What If My Agent Doesn’t Live in NYC?

Dear Lisa…

Location, location, location! may be a crucial motto for real estate, but it needs no place in your agent submission strategizing. Most business between agents and editors is conducted via email and phone, so your agent can live outside publishing’s NYC hub. And plenty do. (My agent for children’s books lives in Flagstaff, my agent for adult projects lives in San Diego, and my agent for Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies lives in Sacramento.) Those agents typically make semi-annual trips to the Big Apple, packing each day with editor meetings, and they supplement those trips with meet-ups at big industry events and conferences like Book Expo America or the Annual SCBWI Summer Conference. When you start talking representation with an agent, ask how s/he keeps ongoing relationships with editors fresh and forges new ones. This will give you a feel for the agent’s connections and networking prowess.

Happy writing!
The Editor


  1. We’re so lucky that the internet age means anyone can e-query instead of sending a bulky ms out, and agents can live anywhere. Mine lives in Virginia! 🙂

  2. My agent lives in San Luis Obispo, CA. but that doesn’t seem to hinder her. Like Deborah said, her partner heads to New York every so often to make the rounds of publishing houses and schmooze with editors.

    I’m wondering though, Deborah, about your association with 3 agents and how that works. I was always under the impression that agents like exclusive contracts with their clients but I guess those areas you mentioned are vastly different (children’s and adult projects) but what about the Dummy book? It seems like that would be considered an adult book. Did your adult project agent not represent nonfiction? I was just wondering why you needed a separate agent for that.

    • Yes, Natasha, it’s common to have separate agents for children’s and adult projects. It takes a lot of time and effort for an agent to maintain editorial relationships and know their markets deeply, so they usually specialize. My children’s book agent doesn’t rep adult projects, so for adult projects like my upcoming WRITING THE NEW ADULT NOVEL: HOW TO WRITE AND SELL NEW ADULT FICTION, I signed with an agent who represents adult trade fiction and nonfiction. The key to managing the relationships is forthrightness, sincerity, professionalism, and communication, all of which came into play when the opportunity arose for WRITING YOUNG ADULT FICTION FOR DUMMIES, which came to me through a third agent. All agreed with total enthusiasm that I’d be right for that project and that I’d have a one-book relationship with the third agent. My work with WYAFFD is through that third agent but I’ve sent updates to my other two periodically and they shake their pom poms for me every time. And with every shake, my loyalty and respect for them deepens — a strong relationship is a two-way street, and my agents have shown that they support my career first and foremost.

  3. My editor lived in NYC for many years, but now she lives in Florida. Most of them travel frequently to conferences & to NYC periodically to meet with editors. I think the only time it might be a little more difficult is if the agent lived in Europe. The time zone differences would pose some challenges, but so much is done via email even that could be overcome. Best of luck!

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