by Sally Ekus | Featured Contributor
Always there for you
Supportive when you get down
Always making you look good…
Sure I may have just described your favorite bustier, but I also just described the qualities of a great author/agent relationship!
We have all been there. You know, presenting in a meeting or standing in line somewhere and feeling that underwire poking at your side. At this point in life we have tried on enough underwire, padded, and sports bras to know what feels right. Finding the right agent is a lot like finding the right bra. Ideally you want it to feel just as good several months later as when you first tried it on. It’s all about the right fit.
So how do you find an agent? First, let’s back up a minute and talk about what an agent does. An agent is your advocate. Agents work on behalf of authors to secure a fair and attractive deal for their work. We know the industry and contracts and we also know who is looking for what types of projects. I absolutely love finding an editor that really gets a proposal and will work well with my authors. To read even more about what agents do, take a look at what my mom/boss (proud daughter!) recently wrote in The Cook’s Cook E-Magazine. The article goes into depth about the role of agents and the business of how we make our money. Literary agents operate on a 15% commission for the life of the projects we represent.
Since I am an agent at a culinary agency, people often look at me as if I have two heads when I try to explain my job. Think about it this way, if you have ever cried at “you had me at hello” then think of my job as a less glorified Jerry Maguire of the culinary industry. I pitch, I negotiate (did someone say show me the money!?), and I believe in my clients wholeheartedly.
The agent author relationship is probably the number one aspect of my job that I love the most. The relationship is all about trust. If there is no trust, neither of us can do our job. In fact, I usually know within about 5 minutes of meeting someone if I think we could work together not just successfully, but effectively.
Also, I happen to not only like my clients work, but I actually like them as people. I am incredibly lucky to have the luxury of representing people I want to work with. Recently I found myself at lunch with a prospective client and we both kind of had that moment where we knew we were having a lot of fun and not just talking business. We both simultaneously looked at each other and knew it was time to work together in an official capacity; we were just having way too much fun not to!
Humor is essential (when working with me) and so is communication. Think about how you communicate; how you work best. I have clients that just pick up the phone and call me, I have authors who email me to set up a time to talk, and I have clients who only outreach when they have a question or concern. If everyone worked the same way I would get bored. Okay, I even have a few texters, but those are the exception not the rule. No drunken dialing chefs…please! (I once even accepted an offer over text message, but that is a story for another time).
Finding the right fit with an agent is essential. You want to have full confidence that they know what you want and will work in your best interest. I love getting to know my clients so I can anticipate how best to negotiate on their behalf. I also appreciate direct conversations when something isn’t clicking or needs to be readjusted. Let’s face it, the relationship we had when we first started working together should evolve after the first book is published.
Part of our agency’s mission has always been to launch new writers. The Lisa Ekus Group will turn 33 in April, and our agenting division celebrates its fourteenth birthday this year. We are proud to say that 25% of the clients we sign annually are first time authors.
So, how do you go about finding that perfect bra? Ask yourself, are you the type of person who can walk right into a Victoria’s Secret and know your size, color, and shape. Or, are you someone who needs to talk to the lady with the tape measure at the small boutique. Shop around, have conversations, trust your gut! You don’t want to commit and then find out a few months later that the pesky underwire has been poking at your side.
A couple places to try on:
- Flip to the acknowledgments section of your favorite cookbooks; take a look at who they thank!
- http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ (search deals sold and look at who sold which kinds of books and where they work)
- http://www.literarymarketplace.com/lmp/us/index_us.asp (you can search by genre)
- There is a fabulous new networking group of editors that hold speed dating like events with new agents http://theleagueofassistanteditors.tumblr.com/ (follow the conversations on Twitter to see which agents are involved and engaged)
Just remember, this isn’t a one size fits all world.
Sally Ekus, Agency Manager and Literary Agent, joined The Lisa Ekus Group in 2009. She represents a wide range of culinary talent, from first-time cookbook authors to seasoned chefs, professional food writers, bloggers, and television personalities. Sally loves being the liaison between an author and their publisher. She takes great pride in guiding authors towards their dreams of publication. From concept to contract, she has brokered more than forty book deals.
After graduating from Ithaca College, Sally worked in the mental health field. An unexpected turn of events, and some great food along the way, led her to return to New England (Massachusetts) to join her mother, Lisa Ekus, in the eponymous family business. Sally often credits her formal training in listening, communication, and negotiation in the mental health field as her foundation for success with her authors.
As part of the first official culinary delegation, Sally has made two trips to Vietnam where she cultivated a deep love of phở. Sally spends what little free time she has cooking spicy food and running marathons. She is a dedicated supporter and advocate for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and especially their Team in Training program.
The Lisa Ekus Group is a full-service culinary agency, the only agency of its kind to offer Public Relations, Media Training, Literary and Talent agency services, as well as Career Consulting, all within the culinary realm.