Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shopping for Agents

Imagine the scene. You've been dragged to the shops to participate in the tradition of buying things on sale. You wait outside the doors. People push and shove around you. The doors open. There's running. Elbows attack. Shins are kicked. You fight into the store to find the bargain you think might be right. When you get it home you discover that, even though you thought you liked it/wanted it, that bargain doesn't look right. It looks good. It'd be great for someone else. It just doesn't feel right for you.

How about this?

You've finished your novel. You're happy with it. Your query is written. Agents researched. You type in the email address then close your eyes and hit send. Your email waits in the agent inbox. Other queries shove around you. There's hooks and plot twists and sample pages. Your query waits, moving up the queue. You've done your work. It's a genre xxx agent loves. A story they said they'd LOVE to see. This is the one. The one that gets you a partial request. A full request. An agent. 

Queries, and agents, are kind of like shopping in the sales. We know what we want. We love a bargain when we see it, but we don't always know if that particular bargain will suit us once we get it home. Sometimes we buy it hoping it'll be what we want. It's the same when searching for representation.

We all have the agent goal on our writing shopping list. But we don't want an agent who might fit. We want the premium product. The one who loves our MS and knows it's the right fit for them. And, in the end, who is the best fit for us. 


Natalie Aguirre said...

So true about it being essential in picking the right agent that fits with you. I think focusing on that can help not to have the "parting ways" problem. I'll keep it in mind when I start querying this year.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Very true, although this makes the agent hunt even more stressful. I've seen agents tweet a couple of times about how frustrating it is to waste time with an author who doesn't really want them to represent their work. They end up reading, analyzing, and weighing a manuscript to decide if it's something they a) love, b) can sell. And then when they offer representation, they get answers like, "I prefer a newer/more established agent." The question they always ask on twitter is, Why did you query me?

I think it is our responsibility to decide before we query if this particular agent is someone we can really see representing us to publishers.

As always, great metaphor, Lindsay!

Toni Kerr said...

When I first started querying, I spent days (DAYS!) researching each agent, just to make sure they felt right for me. Each letter was personalized and edited 10 million times by me and my poor writing buddies. I can laugh about it now, but those rejections hurt the most, some coming within minutes of being sent.

So as time went on, I got faster and less personal, though I did enough research to make sure they at least represented my genre, and that they were actively seeking clients. (And I kept a list of agents not to query, due to cases of inside information)

That said, I'm not sure I could turn down an offer without a concrete reason. Unless I had multiple offers. :-)

Why? Ummm... because I'd want to work side by side with an agent before making that kind of personal judgement. I realize there's a lot at stake with having the WRONG agent, and thank goodness there's the option of "parting ways" if things spiral in terrible directions, but how can you really know what an agent is like until you start working together?