From time to time, while reading national publications (like GQ or the New Yorker or the NYT’s Modern Love column) I come across writers who are agented but don’t have a published book. Sometimes they are writers who have MFAs, sometimes they are writers with big online presences (100k+ followers on Twitter) and sometimes, as best I can figure, they’ve just been writing for a lot of national publications for a long time.
I’m wondering how that process works. Do most of these people have unpublished books that nabbed them agents? Is it a networking thing? Is there a term for the kind of agent who reps longform features reporters and essayists that might one day write books?
I have several clients who have unpublished books, but have had essays or other long form pieces published.
They secured representation with the book and the other stuff comes as a part of their inventory.
There are other ways this happens as well.
I know several agents who regularly scout prestigious MFA programs for talent.
They sign promising writers in hopes of a good novel, or a collection of short stories.
Often they'll have stories published in lit mags before a novel goes out on sub.
I regularly read lit journals, particularly those that focus on non-fiction, scouting for writers working on projects that I think would make good books.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors hosts an annual conference for writers and journalist to meet agents. No book required since many of these writers are working on non-fiction.
Most agents are actively looking, not just waiting for something to turn up in the incoming queries. By nature we're an entrepreneurial bunch, and sniffing out new things is something we're collectively good at.
Does that answer the question? Let me know in the comments column if you're wondering about something.