Nathan Bransford, Author

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Things I Don't Blog About

Over the course of the past year of blogging, I've confessed many things about myself and about the strange and rare species literarius agentus (habitat: offices. food: bagels, free lunches. known predators: aspiring writers, bill collectors.)

But there are actually quite a few things about this job that I don't blog about, and thus one might get the impression that what I do all day is 1) read queries, 2) watch bad tv, and 3) blog about both as much as possible.

This is not the case! I watch some good TV too.

But really, there is a whole lot of my day, in fact most of my day, that I don't blog about, don't really talk about or even reference all that much. Some of it is confidential, some of it is mind-numbingly boring, and some of it is a result of the fact that I'm a paranoid person and would never say anything on the blog that could possibly jeopardize myself, my clients, or our nation's national security.

So in order to get more of a sense of what being a literary agent is like, I thought it might be helpful for me to talk about the things that I don't talk about.

Here are some:

- Interacting with clients. I don't want my clients (or prospective clients) to feel like they are blog lab rats or feel like they have to be circumspect for fear of landing on the blog. So I never talk about them except when I'm promoting their books or when they're guest blogging. I don't talk about it anonymously or vaguely or tangentially. I just don't talk about it. There's nothing bad here, interacting with clients is one of the most fun things I do and I love them all, but I don't blab about it.

- My deals. I may break this rule from time to time, but for the most part I don't really talk about deals I've completed. I wouldn't want to jeopardize any part of a deal by discussing it publicly, even after the fact, and there are other blogging agents who are more forthcoming about these things so I'll let them give the insight into how deals get done.

- Contracts. This one goes without saying. It's proprietary, fool! But working on contracts takes up a whole lot of my time.

- Interacting with editors. Editors are wonderful and amazing people and there is not a bad apple in the bunch. Seriously. You will never find me saying otherwise.

- Nicole Ritchie. She knows what she did.

- Really bad queries. I really wish I could share these with you. But I can't. It would be too mean (and possibly illegal).

- My thoughts on books I've read and authors who are not my clients. I love every book I have read ever since I've become an agent. They're all amazing. Even the ones that weren't.

- How depressed I am about the sorry state of the Sacramento Kings. If I were to impart even 1% of the sorrow I feel about the Kings you would probably drown in a pool of your own tears. I try and avoid that.

- Follow ups. I spend a whole lot of my day making sure things get done. I have an elaborate system that reminds me of when I need to follow up with someone about a contract, a check, a needed piece of information, an article, a response on a submission, a royalty statement, a reversion request... you name it. I'd say at least half of my day is spent checking to make sure things are getting done. This is a lot of what agents do -- keeping track of things so you don't have to. But I don't really talk about it. Because it's not very interesting, really.

- Um. Other stuff.

Ultimately, when I started blogging, I chose to focus on how to how aspiring authors can find an agent, how best to write a query, how to navigate the process... this is all stuff I can talk about freely and openly. There's nothing secret or proprietary about the query process. But the rest of my job is mostly a closed book for the purposes of the blog.

So if you have any questions about things I do during the day that I don't normally talk about, ask away! I may not be able to answer it honestly, but I promise to give you a really vague, noncommittal response.


L.C.McCabe said...

I may not be able to answer it honestly, but I promise to give you a really vague, noncommittal response.

Ooooh, are you hinting that you are training yourself for a future run for political office?


Nathan Bransford said...


Maybe. Maybe not. Hard to say, really.

Anonymous said...

- Nicole Ritchie. She knows what she did.


Got a question for you: Is it appropriate to send a Christmas gift to your agent/editor? If so, what kind of gift?

If that's too awkward to answer, what kind of gifts have you and your colleagues received that you thought were cool?


Nathan Bransford said...


X-Mas gifts are appropriate, but also completely 100% optional and I can't stress the optional part enough. I've seen some gifts given to agents that range from the small to the "holy crap you really shouldn't have." And don't forget the assistants, who do a lot of the work and who probably need a gift more than the agents.

But like I said, it's completely optional, and if any of my clients are reading this you really shouldn't get me anything. Seriously.

amanda h said...

Since you represent such a variety of writers, how do find the “right” editor/publisher for each work?
Just curious. Thanks.


Nathan Bransford said...


I try to get to know the tastes of as many editors as possible by reading industry publications and e-mails, networking, talking with colleagues and other agents, calling, and networking some more. It's an inexact science but it's my job to know the editors who might respond best to a particular project.

getitwritten_guy said...

With everything you have to do on a regular basis, I'm impressed that you're able to maintain this blog, too.

Niteowl said...

Nathan, there's something I've been wondering for a while now, but I understand if it's too risque to voice here. What are your thoughts of "Pushing Daisies"? Do you delight in the magical near-grandfatherly omniscient narrator? Are you amazed that a show about pies and death has not, until now, been aired? And is it not an inspired choice to cast the principal from "Boston Public"?

Eagerly waiting your response.

Heidi the Hick said...

Clearly your mama taught you well- If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. On the internet, where your words can stick and lurk long after we've forgotten, it's best to say nothing sometimes!

Unless you wanna say something, but sort of not say it, kind of...

Nathan Bransford said...


I watched Pushing Daisies and I really didn't get it, sorry. I know a lot of people like it, but it didn't do it for me -- to me it was all style no substance. Maybe you can explain the appeal?

R.C. said...

I do admire someone who sticks to their team in through the rough spots. That is probably a great quality in an agent.

But the Sacramento Kings? Why?

Go Warriors! (yes, I'm depressed too)

Sophie W. said...

Nathan, the style of Pushing Daisies is the appeal. Oh, and Lee Pace is possibly the most adorable man on the face of the Earth.

Niteowl said...

Nathan : pies, necromancy, omniscient narrators. I mean, it's like the Holy Trinity of Cool (fact: this is also the name of Miles Davis' lost album.).

(I suppose hyper-saturated film is also in that Trinity, but then it would be the Holy Quadrinity... or something. And we all know that clunky made-up verbiage is NOT cool.)

But honestly? I think it's just the straight-forward fairy-tale style of it. There's an honesty to the whole thing, all the elements laid out for everyone to see, like the 1973 Impala engine parts that your neighbour Frank's insists on keeping out on the lawn like so many plot elements of a hyper-saturated, pie-necromancy show.

Roxan said...

I learned a long time ago that one does not want to know every detail about a person. Growing up with a hypocondriac mother did have its beneficial side.
I want to hear more about this good TV watching you do. So far you haven't mentioned any I consider good. And I meant that in the nicest, blunt way.

Karen Duvall said...

Nathan, you strike me as someone who really likes the show Reaper. True? I think it's great. PUD, on the other hand... love the concept, it's the execution that has me scratching my head. The narrator angle is cool, though, kind of like Desperate Housewives. But the show itself I just don't get.

Question: Can you talk a bit about pre-empts and auctions?


Nathan Bransford said...


Two words: The Wire

As for Pushing Daisies, thanks for explaining it a bit more. I guess I kind of felt like I was watching the visual equivalent of a pie with a thousand packets of splenda dumped on top. But some people have a sweet tooth!

Nathan Bransford said...


I haven't seen Reaper yet, but maybe I'll check it out over the summer.

Re: pre-empts and auctions.

They're good. We like them. What specifically did you want to know?

Roxan said...

Don't have HBO, but if I did The Wire would probably appeal to my son.
I only have Showtime to watch Dexter.

Tom Judah said...

Dexter is a great show! It has filled the void since the Soprano's ended.


Troy Masters said...

Agreed, the Wire is the best show out there, by far. I started watching it last year on BET, but then they had to bleep out full-sentences, so we had to buy the season 1 DVDs. Then season 2, then 3, then download 4.

It's like crack - and now I can't go back to watching shows like Law-n-Order or CSI because The Wire is just SO much better and real, so that every other crime drama comes off as cheesy. The good news is that in anticipation for Season 5, I think HBO is putting some earlier episodes up on the internet to download for free. The bad news is that this will be the last season.

Okay, enough gushing. Without Deadwood, the Sopranos, Rome, and the Wire, HBO is doomed...

C.J. said...

try being a t-wolves fan. in fact try naming a t-wolves starter (hint: name anyone on the '05-'06 celtics bench).

Other Lisa said...

I love Dexter!

With the showrunners walking off set, looks like we will all be watching "The Hills" or (god forbid) Clash of the Choirs. No, really.

That said, GO WGA! I'm wearing a red shirt tomorrow in solidarity.

McKoala said...

What did Nicole do and do you have photos?

I like Lost, although the flashbacks are starting to drive me insane, and Heroes. Most of the shows you mention haven't made it down under yet.

Anonymous said...


Would you mind commenting on how often you have contact with a client when you are just about to finalze revision details and submit to a publisher?

Also, would you mind giving an estimated time range that it takes for you to sign a client for representation, work with revisions, then actually submit the project ? (For example, anywhere between two weeks to six months?)


Nathan Bransford said...


Both questions vary a great deal depending on the client and the project. Some are pretty much ready to go right away, others require a great deal of work and close contact, sometimes months worth.

Basically I'm there for as much or as little contact is needed, but how much back and forth that results in varies.

JaxPop said...

Hi Nathan - What made you decide to become an agent??? How do you get through the really bad queries & the repeated mistakes (that you continually warn against) without losing your good nature & sense of humor??? Forget the Kings - you should switch to an NBA team. Low Blow - Sorry.

MLM said...


How are the wedding plans going?

Nathan Bransford said...


I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, but I wanted to do something in publishing. Around that time I just happened to see a job listing for the assistant to the President of Curtis Brown. The rest, as they say...

And I actually never get tired of reading queries (or reading in general). It's a never-ending source of fascination.

Nathan Bransford said...


Very well, thanks!

Karen Duvall said...

Regarding pre-empts and auctions, I know they're good. 8^) But it would be interesting to hear some examples (made up is okay, too). Talk about starting amounts, terms, length of time that bids are open, how it all works. It fascinates me and I've heard a few stories, but I'd love to hear yours.

For example, I had a friend whose agent tried to get an auction going by doing a shotgun submission right out of the gate, but none of the publishers were interested in making any kind of offer, let alone bidding. Ouch. So tell us how it all works, if you go by instinct, if you send out spies... You know, the technical stuff.

Madge Sinclair said...


I know how you feel. Sometimes I wonder if I'm overstepping the boundary when I blog about my gas, hot flashes, and say mean things about my friends. But what the heck, I'm old n cranky. When you get to be my age, kid, you learn to let go and cut loose.

Nathan Bransford said...


Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I don't talk about. Sorry!

Linnea said...

I'm still puzzled by the fact that you won't talk about your deals, once they're made, that is. Wouldn't the fact that you'd obtained a six figure advance for an author or that their book appeared on the NYT best sellers list, be good advertising, both for the author's book and yourself?

Nathan Bransford said...


I'm happy to publicize books once they're out, but I'm just slightly uncomfortable with talking too much about deals when they're made, both because I don't want to be unseemly about it, and also because there aren't books out to buy.

But that's just me, and I'm still sort of trying to decide how I feel about it. I had an auction recently and decided not to talk about it on the blog, but maybe I'll feel more forthright about these things someday.

midnight oil said...

Good morning Nathan, I was wondering how is editing actually done? What I mean is, once you take on a project, when does the editing begin? Before you submit the MS or after? Do you recommend people to have their MS edited before you start? Should writers be considering finding someone to read and edit their MS before they query? Thanks.

Nathan Bransford said...

midnight oil-

The manuscript should be in the absolute best shape possible before it comes to me. That said, I may have some additional suggestions for revisions before it goes to publishers. How much depends on the project.

midnight oil said...

Thank you Nathan, it helps with where I am with my WIP.

Anonymous said...

Editing> What a great topic for a blog. I remember that as a youngster I had an agent like one of my manuscripts and then sent me line edits on the first 50 pages or so. I was astounded. She was an agent, not an editor I reasoned, falsely. So, I didn't make the changes she suggested, and she would not represent me because I would not do what she suggested.

Since then I've had four nonfiction books published, but no fiction. I'm not sure if I made a mistake or not, lo those years ago. The idea that an agent will edit a book before sending it in seems out of step, to me. I know once a publisher purchases a book they have the right to edit, and the agent is the go between as the process goes forward. So, it seems to me, back then, that an agent represents and a book editor edits.

Now, I understand that the landscape has changed. Editors who buy books are not longer interested in editing them, but shoving them down the pipeline to publication. Therefore any book a writer now sends an agent must be a near perfect as possible, not only to please the agent, but to find a book editor willing to purchase it because he/she not only likes it, but finds it takes little, very little, additional work to send it on to the printing presses.

Therefore, experience has taught me that a writer is fortunate, indeed, to find an agent who takes the time to edit your work. It shows they believe in you and want to help you the next step up the ladder.

I write this only as a warning to fellow writers that if an agent suggests changes, or wants to edit the manuscriptd: Pay Attention.

Don't be a fool as, perhaps, I was lo those years ago.

And finally, Nathan. I like your style, and your humor, and your knowledge. I found it interesting, and illuminating, to find you were an assistant to the CEO or Curtis Brown. That explained how you came by such vast knowledge in such as short period of time. Youth is wonderful. Keep up the good work.


A writer who can't get this blog to give him an identity so I have to send it in as Anon.

Jillian said...

I've never been referred to as a "preditor" before.


And then there's my blog, on which I spill way more than I ought to. But that's my platform and I'm sticking to it.

Want to read all about the all-natural-practically-hippie birth of my daughter 2 months ago? It's all right there.

Want to read about the time my husband....well, never mind.

I do have a real question, though.

Let's say an agent has had my full for 3 months. Let's say I status queried her and she graciously (and quickly) responded that she hadn't forgotten me and that she'd try to get back to me the following week.

Let's say that was 3 weeks ago.

Let's say my gut tells me to stay quiet and leave her alone.

Is my gut correct?

Nathan Bransford said...


Even if they said they'd get back to you in a week, I'd still follow the one month rule.

Linnea said...

Thanks for clarifying, Nathan. Modesty is a refreshing quality.

Josephine Damian said...

Nathan, this may be outside your ken as an agent, but does the "one month rule" apply to short stories submitted to a mag via email?

Jillian said...

Thanks, Nathan. My gut is lining up with your advice.

The insecure part of me doesn't even want to touch base with her again. If she was ecstatic about my work, I don't think she'd be using it as a coaster for her coffee cups, yanno?

Ah, well. Thanks again.

cyn said...

nathan, do you have a fave on ANTM. do you think heather is as gorgeous as i do? i can't wait till they travel abroad.

Nathan Bransford said...


Usually with journals it's more of a "don't call us, we'll call you type of thing." So I don't know that the one month rule applies, but maybe others can chime in.


I'd be shocked if Jenah doesn't win. I like Heather, but I think Jenah's the most talented one they've ever had on the show.

Heather B. Moore said...


I run an editing/writing blog. I'll definitely have to link you in, be prepared for more hits. (If I can get the word verification thing right.)

Disco Mermaids said...

I hear ya on the Sacramento Kings. I have a hole in my heart that used to be filled with Bibby and Webber. Waaahh!


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