Name: Lucienne Diver
Agency: The Knight Agency
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role? I was lucky enough to land my dream job right out of college. I started as an assistant at Spectrum Literary Agency in New York, working with Eleanor Wood. A literary assistant is something of a jack of all trade—an editorial assistant, contracts, publicity, and office assistant all in one, which is great preparation for becoming a literary agent, who’s all that and more. Eleanor was an amazing mentor, and within a year I’d taken on my first clients and made my first sales. In fact, Christie Golden, author of the first books I sold, is still with me today! About eight years ago, I moved to The Knight Agency, where I work with an incredible team of forward-thinking agents with an amazing list of clients. I loved their (and now our) approach to promoting and supporting our authors and the very synergistic way that we all share information and ideas. Some days it feels like working in a think tank.
There’s no specific agent qualifications, so what would you say best qualifies you to do your job & allows you to do it well? I think my Type A personality is crucial to my job—focussed, detail-oriented, good time-management skills, schedule and to-do list constantly scrolling through my head. Turning it off…that’s the hard part!
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with? No day is like any other, but I start each morning with whatever task is the most urgent, whether that’s looking over a contract, dealing with an auction or an offer or putting out a fire for a client. Failing anything absolutely urgent, we’ve got a policy at The Knight Agency—start each day with whatever you dread. Then not only is it out of the way, but it’s not getting pushed off and pushed off until it becomes time-sensitive itself.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day? The first thing I do is check phone messages and e-mails and deal with anything urgent. There’s no such thing as typical, but during the course of the day, I’ll do any combination of the following (and certainly all during the course of a week):
-send out submissions
-follow up on submissions
-read client material, queries and partials (although usually this takes place before and after office hours and on weekends, because there’s so much other work during the day)
-send out notes on client material or rejection/request letters on queries
-review contracts and haggle out specific contract language with various publishers
-review royalty statements (we have a bookkeeper who does this as well and who takes care of sending out statements and payments)
-chase down checks or editorial notes or anything else an author might need answers on
-promote my clients, whether via social media, trafficking interview requests, doing write-ups for our agency newsletter or whathaveyou
-work on subrights, which can be anything from liaising with film and television agents to marketing audio and translation rights (which itself comes with updating rights lists, sending out notifications on new and upcoming titles, keeping subagents apprised of awards, bestseller lists, praise and other noteworthy items…)
-do foreign tax forms for the reduction of double taxation
-don’t even get me started on conventions, writers conferences, international book fairs and the like
-so, so many other things!
What do you feel a client and agent should expect of each other in the course of a fruitful working relationship day-to-day? Communication is key. I expect that you hear this from just about everyone. Authors should expect me to update them on submissions, offers, paperwork, publication dates, industry news relevant to their careers, etc. I expect authors to keep me informed of any important communication with their editors, including any material submitted, and to turn paperwork around in a timely manner so that we can get them paid the same way.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship? First I have to love what I’ve read of the query and sample pages. Based on that, I’ll request more, usually a full. Then I have to love the additional material and feel that I know the market for it. I know I’m going to offer representation when I can’t stop reading, when I push aside other work and chores and housework (okay, that’s no hardship) in order to finish so that I can make the call to the author AS SOON AS POSSIBLE before anyone scoops me. I love that feeling. There’s nothing like it…unless it’s the feeling you get when you tell an author about his or her first offer. That’s magical.
What is the best way to approach you, or any agent, with a view to representation? Is there one part of an approach that makes you think this client is or isn’t for me? The best way to approach an agent is to follow her (or his) submission guidelines. Every agent I know has a website and each website has a set of guidelines to follow. It’s not a good idea to try to circumvent the guidelines. They aren’t arduous and they do separate out who’s willing to do the research and the work to get things right. That says a lot about an author right there. I can tell right away that an author isn’t for me if they’re not any more serious about their query letter than they would be an e-mail to a friend. I see far too much “hey, here’s this thing I hope you like” sent to me at the wrong e-mail address (trying to get around the guidelines). This is standing out from the pack in the wrong way. Your talent is what should recommend you.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends? Oh yes! Reading. I read in the mornings. I read in the evenings. I read on weekends, at the beach, in doctor’s offices waiting for appointments, while waiting for my microwave or oven to beep… I read practically non-stop. It’s the only way to keep up with my workload.
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out? Persevere. An author who finds an agent or a publisher on their first round of submissions is as rare as hens teeth. Most authors don’t even find representation for their first novel. Often it’s a learning experience rather than the pinnacle of the process. Keep learning, whether it’s from rejections (and if you’re receiving helpful rejection letters, know that you’re on the right track) or from critiques, workshops, writers conferences or self-analysis of others’ works. Don’t let rejections get you down. A wise man—Bryan Anderson, whose story is told in NO TURNING BACK—once said, “If you’re not falling, you’re not trying.”
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? I’m not sure. I think I had to go through all of the experiences I did to become the person I am today, so I wouldn’t want to warn myself off even the worst bumps in the road. I was so tightly wound, I think I might just tell myself to relax and breathe. (Not that I would have listened.)
Favourite film? Charade with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? Oh, that’s a tough one. Wait, Firefly.
Favourite book? Just one? Impossible. Next!
Favourite director? Alfred Hitchcock.
Favourite writer? Again, just one? I’m going to go with Mary Stewart, though it’s a really tough call.
Favourite actor (male or female)? Cary Grant. No contest.
Knight Agency website: http:// knightagency.net/
TKA submission guidelines: http://knightagency.net/manuscript_submissions/
My blog: http://luciennediver.wordpress.com
My website: http://luciennediver.com