What agency is he with?
August 7, 2009 12:20 PM   Subscribe

Are authors very private about who they use for a literary agent?

I am friendly with a successful, published author. I wouldn't say we are FRIENDS, but very friendly. We've known each other for three years, communicate by e-mail several times a year, he kisses me on the cheek when he sees me, etc.

I am now in the process of writing a book that is in a similar vein to his works, but nothing that I feel I'd be stepping on his toes by writing. Given the similarity of our works I was thinking his literary agent would be someone to whom I should send a query letter. (Mind you, I am not looking to send a letter of: I'm friends with X, will you look at my book. More along the lines of: I know you deal with material such as X and as such I feel my work may be of interest to you).

However my best Google-fu has not helped me to find who this man's literary agent is.

I'm seeing this author this weekend at a professional event. I am wondering if it would be a horrible faux paus to ask him for the name of his agent. If these relationships are incredibly private (as a good agent IS hard to find) then I don't want to make him feel like I'm trying to use him; however, if they are normally publicly known then I thought I would ask.

Thanks for the help, mefites!
posted by bodgy to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's rude or bad form at all.
Lots of authors actually name or thank their editors and agents in their dedications.
I think where you might run into a bit of awkwardness is if you ask the author to recommend you, speak to the agent, or otherwise intervene on your behalf with that agent, as opposed to letting a great manuscript do the work for you :)
posted by willmize at 12:28 PM on August 7, 2009

No, it's a totally normal question. That's like the author cocktail version of "What's your major?" But as you said you wouldn't, don't namedrop him, or even mention that you know him when you write your query letter- and reassure him you're not asking for a referral.
posted by headspace at 12:29 PM on August 7, 2009

I am surprised it's so difficult to find this author's agent out - the agent is usually the public face for the author - the contact point for reader correspondence and reprint requests, etc. That said, some parts of the literary or publishing world may still be opaque to Googling - maybe call and ask the author's publisher how to contact his agent?

I would also make it clear you're not asking for a referral, just a point in the right direction. I've seen authors get skiddish around what they perceived as weaselly up-and-comer tactics, when it comes to contacting agents and editors.
posted by aught at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2009

Agented authors I know love talking about their agents.

You said you wouldn't do this, but for the benefit of anyone else who might read this: DEFINITELY don't namedrop him without express permission. It's icky and can cause you a lot of trouble down the line.
posted by sugarfish at 12:44 PM on August 7, 2009

If you're really worried about it being an awkward question to ask, you should probably email him rather than ask in person. If for some reason he doesn't want to answer, it will be a lot easier for him to decline via email than it would be if you put him on the spot.
posted by Perplexity at 12:45 PM on August 7, 2009

In my experience, no, this isn't information most people keep private.

If you're writing a novel (or other types of fiction, or a memoir), though, you should probably wait until you're finished writing it to query.
posted by lampoil at 12:48 PM on August 7, 2009

Sort of a long shot but if the writer you're talking about it well-known enough to make it into one of the Gale reference series (like Contemporary Authors) and you have access to a large library that carries it, I am pretty sure the listing would include agent contact info.
posted by aught at 12:48 PM on August 7, 2009

I haven't known of any authors that keep this private. I think you'll be fine. Even if he wants to keep it private for some reason, I don't think you'll be seen as rude for asking.
posted by Nattie at 6:55 PM on August 7, 2009

I'm represented by a literary agent as a director and a screenwriter, and some of my writer friends have asked who she is. I don't mind telling them at all.

I think the best version of the question goes something like this (strategically inserted at an appropriate point in the conversation, of course):

"Do you mind if I ask who your agent is? I've been working on something, and I was wondering if you'd mind if I contacted them about it. I think it might be up their alley."

That leaves the door open for your friend to either give you his blessing to contact the agent on your own, or go the extra step and recommend you - assuming your friend is familiar with your writing.

Good luck.
posted by Bobby Bittman at 8:22 PM on August 7, 2009

He doesn't thank his agent in the "Acknowledgements" section? That's where I usually see agents mentioned, if anywhere. (Granted I'm not really looking for 'em.)
posted by Neofelis at 5:59 AM on August 8, 2009

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