir authors in both CBA and ABA markets, and is having a great time working with Chip MacGregor. Sandra lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Glenn, a vocational rehab counselor and very nice guy, and their “almost 10” year-old son, Eli. When she’s not working, Sandra can often be found in her backyard dreaming of lush vines and mature lilacs while trying to keep their pet bunnies out of the neighbor’s garden, or wandering among the stacks at Powell’s City of Books.

What Does It Take To Be An Agent?

A lot of folks have been asking how it came about that I joined MacGregor Literary, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to introduce myself a bit and let people in on how I went from writer to agent.

I was keeping my head down writing articles for a living, working on my novel, volunteering with my local Christian writers’ summer conference, and trying to decide whether I had what it took to write and publish a memoir.

I rounded up the courage to send my idea to Chip, and he replied, asking if we could get together to talk. That began a series of discussions in which we talked about my future as a writer, my background in publishing, and my employment history with non-profits running fund-raising campaigns, managing volunteers, and running speakers’ bureaus. During our discussions, Chip asked if I would be willing to launch a speakers’ bureau to serve his authors, and within a few months, Command Performance Speakers’ Bureau was up and running. It wasn’t long, though, before Chip told me I had what it took to be a good agent. Who was I to argue? I promptly responded to his invitation to join his agency, and haven’t looked back except to ask one question: “What are the qualities required to make one a ‘good’ agent?”

It takes lots of things, of course. But, I’ll talk about one key quality that doesn’t get covered a lot in articles from or about agents. It’s one Chip said he recognized in me right away.


It’s a hard thing to define. So, I went to the good ol’ Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, where I found a pretty applicable definition.

Instinct: a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity, as in “she had an instinct for the right word.”

I gotta say, when I read that particular usage example, it made me smile. I’ve been told all my life I have a way with words: the ability to find just the right one when others can’t; the capacity to frankly state what others are afraid to. And I have to confess it’s been mentioned more than once that someday “that mouth” of mine was going to get me into trouble.

Thanks Mom.

I found it an interesting exercise to look at the words that comprise this definition of instinct. If you care to learn more about me, read on.

Inherent aptitude. Hmm. I’ve learned a few things along the way regarding my aptitude, starting back in high school when that

test, requiring penciling in all those little ovals, pointed out my love for adventure, tolerance of solitude, and ability to figure things out for myself. At the time, the career counselor told me the results of my test revealed that that I should become a forest ranger. Well, if changing toilet paper in outhouses and collecting camp fees was what I should have been doing all these years to find happiness, I blew it a long time ago!

I guess the idea of wearing a uniform appealed to me, for not long after high school, I joined the Marine Corps, and I passed the aptitude assessments required for getting me into radio operators school—a position that the recruiter assured would be the first step toward a high level communications position at the Pentagon. Ready for a shock? He lied. No Pentagon. Instead, I learned how to assemble, disassemble, pack, and clean field (analog) radios, so if the need ever arose I’d be amongst the first in line to secure a battle station in combat. Thanks a lot, Sergeant Gilroy!

Since getting out of the Marine Corps, I’ve stayed far, far away from any thought of aptitude tests, but in my subsequent careers with non-profits, publishing, and writing, I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I’m productive, task oriented, keeping my head down, and getting the job done, but I also crave meaningful work, enjoy interaction, and am quite good with people.

How about impulse, then? Well . . . I’m a planner by nature. Not someone my husband would call spontaneous. But when I believe something will work, I’m never afraid to go for it. Taking a chance on something I believe in comes easy for me. I’m driven by it, actually. Having come from a long line of entrepreneurs and bootstrappers, risk simply doesn’t scare me.

And capacity? Well, exactly what the limit to my capacity is in regard to how many authors I can responsibly and professionally handle, I’m still figuring out. But, I have learned that I can handle and juggle details beyond what I ever imagined possible. And I can pack a carryon like a pro. And I can take anything Chip dishes out. So if any of those things relate to what they meant by capacity, I think I’m covered.

MacGregor Literary