Name: Caitie Flum
Agency: Liza Dawson Associates
What was your first job in the industry, which led directly or indirectly to your current agent role? My first job was at the book clubs. I started at Book of the Month Club, and in the time I was there worked at almost every single club at the company. I spent over a year acquiring titles for the Children’s Book of the Month Club. Before that, I interned at Writers House
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 would say my determination and knowledge of all aspects of publishing. You have to work really hard as an agent with long hours. You also have to know all aspects of publishing from contracts to publicity to marketing to editing and so much more.
What routine, if any, do you look to start each working day with? Once I get in the office, I start the day with coffee and making a list of what needs to get done for the day. I have a bullet journal I use to keep track of long term projects and goals, along with the day to day and it really helps.
Lift the lid as best you can, and describe a typical working day? There isn’t really a typical day – every single day is different. It is usually a combination of following up with publishers, meeting with my boss (I am also the agency’s assistant along with having my own clients), taking care of the mail, making sure checks are coming in when they are supposed to, going over contracts, talking to the agency’s clients, meeting with interns, and about a hundred 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? The main thing is open and honest communication about everything. Authors should trust their agent and should feel like they can ask questions. Also patience. As an agent, I need to be doing everything to sell the book, but publishing is slow. Editing takes time, as does revising. It takes a while for publishers to read and get back to you. Throughout the entire process, both sides should be communicating with each other and being honest.
Is there a typical process that sees a first enquiry turn into a working client relationship? My clients tend to come from slush, so they send a query, I ask for the partial, I ask for the full, then set up a call where I ask them questions, talk about my vision, then offer. Sometimes I ask for a second read from someone else at the company.
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? Follow my query instructions! If writers can’t follow the most basic thing, I always have a feeling we wouldn’t be able to work together.
Is there any part of your day-to-day work that manifests itself in evenings & weekends? All of it, but especially reading and editing. I very rarely read submissions or edit during the work day. That is all done evenings and weekends.
What one piece of advice would you give to a writer just starting out? Find your people. Writing and publishing is hard and it is so much easier if you have a group of friends (even if you just talk to them online!) to talk to.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self? Sometimes it is okay to relax. You don’t ever want to be burned out, so take some time to focus on other things.
Favourite film? “The Sound of Music”.
Favourite TV program (currently or all-time)? Now: “Supergirl”. All-Time: “The West Wing”.
Favourite book? That is impossible to name just one, so TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, ILLUMINAE, THE SERPENT KING, ALL THE RAGE, and THE STAND just to name a few.
Favourite director? I don’t think I have one.
Favourite writer? Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Favourite actor (male or female)? He is a Broadway actor, but Norm Lewis has to be my answer.