5 Questions with Literary Agent Carly Watters


I am so pleased to welcome agent extraordinaire Carly Watters to the blog today. Carly is a VP and senior literary agent with P.S. Literary. She represents a variety of fiction and nonfiction authors, including Taylor Jenkins Reid, Karen Katchur, Rebecca Phillips, Jay Onrait, and yours truly. Carly has been on the faculty of numerous industry conferences around North America, including SCBWI San Francisco North and East Bay, Surrey International Writers’ Conference, Las Vegas Writer’s Conference, DFWcon, Ontario Writers’ Conference, CanWrite, and Florida Writers Conference.

Her blog—which you should absolutely be reading—has been named one of 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest magazine for three years in a row.

1. What do you look for in your clients? What makes someone a good fit for you?

I look for something that has a voice (I can’t teach that) and someone who has something to say. I am also looking for a writer that has many books in them. I always want to know what they’re working on next. I like professionalism, perseverance, trust, and respect. A good fit for me is a writer who is writing adult fiction or nonfiction and understands their genre and their place in it. They want to fill a gap in the market because no one has told their type of story quite like they have.

2. Where do you find new clients? Is it mostly from the slush pile? Personal referrals? Writers conferences?

I find clients through the slush pile 90 percent of the time. The other 10 percent is referrals and me reaching out to people in the nonfiction space (TV personalities, bloggers, comedians, experts, chefs, etc.). I love the slush pile; I genuinely enjoy reading through it. If you have properly addressed me and know exactly my taste, then you’re going to easily get a request.

3. If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring novelists trying to launch a career, what would it be?

Don’t rush anything; don’t force anything. Things will happen when they’re meant to. Don’t rush into self-publishing. Don’t sign an indie contract before you’re ready and understand it. Choose the right team around you: beta readers, critique partner, agent, accountant, etc. Let other people handle the business so you can write.

4. What is the biggest “don’t” you see in terms of the ways authors approach you about representation?

This one isn’t as easy as you’d think. Most people do many little things wrong that add up to a big “no.” I wish I had one answer to help people on their way. It’s about writing the best book you possibly can. It’s not about pitching me the book you want to write, are thinking about writing, or wrote and just self-published. I want to be on your team for the breakout book, and that means pitching me the absolute best in your arsenal.

5. What might surprise people about the work you do?

Most of it isn’t reading. It’s business. I’m researching, pitching, negotiating, etc. I love when I can get to my reading!

Want Carly to be your agent? (Trust me, you do!) Check out her wish list here. Maybe you’ll be her next slush pile gem!