Today: an Interview with Literary Agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency!
Jenny is one of those agents who writers just… love. She’s smart, dynamic, and a darn fine agent who speaks “writer.”
Literary Agent Jenny Bent is the founder of the Bent Agency. With 20 years of experience in the industry, she represents commercial fiction (including adult, young adult, and middle grade) and nonfiction, literary fiction and memoir.
Her clients include NYT bestselling authors Lynsay Sands, Laurie Notaro, John Kasich, Julia London, Jacqueline Sheehan, Lori Wilde, Sandra Hill, USA Today bestselling authors Janelle Denison, Kathryn Caskie, Kieran Kramer, Young Adult authors Tera Lynn Childs, Jenny Archer, Brent Crawford, Amanda Ashby, to name just a few.
Her website is www.thebentagency.com and you can find her on twitter as @jennybent.”
Diane: Help set the scene for us at ThrillerFest’s AgentFest this last July. As an agent, what’s it like to attend a “speed dating” event like this? (I can just imagine the electric excitement in the air, the smell of promising stories, the sound of nervous writers….)
Jenny: It’s intense! I had never done it before, so I didn’t realize that there were no scheduled appointments. Instead, it’s just a big room full of agents sitting at tables and the authors run in and line up for the agents they want to talk to.
I got really nervous that no one would want to come talk to me! There were a ton of really good agents there this year.
Diane: What did you think of the Pitch Sheet approach? Did it work for you? Did the writers make the best use of it?
Jenny: I loved it. I take in information much better by reading than I do by listening. So it gave me a great way to follow along with the pitch. It was also helpful because usually at a pitch I have to coax useful information out of the author, like their bio, a log line, a title. But with the Pitch Sheet I had all that information at my fingertips.
I think ITW did an amazing job showing the authors how to do it and what to include.
Diane: Where did writers go right with their pitching and Pitch Sheets? And where did writers go wrong?
Jenny: The only way they went wrong was by not knowing exactly what I represented and didn’t represent (one or two people pitched me cozy mysteries), or because they didn’t prepare a Pitch Sheet.
Pretty much everyone who did one did a great job.
People should remember that formatting is important, even just very subtly, in terms of making a good impression. So if you are doing one, and you don’t have good design skills, get a friend to help you. And always have a friend proof your work even if you’ve looked at it a million times.
Diane: AgentFest is part of the International Thriller Writers’ annual conference. Do you find there are specific challenges for writers in pitching depending on their genre? If so, can you give us a sense for what to watch out for in your favorite genres?
Jenny: I actually think the rules are pretty universal. I think any conference could benefit from using the Pitch Sheet approach.
Diane: Where can we catch up with you next? Any conferences in your future?
Jenny: Yes, a bunch! Check out my blog for details.
I also just added Silken Sands in Pensacola Beach Florida on March 16 through 18th.
Diane: And finally, if you could wave a magic wand and change anything about conference pitching, what would that be?
Jenny: I really want people to stop reading very long plot summaries from index cards. I know it’s hard but it works best to speak extemporaneously during a pitch.
Many, many thanks, Jenny! We look forward to having you join us during our upcoming September PitchFest.