Agent Advice: Regina Brooks of Serendipity Literary Agency

From the September/October 2018 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

To submit a question for the next featured agent, e-mail or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Questions accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.

Areas of interest: All categories of nonfiction, including memoir; young-adult and children’s literature; commercial fiction

Representative clients: Derrick Barnes, Sundee Frazier, Charreah Jackson, Lawrence Jackson, Calaya Reid, David Warmflash, and Bil Wright

Looking for: A one-page synopsis of the work that details the plot and theme of the story and the first fifty pages or first three chapters of your fiction manuscript, including children’s fiction; a proposal for nonfiction—all submitted via the form on the website

Preferred contact: E-mail (with special consideration given to authors who follow our social media channels, @serendipitylit, on all platforms)

Agency contact:
Serendipity Literary Agency
305 Gates Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11216

My literary agent failed to sell my historical novel, and she dropped me from her client list. Should I try to pitch the same novel to other agents, or would they shy away from it when they find out another agent failed to sell it?
Cindy from Sacramento, California
The first thing you should do is ask your agent if she would send you a list of the publishers that received and reviewed your manuscript. This will help you really determine the prospects for future submissions to editors. A new agent will determine the viability of your project once the agent can assess how many publishers have seen it. Many projects have gone on to become super-successful once a new agent puts a fresh spin on the work and the pitch. I would, however, consider any editorial feedback that was previously provided and revise accordingly prior to resubmitting.

I am a recent MFA grad ready to query my first novel. A professor who worked with me on an early draft was complimentary, and we got along really well. However, the professor did not say, “Keep in touch.” I’d like to query his agent because I think her list is compatible with my work. Should I e-mail my professor and ask for a referral so I can at least use his name in the agent e-mail subject line (thus hopefully bumping me up the slush pile)? Or I could just mention in the letter’s opening that the author was my adviser and his guidance greatly improved the manuscript. I’m having trouble sussing out the boundaries of when to ask for a favor and knowing if that favor really means that much.
Michelle from Michigan
Great question. As an agent I would definitely consider a referral from an existing client with more weight. So if you feel like your adviser would provide the recommendation, I would ask for it. If you feel that it might be a fifty-fifty chance he might not refer or provide a halfhearted referral, I would go ahead and include the information about him being your adviser. Depending on how close I am with the client, I’d probably reach out to the adviser and find out more about you, especially if I’m seriously considering representation. But I would have at least read the work first.

I have a self-published book that is currently available on Amazon in print and e-book formats. Can I approach an agent with this project?
Scott from Winter Springs, Florida
You can certainly approach an agent with your project, but here are a few things I would encourage you to do prior to pitching an agent: (1) Know how many books you have sold (e-book and print) and be able to provide those sales figures when asked. (2) If you have future books you’d like to see published, please be sure to mention those. It’s more likely the agent will get excited about the new projects. (3) Please don’t say to the agent, “I didn’t put a lot into marketing this book.” This is the kiss of death. Agents want to work with clients who are willing to put their heart and soul into making sure their books reach an audience. (4) Try to find endorsements or blurbs from other authors or influencers. (5) Keep a database of reviewers and their praise for the book.

What does it mean when agents say they accept only submissions based on referrals?
Travis from Berkeley, California
It means they respond only to projects that are endorsed by individuals with whom they already have a relationship.