Agent Advice: Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency

This installment features The Bent Agency’s (formerly with Trident Media Group) Jenny Bent, who has represented more than a dozen books on the New York Times bestseller lists since becoming an agent in 1996. At Writer’s Digest Books, we were pleased to have her as a contributor to the 2003 Guide to Literary Agents.
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“Agent Advice”(this installment featuring agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency) is a series of quick interviews with literary agents and script agents who talk with Guide to Literary Agents about their thoughts on writing, publishing, and just about anything else. This series has more than 170 interviews so far with reps from great literary agencies. This collection of interviews is a great place to start if you are just starting your research on literary agents.

This installment features The Bent Agency's (formerly with Trident Media Group) Jenny Bent, who has represented more than a dozen books on the New York Times bestseller lists since becoming an agent in 1996. At Writer’s Digest Books, we were pleased to have her as a contributor to the 2003 Guide to Literary Agents.

She is seeking: Check out Jenny's online guidelines here, as she represents a lot of subjects.

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: What's the most recent thing you've sold?

JB: Ronda Rich’s What Southern Women Know About Faith to Dudley Delffs at Zondervan.

GLA: You've said you're looking for literary fiction and women's commercial fiction, humor, narrative nonfiction, biography, health, and how-to books. Do other kinds of manuscripts ever interest you?

JB: Not so much the health books or biography anymore. In terms of practical nonfiction, I’m really looking for projects which can be best described as women’s lifestyle. I also like dog books and, occasionally, branded authors that I can make work in the CBA. I’m actually looking right now for a dog book that would work in the CBA, but it has to be from an author with a platform.

GLA: If a writer sends you a promising query outside your specific areas of interest, will you pass it along to one of your colleagues at Trident Media Group?

JB: Yes, absolutely.

GLA: How would you describe your ideal client?

JB: Ah, the famous "ideal client" question. Someone who writes quickly and sells well.

GLA: How can writers best learn your particular tastes and preferences?

JB: I think it’s really trial and error when it comes to finding that out. You can look on the Internet for old interviews, etc., which might be helpful, or read books that I’ve agented.

GLA: Do you want to receive queries from writers in countries other than the U.S.?

JB: I represent authors from Australia and England. What nonfiction writers should know is that it can be very difficult to place an author who sells well abroad in the U.S. It’s not impossible, but if the base of your readership is abroad, that doesn’t necessarily translate to sales in the U.S.

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GLA: How do you prefer to be contacted by writers seeking representation?

JB: E-mail, definitely.

GLA: What kinds of writing credentials or professional affiliations do you look for when you receive a query?

JB: This really varies by project, I’m afraid. An active speaking schedule is always helpful.

GLA: Do you identify and acquire new clients from among contest winners, whose work is published in literary journals, or through online networking sites for emerging writers?

JB: My list is so full right now that I mostly rely on referrals or queries or ideas that I originate. I did absolutely find clients this way in the beginning of my career, however.

GLA: Is the Internet dramatically changing the way you do business? If so, in what ways?

JB: The Internet is both harmful and helpful. I do very much like getting e-mail submissions, and also I think authors can find out more about agents online. When I first started, it was much more difficult to research agents. But I find that there is a lot of wrong information getting circulated, and I also feel that the anonymous nature of the Internet encourages people to act with a real lack of civility.

GLA: Can you tell us a little about selling the dramatic rights to your clients' books?

JB: I think there’s no formula to doing this. What Hollywood is looking for is constantly changing and seems to depend on whatever movie is currently working at the box office. Deals in Hollywood often just seem to be a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

GLA: Do you read any publishing industry periodicals or blogs that might also be helpful to prospective clients?

JB: Publisher’s Lunch is one of the best things to happen to publishing. And I mourn the loss of Miss Snark.

GLA: Will you be attending any conferences or events in the future where writers can meet you?

JB: In 2008, I’m going to RWA and to the South Carolina Writer’s Workshop.

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