Literary Agent Q&A: Taryn Fagerness

In Global Trade Talk by Hannah Johnson

As part of our ongoing series of Q&A’s with the world’s leading literary agents, scouts and rights managers, Publishing Perspectives talks to Taryn Fagerness, who founded the Taryn Fagerness Agency in Gig Harbor, Washington.
Taryn Fagerness started her own literary agency in 2009

Taryn Fagerness started her own literary agency in 2009

What has been your biggest success over the past few years?
One of my biggest international successes has been Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks. The author had told me he was working on something, and he didn’t know if it was good or not. I told him to send me what he had, so he sent around 50 pages only a week before the Frankfurt Book Fair that year. I read the pages and just knew it was a very special project. It was one of those moments when the hair on the back of your neck prickles and you think “this is REALLY good.” I took those 50 pages to Frankfurt and sold it to the UK, Spain, Italy, and others (even before a US sale). And foreign sales have continued to trickle in over the years. We’re now up to 19 foreign sales!

What specific advice or “best practices” do you implement in your territories?
Make connections, form relationships, and present books with passion. That’s my “best practice” for any territory.

What is the greatest challenge you face in the rights business today?
The greatest challenge I face in selling rights is competing with everything else out there. I may think a book is awesome, but a) how do I convince everyone else of that; and b) what if there is an even more awesome book by someone else out there? I may do my best to bring attention to a great novel about, say, a widowed pasta maker, only to find out there is another (better) widowed pasta maker book making the rounds. It’s a strange, always shifting market in which to work. It’s hard to predict, and that makes it challenging and exciting.

Over the course of the last five to ten years, how has the digital revolution changed the rights business?
I get this question a lot. But for me, it hasn’t changed how I do business much. I’m still licensing rights, whether a publisher prints the book in a hardcover, paperback, or ebook format. If anything, it’s opened up some new opportunities. In the UK, for example, there are now ebook-only publishers and imprints to approach with titles that, perhaps, a print publisher wouldn’t go for. I suspect this will (eventually) happen in other territories, too.

Before opening her own agency in March 2009, Taryn Fagerness spent five years as the Subsidiary Rights Manager and an Agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She’s sold hundreds of books to foreign, audio, and film markets, including work by Lisa See, Amy Tan, Neal Shusterman, Charles Mann, Irvin Yalom, Keith and Brooke Desserich, Cayla Kluver, Chloe Palov, Matthew Dicks, Kimberly Derting and many more.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.