Discoverability Is Everything: An Agents Journey

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Shortlisted for ‘The British Book Awards Literary Agent of the Year’ 2016, Vicki Willden-Lebrecht reflects on how she reached this point in her journey as an agent. Agents are often depicted as the money driven manipulators within an industry. In actual fact their role is all about serving someone else, investing in their future and striving to make dreams come true. Those dreams aren’t necessarily just about the money. They are truly personal and creatively satisfying.

Helping others get what they want is one of the most rewarding things you can do: Being part of something, being integral to the success of others, and working closely with the most inspiring talent, I count my lucky stars every time a new brilliant idea arrives in my inbox from an artist. I can work with them to evolve, and eventually pitch to the right client and make a published reality.

The key to creative integrity is listening and being listened to: Listening to an author illustrator and responding realistically to them, with their trust that you have heard what they are and sometimes what they are not saying. Having the self-belief that you can deliver often the unimaginable! An agent is a collaborator, soundboard, legal and financial advisor, the heart of an agent’s role is as a listener. Bologna times!

Bologna though the ages with Bright agents and artists together

Embracing new means of discoverability:
In the past 12 years we have done something remarkable at Bright: my artists have created identities as author illustrators and I have found my primary moral compass; to keep the creative’s vision at one with the publishers agenda. And to now include discoverability as a transmedia journey and not an afterthought. I make decisions to never take credit, own copyright or be the principle in the work because the agents role is to enhance the artist, not to be them.

Publishing is going through a print and digital revolution, how we buy content is dramatically changing. Promotional activity especially has evolved, with the impact of digital marketing, blogging, and new festivals adding value to authors and the engagement of their books, increasing their sales. Bright fully recognizes the need to partake in this, speeding up the process of discovery of their artists’ publications.

I believe this makes Bright’s ethos a leading approach in meeting the demands of our industry. We’ve reacted to this demand for interaction and engagement by opening The Bright Emporium, a gallery-come-bookshop where a new world of discovery is made available to families, literary and art fans.

Driving discoverability- promoting our artists

Promoting Bright artists with book launches, industry parties and Storytime Sunday events at The Bright Emporium.

  Brainstorming Supertato with Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet in the kitchen PLUS BEN  MANTLE

Artists such as Benji Davies, Yasmeen Ismail, Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet, have birthed successful children’s books and well known characters. These pictures show me brainstorming Supertato ideas with Sue and Paul in their kitchen. With Ben Mantle in his studio developing There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight.

Awards won Publishing is emotional, full of attachments, passion and dreams. As an agent you must be realistic, setting obtainable goals and making life decisions on the behalf of your artists. The most important thing is the ability to believe you have the talent to deliver those goals to artists, publishers, media companies – no matter how ambitious or out of reach they might seem at first. Here with Nicola O’Byrne and David Litchfield winning the Waterstones Best Illustration for Children’s Book Award, Yasmeen Ismail wins V&A Best Book Illustration Award and Lee Wildish reaches the New York Times Bestseller list.

What’s next:

Bright now has 11 agents all working to our ethos of creative integrity being core to all that we do, driving discoverability to elevate our artists goals. We are ever evolving and striving to give a greater service to Bright artist than standard agents. Here is a new generation of young, vibrant author illustrators bringing their own fresh take on the picture book genre. The role of the agent today is very much to help them develop from artists of other people’s work, to conceiving fully-formed ideas of their own.

My journey to becoming an agent has been about discovery. I started as an artist and agent from a creative background, initially representing artists with stories. Somewhere between there and here, together with my artists Benji Davies, Sue Hendra & Paul Linnet and Yasmeen Ismail to name a few, they discovered their voices – and I found mine.

Celebrating our bright artists

Celebrating with Bright artists at our annual picnic, toasting the companies 10th birthday and launching The Bright Emporium last year.

Find out more from Vicki on being shortlisted as Literary Agent of the Year for the British Book Awards here.  Find out her thoughts on being part of an all female list of nominees and the only agent listed in this category that works exclusively on children’s pictures books…