Laura Bradford has fourteen years of professional experience as a literary agent, editor, writer and bookseller. She understands the importance of having a friendly but critical eye on your side, a career strategist in your corner and a guide who can lead you through the travails of publication. As an editorial-focused agent, Laura works closely with her clients developing proposals and manuscripts for the most appropriate markets. Laura formed Bradford Literary Agency in 2001.
Tell me about your agency and yourself.
The Bradford Literary Agency is a boutique agency and we offer a full range of representation services to authors who are both published and pre-published. We specialize in all types of romance (including category), romantica/erotica, women's fiction, mystery, thrillers and young adult. Some select non-fiction as well. Our goal is to form long term partnerships with our clients in order to build strong, sustainable careers.
What kind of book grabs your attention and makes you consider wanting to submit it?
I love genre straddling work. I love work that pushes the envelope and above all I love to be surprised. Show me something I never expected to find. Make me love something I never thought I would.
What makes a writer a good choice for you? What makes you a good choice for a writer?
I am looking for authors who are serious about their careers, talented, but also willing to put forth their best efforts in building their names. I want authors who have a plan and are resolute about where they want to go.
What makes me a good choice? I am accessible and I believe you deserve transparency with what is happening with your career. I want to be your partner and help you get all the tools you need to be the best writer, best businessperson you can be. I'm flexible and agile enough to change with you.
How much input do you expect to have on a client's work?
The author determines the nature of the author-agent relationship and I expect them to communicate to me what they need with regards to my input. If they want me to be editorial and roll up my sleeves, I am happy to do so. If they want to bounce ideas off me, or brainstorm, that is okay, too. Once an author is in a contract, it is really the editor that needs to be pleased, not me, so there is often some variance between how much input I have before a contract is signed and after.
Do you consider yourself a career-builder? Can you give an example?
I'd love to think so, but building careers is a team effort. I can't do it without the author putting his or her best foot forward, working hard, and writing well. I have taken a number of authors from the epublishing world to New York but I think I was merely a facilitator. It could not have happened if those authors were not extremely talented.
How do you advise clients who want to venture into new genres or make a departure from their published works?
I'm all for breaking new ground, but there are a number of factors to consider. Finances for one. Does the author depend on his or her writing income? Sometimes it takes a while to sell a manuscript and a potential break in income stream needs to be considered. Talent is another factor. Maybe the author is established in romantic suspense and they want to make a jump to women's fiction, we'd need to be absolutely sure the author had the writing chops for the new genre. Timing is important, too. When is that proposal going to get written, when should it be pitched? Does the author want to exchange one genre for another or write in more than one genre simultaneously? The most important thing is that I reality check my author and lay out all the possible scenarios. You can't make a major decision without being armed with a lot of information.
What kind of support do you offer clients who may have temporary difficulties in producing work?
Output does vary from time to time. I have some authors who have needed to take a break from writing for a while and that is just fine. I do have the expectation that an author fulfills his or her contracts on time, but I would be very careful not to sell an author past his or her capacity. Some authors have 1 book a year in them and some have 5 and either schedule is okay with me. Writing is supposed to be fun, so I wouldn't want to put my author in a situation where they felt underwater with their contracts. I encourage authors to build cushions of time into their delivery schedules in case something unexpected does come up. If something major came up that did interfere with the delivery of a contracted work, I would secure extensions, of course.
How would you handle a new mid-career client?
That depends on about a zillion things...whether they are on a good career trajectory or not, whether they are happy with their contracts and genre and editor and publisher. If they had a bad experience with a former agent, I would want to be sensitive about making sure I can fulfill their needs. Some authors feel they can take risks in their careers, some prefer to play it safe, sometimes output changes, life circumstances change, and all that needs to be taken into account.
What are your thoughts about pseudonyms?
I don't fundamentally have an issue with people using pen names. I have authors who write erotic romance and most of them have elected a pseudonym of some kind. As for writing under more then one name, I have mixed feelings because it could help or hinder. I have authors who write in multiple genres under one name and I have other authors who are so prolific that we have elected publish under a couple of different names just for the sake of signing additional contracts. Sometimes a publisher has an opinion about using one pseudonym or another and that should be weighed, too.
What questions do you wish writers would ask you before becoming clients?
I'd love a potential client to ask me about my expectations for them, though that is a question I almost never get asked. It is understood that authors have a set of expectations about my own abilities and prospective performance, but I definitely have a standard that I expect my authors to meet. I want my clients to be as serious as a heart attack about their careers. I want them to treat their work like it is a business and not a hobby. I am not looking for dabblers. I want my clients to be serious about self promotion and willing to put in the time and effort needed to build their names. I want my clients to respect their workplace and be professional and project a positive image in public-that means refraining from publicly airing any grievances with their publishers, editors, covers, readers etc. It also includes not striping themselves naked (metaphorically) on their blogs and being inappropriately personal.
How would you prefer to be approached by established writers looking for new representation?
For a first contact, I love email. Send me an email and tell me about your circumstances-where you are at, where you've been and where you want to go. What kind of material I would like to see from an established author varies depending on publishing history, whether or not you are switching genres etc.
Do you take emailed queries/submissions?
I do take query letters via email-without any samples attached or pasted into the email. My preferred format for queries/submissions is still hard copy. If you would like to send a hard copy submission, feel free to send me a query letter, the first 30 pages, synopsis and an SASE.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about the way you approach agenting?
I think being an agent is all about partnership, so my approach is pretty collaborative. It is my job to help you accomplish everything that you want to accomplish, as smoothly, as satisfyingly and as well-paid as possible. I want to help you be the best that you can be. Although the author really gets to determine the scope of the agent-author relationship, I am happy to be as hands-on as you need or want me to be.