July 20 – 26: “Do agents have regrets about the story or author that got away?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5Regrets…we’ve all had them. Do literary agents have regrets about the story or author that got away? This week, we’ll ask Albert Longden, Kimberly Cameron, Helen Heller, Janet Reid, Alec Shane, Beth Phelan and John Raab.


John Raab, Suspense Publishing

Raab, John - Picture as of 11102014Bio: Born and raised in Ohio, I relocated to Los Angeles, California in 2007. It was that same year my wife, Shannon, and I created Suspense Magazine, which spawned Suspense Publishing onto the literary scene. Currently publishing #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Paul Kemprecos, along with publishing award winning authors Joseph Badal, the writing team of Gary Williams and Vicki Knerly, and Tom B. Sawyer, who was the executive producer of “Murder, She Wrote”. Suspense Publishing is also a partner of the ITW, CWA, HWA and IACW organizations.


Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management

querysharkJanet Reid is on the hunt for high octane, page turning thrillers. In her spare time
she drinks Scotch and stalks Jack Reacher. Her publishing background includes fifteen years in book publicity with clients both famous and infamous. She is actively looking for projects that show mastery of craft and originality. Ms. Reid is a member of the literary agents professional association AAR, She’s an associate member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She belongs to the American Library Association, Biographer’s International Organization, the American History Association and is a past board member of the NYC chapter of the Women’s National Book Association


Beth Phelan, The Bent Agency

Phelan, Beth - picture as of 05112015Bio: Beth Phelan is originally from Fall River, Massachusetts but now lives in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of New York University, lifelong reader and dog person. After holding positions at Waxman Leavell Literary (then called the Scott Waxman Literary Agency) and Howard Morhaim Literary, Beth joined the Bent Agency in 2013 where she is continuing to build her list. She can be found at bethphelan.com, thebentagency.com, and on Twitter at @beth_phelan.



Alec Shane, Writers House, LLC

Shane, AlecBio: Alec majored in English at Brown University, a degree he put to immediate use by moving to Los Angeles after graduation to become a professional stunt man. Realizing that he prefers books to breakaway glass, he moved to New York City in 2008 to pursue a career in publishing. Alec quickly found a home at Writers House Literary Agency, where he has worked directly under agents Jodi Reamer and Amy Berkower since 2009. In that time, he has worked on and provided strong editorial feedback for a large number of Adult and Young Adult titles of all ranges and genres. Alec is now actively seeking out clients for his own list.



Kimberley Cameron, Kimberley Cameron & Associates

cameronKimberley Cameron loves finding new voices. She was the co-founder of Knightsbridge Publishing Company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. In 1993 she became partners with Dorris Halsey of The Reece Halsey Agency, founded in 1957. She opened Reece Halsey North in 1995 and in 2009 the agency became Kimberley Cameron & Associates. She resides and works from Tiburon, California and France.




Helen Heller, The Helen Heller Agency

hellerHelen has spent her career in publishing and specializes in thrillers and major front-list fiction. She likes a big story well told and handles a number of internationally bestselling and multiple-award-winning authors. Helen is a member of the Association of Authors’ Representatives.




Albert Longden, Albert T. Longden Agency

Longden, Albert - Picture as of 04232013Bio: I look for the cream within this milk-jug of an industry. With a limited amount of time, I want writers that are preferably experienced and are willing to listen to productive critiques of their work. I love old fashioned story telling in the mode of an Earl Biggers, Conan Doyle, Sax Rohmer, Rider Haggard, Kipling, Poe and Bourroughs. More recently, E. Peters, Anne Rice, Laurie King and Preston & Childs are my favorites. Look to these authors with a creative current-thinking attitude and you’ll have something. 35+ years within the publishing industry in all areas: editorial, product development, sales, foreign rights, administration, fulfillment and distribution. I’ve been a CFO, COO, VP and Publisher at major and minor houses and imprints. A writer and entrepreneur, I look for commercial projects with a strong literary attitude. If you’re looking for an Editor, this is, currently, the wrong agency for you.


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  1. Umm, ABSOLUTELY. I frequently compete with other agents on manuscripts and I don’t always win… But sometimes I do. It’s part of the business.

    Authors have their reasons for choosing one agent over another (or others) and I can’t be the perfect fit for every single writer. That doesn’t mean the sting of rejection is any less. Also doesn’t mean I don’t periodically stalk the author on Twitter, waiting to see that book deal go up…

    Even so, I will continue to offer rep on things that I love, regardless of how many others have offered (or haven’t). I have to trust that these authors are following their hearts when they make their choice, just like I do when I choose to offer.

    I can’t win them all every time, and I won’t always offer on something that goes on to sell. All I can do is dust myself off and return to my submissions pile. I know that the competition isn’t only due to the number of agents working these days, but also the quality of the submissions I get. There will always be authors that got away, but I try to remember that there are SO MANY outstanding authors looking for rep and I’m ready to find the ones that are really right for me.

  2. I think that every agent has lost out on a client at one point or another; it’s just part of the industry. Representation is a two-way street – it has to be a great fit on both sides of the table, and so I always respect authors who make wise, informed decisions based on what they think will be best for them and their careers. Obviously it’s disappointing to lose out on a manuscript I love, but more often than not it works out the way it’s supposed to.

    I always compare an agent/author relationship to a marriage. It’s work, but the rewards are great if the fit is right. Ideally and author and agent are together for the duration of their respective careers, and so that isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. You win some, you lose some, and you keep pursuing great books and great writers.

  3. Not really.

    Some very good books have come through my queries, books that have gone on to sell and be successful with other agents. Mostly those books were better suited for someone else. I liked them but didn’t love them; I thought they needed more work than I could offer; I thought the book had problems, but other people didn’t.

    I’m a firm believer that the right projects land with the right agent. I’m sure that’s a rationalization but if I spent a lot of time gnashing my fangs over the one that got away I’d have less time for chomping writers, and writers are oh, so tasty.

  4. I agree with Janet. I know I would have turned down a ton of novels that became huge hits. But I make it a rule only to take on clients whose writing I love. Taking on something I didn’t like just because I think it might sell doesn’t appeal to me at all.

  5. Such a pot pourri of answers! I believe we have all had manuscripts that slipped through for one reason or another. I remember well reading something I loved, only to learn it had already found representation and had been sold to numerous countries, AND had a film option… At least I had good taste:-)

    As Janet said, some of those that we decide against for one reason or another, go on to sell well. It IS a matter of subjectivity, and one manuscript might just be better suited to a different agent. We have to go on our instincts of what we feel we will fight to see published. That is why rejection may not always be a bad thing… sometimes things happen for reasons that we are unable to see. Trust and keep going – that’s all we can do!

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