Buckle in, pals. I don’t usually go this route with my blog, but this post is about one thing only: Shameless. Self. Promotion. I am so thrilled to be able to officially share with all the fair denizens of Booklandia that the papers are signed, and I’ve officially set up shop as the newest literary agent at The Rights Factory.
For those of you who didn’t know before, I’m adding this position to a long list of other bookish aspects of my life, which you can read all about in the About section if you’re interested, so I won’t repeat myself here. What I do want to do, by way of celebrating, is talk about how I got this job.
If you’re purely landing here because you’re looking for a rad new agent to rep your work, let me save you a few clicks, and direct you to the places where you can read about what I’m looking for, and submit a query to me: my Manuscript Wish List page, and my Query Manager, which is the only place that I am accepting queries. I was also super honoured this week that Quill and Quire reached out to do a profile on me, which you can see here. I have also added a page on this blog to feature the authors who I currently represent, aka, the #SpineSquad. Please check them out. They are honestly the best.
Becoming an Agent
Please Note: This section of this post has been edited since it was originally posted. Indigenous poet jaye simpson took the time to post on Twitter and call me out for using the phrase “Manifesting my Destiny”, which was the original heading of this post. The origins of that phrase are deeply rooted in colonial violence, and I should never have used it, but the fact remains that I did. As someone trying to integrate more QTPOC voices and work into this platform, this is a huge problem, and I’m grateful to the folks who are teaching me to do better. Please support QTPOC authors, especially jaye simpson, who can be found on Twitter here. They didn’t need to educate me, or point out the violence they caused, and they deserve compensation for their energy.
In the summer of 2019, I was doing a Lot. Of. Driving. I had a partner at the time who lived in Denver, Colorado, and I was splitting my time between their place, and my home with my (still) partner in Toronto, Ontario. Because of the cost, both emotional and financial, of the flight, I got really good at the two-day commute between my two places of residence. I listened to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts, yall. A lot.
At the time, I was taking a leave of absence from my PhD program at McMaster University, and I was working at Another Story bookshop whenever I was in Toronto, and I was spending the majority of my mental energy trying to piece together a picture in my mind of what I wanted my future to be. For several years, I’d been making most of my living as a freelance research assistant and transcriber, and I loved the work and the lifestyle, but I wasn’t sure that once my degree was finished, I wanted to walk away from bookselling. However, working as a bookseller full time in perpetuity didn’t feel sustainable either – it’s hard physical labour being a bookseller, and the pay tops out at just over minimum wage.
I had just turned 30. All of my academic qualifications were in social work. All I had left to my PhD was to write up and defend my dissertation. I had an extensive academic résumé, but knew that being a full-time professor wasn’t a goal I was eager to pursue. I felt so strongly that the work I’d done hand selling at the justice-oriented independent bookshop was the best activism I’d done outside of the direct action of my early 20’s. There was so much good that could be done with books, and they had always been a massive part of my life.
All of this was heavy on my mind as I drove the long, flat stretch through rural Nebraska, catching up on episodes of the Print Run Podcast that I’d banked for the drive. I was on Episode 105: What Should Agents Do, in which Laura and Erik discuss “how the role of agents and agencies could shift to meet the needs of modern publishing.” It was the galaxy-brain moment. By the end of the episode, I was in my car, buzzing, thinking… I could do that. By the time I got to my partner’s house in Denver, I was so ready to tell them my plan… and I phoned my partner back in Toronto, and talked zir ear off, too. And then… reality set in, and I still had a lot of family obligations, my work at the bookshop, and my PhD to finish…
…but a couple of weeks later, I see this tweet. On December 3, 2018, Simu Liu had written, “OK @Marvel, are we gonna talk or what #ShangChi”. When he was cast as the lead character in the movie, he later QT’d, “Thanks for getting back to me.” Obviously, there was more to Liu’s casting than a couple of cleverly-timed tweets, but the jokes had inspired Ryan Estrada to encourage his followers to shamelessly shoot for their dreams, à la Simu Liu. Still feeling all riled up from my drive, I went for it. I figured I had nothing to lose.
In the thread, I tagged every handle I already followed who was connected to lit agenting in some way. Rebecca Podos, from Rees, and Molly Ker Hawn, from the Bent Agency, graciously responded. Both of them responded to me, and offered to spend some of their valuable time answering my extremely under-informed questions. They sent me long Emails, and explained to me how they landed their jobs, what they entailed, and things that I should think about if working as a literary agent was a goal I wanted to pursue. My mind was full, and I am still so grateful for all of the things that they gave me to think about.
Fast forward to December of 2019. A lot had changed. I was back at school full time, with a SSHRC research grant temporarily funding my dissertation writing. I had recently lost one of my elderly dogs, and was newly a puppy caretaker for Pavot, a deaf Dalmatian bb that had entered my life suddenly in October, at 8 weeks old. My relationship with my Colorado partner was ending (although I didn’t know that yet). There had been a lot of big, unexpected changes at the book shop. I was in need of new employment opportunities, and I decided to start looking for positions in publishing. I took to Twitter again, and posted that I was job hunting.
A local author friend (whose debut is now available for preorder! ⬇️) tipped me off that The Rights Factory, a locally-based international literary agency, might need a couple of sets of hands after losing their agency assistant to a job at a publishing house. On December 25th, I fired off an Email to CEO Sam Hiyate with my résumé. I knew it was a long shot, especially on a holiday.
…but, it must have been kismet. Sam responded right away, we had coffee a few days later, and on January 6th (fighting a stomach virus!), I was sitting in my first agency meeting.
It has been a wild ride. Back in January, I agreed to work, unpaid, as Sam’s assistant. I was both excited and apprehensive. I’d previously had two unpaid internships turn into paid jobs in my employment history, but I worried that I wouldn’t be the right fit. Publishing positions in Toronto are super-competitive, since there are so many industry-specific educational programs in the city. As luck would have it, Sam and I hit it off, and I quickly asked him if he would consider keeping me on as an agent at the end of my internship. I have been humbled by his willingness to mentor me, and offer me opportunities that I never expected when I started at TRF. Ultimately, I signed my agency agreement in February, when I signed my first independent client… and now it’s official.
I’ve been searching for a reason to tell this story. In another life, I was a circus school student in Québec when legendary clown Paul Vachon – my mentor at the time, who passed in 2011 – told me never to take an opportunity at face value. You never know what chances can come from unexpected places. That advice has proven true and valuable over the years, and I’m grateful that I’ve had the means to ask for support and seek out the chances that I’m taking advantage of now.
PS, if you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving me a tip! It only takes a minute, and it allows me to keep creating content just like this, buying food for my pets, and pursuing my career as a literary agent!