June 4, 2015
Kidlit411 is pleased to feature Susan Hawk, an agent at The Bent Agency, an agency that represents children's writers and illustrators.
The first seed of the idea was planted in a conversation with a librarian from the Brooklyn Public Library who I knew through my work as a Library Marketing Director at Penguin Books for Young Readers. This was back in oh, probably 2007. We were talking about careers (I was at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers at that point, running the kids marketing department) and considering next steps. She mentioned that agenting might be a great way to use my background in marketing and editorial, as well as in libraries and in bookstores – and she was right, though it wasn’t until later that I made the leap.
After the birth of my second child in 2008, I took some time off to be with my kids. When my daughter was about two, I was ready to think about going back to work, and I recalled that conversation. Now, it seemed that the time was right, and I was so excited about agenting. Shortly afterwards, I saw a listing on a neighborhood email group, about an internship at the newly opened Bent Agency. As it turned out, Jenny Bent and I were neighbors. We met for coffee on her stoop and chatted away. I read for Jenny for about a year at which point she suggested that I start building my own client list – and the rest, as they say, is history!
Many writers are on a quest to find an agent. If you could have the perfect client, what characteristics would that client have?
They would be an outstanding writer whose work surprises and delights me. It’s important to appreciate that writing is an art, and publishing a business; the trick is balancing both. I love partnering with someone grateful, willing to work hard to build their career; a good communicator with a wicked sense of humor.
What genres do you represent, and do you prefer to see one over another?
I represent all kids’ books, picture book through YA. I love working on lots of different kinds of books, and don’t prefer one over the other – for me, it’s exciting and fun to move back and forth between categories.
What's on your wish list?
Right now, I’m especially hungry for great MG. I want a smart, funny, fast-paced book, with depth and a really big heart. In YA, I’m looking for something surprising, something that feels different. Again, smart and funny; with characters to fall head over heels in love with.
I’m also actively looking for picture book author-illustrators. I’m drawn to quirky, character driven stories and love a sly sense of humor that works on the kid and adult level.
In all categories, I’m drawn to work that’s literary, layered and well-plotted.
Can you explain how your author/agent relationship works?
I’m a hands-on agent, with an editorial bent. When I offer representation to a writer or illustrator, I’m interested in helping to create and manage their career over the long-term; I don’t take on a single title. It’s important to me that I’m accessible to my clients, and I love to hear from them. In turn, my process is transparent and I share information about submission, replies from editors etc. every step of the way!
Susan has spent over fifteen years in children's book marketing at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books, where she was lucky to work on many different books ranging from Eric Carle's BABY BEAR, BABY BEAR to Betsy Partridge's THIS LAND WAS MADE FOR YOU AND ME, to Nancy Werlin's BLACK MIRROR, as well as the work of Mary E Pearson, Richard Peck and Joan Bauer. She has also worked as a children's librarian and bookseller.
She handles books for children exclusively: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction.
For more information please visit Susan Says, and check the Bent Agency Blog for periodic updates to her wish list.