Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Look before you leap

Aspiring authors who've yet to get one all dream of one thing (or person as the case may be). Their future agent. They want an agent, and they want one now. But there is wisdom in making sure you don't just find the first agent who will say 'yes.' You need to find the agent who is right for you, and for your career.

I've spoken with a few different authors/aspiring authors who have had to part ways with their first agent at different times. Does that mean the agent was a "bad agent?" No, it doesn't. In fact, not at all. In one case, the same agent represented two different authors I know. For one author the agent did a great job selling the author's work and working together, but in the second case after about a year, it just didn't work out. Same agent. Same skills. Different authors. Different results. So again, does it mean the agent was 'bad?' Obviously not, the agent did a great job for one of the authors. What it means is that every agent is a person, not just a means to getting you published. They have personalities (gasp!), they have editing styles, they have agenting styles. And what is a perfect fit for one author, might not be for you.

So, when you are querying and get to the stage where you are getting interest in your mss, make sure you take the time to really talk to the potential agents. Talk to their authors even, if you're still not sure. Write out a list of questions that mean the most to you. If you don't know what those questions should be, sit down and write out what factors/traits are most important to you in an agent. Not sure what they should be? Maybe I'll make that a future post. Off the top of your head, what do you think is the most important factor in choosing your agent?

14 comments:

Carolyn V. said...

I agree. I think you need to do your homework on the agent to make sure you're compatible. Great post Sara!

Colene Murphy said...

I hear that a lot, about having to part with your agent and that is actually a terrifying thought for an unpublished writer(maybe just me I donno for sure) It's horrifying to think that after all the work and all the queries and tears and everything you finally get an agent and then...have to lose them and start all over?! Scary. I would love to hear your questions!

Shari said...

I'm interested in your questions, too. Great post. It's definitely something we should all think about.

L.T. Elliot said...

I definitely believe in doing your homework but also think that no matter how well you do it, there will always been unforseen factors. Hopefully, the relationship will be good enough that those factors can be dealt with and everyone's happy. If not, well, I don't think it's the end of the world if you have to part ways.

Belle said...

Great post. I haven't even thought that far ahead yet, but you're right - it's a professional relationship that has a very important impact on a writing career. Will love to see your post on questions to ask!

Elana Johnson said...

Interesting post! For me, it was the one who "got" me and my books and what I was trying to do. They have to be your champion, all the time.

DL Hammons said...

What pops to the top of my head...my agent should love my book as much as I do and be willing to fight hard for it. Too simplistic?

Andrea Mack said...

Sara, a thought-provoking post! I am at the stage where I'm trying to get an agent, and you are right, there is definitely a pull to think about saying yes to the first one who offers a contract (if that ever happens).

Janiel Miller said...

What everybody else said. And I'm waiting for your list. Not far enough along to even know what I should ask.

Lisa and Laura said...

Such good advice--I think the most important factor for us when choosing an agent was who was going to push us the hardest and whose vision most closely matched our own. It was not easy though!

A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Pen In Neverland: Angela Peña Dahle said...

Elana: I must say I would love to find someone who is a "champion all the time" of my writing or at least believes I can get it right. At the same time I've got to understand their explanations too. I've got to "get" them.

Lisa and Laura: Oh I so want an agent who will do just that--push me the hardest to excel. On the other hand I would expect them to know I will be as proactive as possible.

I think I'd like someone who is hands on too, and detail oriented.

One big thing for me is that I'd have to be able to skype or e-mail a lot as I am hearing impaired. Hearing over the phone can be trouble sometimes.

Is all this too much of a utopia?

WindyA said...

Great post, Sara! Definitely something to heed when you're looking for an agent. Someone who understands and believes in your work is great, but also someone who you will work well with because that dynamic is key into making it all work for you.

Sara McClung ♥ said...

Awesome post! I was so surprised when I found out that more than a few of my agented/published friends were no longer with their first agents.