I’ve been thinking a lot about agents lately, probably because I’ve received a lot of questions about agents over the past year or so. Since I give a lot of the same advice, I figured this might be a good venue to share some of my thoughts.
1) There is no such thing as a “dream” agent. Let me put it this way—it’s dangerous to put agents on a pedestal. There are a lot of good agents out there, and the “dream” agent you have in mind might not feel the same way about your work. Sure, you should target agents that you think are a good fit, but if you think there’s only ONE PERFECT MAGICAL agent for you, you’ll be in for a rude awakening if things don’t work out.
2) There are a lot of good agents out there, but there are a lot of bad ones, too. Do your research. See who’s making sales. See who’s speaking at conferences. For agents new to the business, see where they interned or worked previously. And if a new agent doesn’t have a background in publishing or didn’t intern anywhere or has only sold to extremely small, university press or e-book publishing houses, RUN IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. A bad agent is always worse than no agent.
3) Be realistic. Just because an agent sold an eight-book, one-trillion dollar deal in a three-day auction for author X doesn’t meant it’ll happen for you. Try to be patient, and cheer when your agent-mates get a deal.
4) Your agent doesn’t have to be your best friend, but you should try to choose an agent that meshes with your personality. Sales are nice, but they aren’t everything. It’s hard to be collaborative if you hate your agent’s guts.
5) Know what you’re looking for. This one is kind of hard, because you sometimes don’t know what you want in an agent until you aren’t getting it. For ideas on what to ask, check out this list at Literary Rambles.
And a few final thoughts, once you get an agent:
6) Take your agent’s advice, but don’t be naive. Read your contracts. Offer opinions. While this is a partnership, it’s your career. It’s your name on the book.
7) Respect your agent’s time. I love talking with my agent, but I try to remember that she has clients other than me. I don’t expect her to respond immediately to my 2000-word email about how much I hate my WIP. But when I need her, she’s always there.
8) Don’t be afraid to make a change if things aren’t working. I know it’s scary—sometimes it’s so hard to find an agent, and the idea of starting the process all over again is daunting. But really, you want a relationship that works. And the “perfect” agent for one author won’t be the perfect agent for another. It doesn’t mean that the agent is bad. It just means it’s not a good fit.
It’s like the nice-looking boy that you dated in college. He seemed dreamy, until you discovered that he had a thing for fava beans and Chianti. I’m sure he’ll eventually find the right person for him…someday. It just won’t be you.
Good luck! Happy hunting!
And be sure to stock up on a lot of chocolate and wine. Believe me, you’ll need it.