Monday, March 17, 2008

If I Were an Author

As many of you know, I do a lot of interviews for blogs, ezines, and print magazines. Often the questions are very, very similar, but recently I received this one and thought it was so great that I wanted to share it with you. I apologize ahead of time: I don’t remember which interview it came from, so if it was yours and you’re reading the blog, could you please comment and pitch yourself?

If you were pitching a novel and looking for an agent, what are some agent qualities that would be absolute "musts" for you?

The answer I gave in the interview can of course be read in my interview, but I thought more about this and am expanding on it in some ways. These are in no particular order.

  • Honesty: I want an agent who is brutally honest about everything we do together, from contracts, to my work, to future ideas, to our relationship. I want to know if the ideas stink, the contract stinks, I’m being too whiny and ridiculous, or our communication needs to improve. I won’t always like hearing it, but if I want to be a better author I will need to hear it. And of course I want to trust that my money isn’t going to her manicurist.

  • Editorial advice: I won’t always need it, but I want an agent who is willing to give it. If my book needs work I want suggestions on how it can be fixed and I want as many opinions as possible on the best way to make my books stronger.

  • Strong negotiation skills: A pit bull isn’t necessary, but someone who isn’t afraid to get in there and go a round or two with editors is. There is no such thing as a perfect contract, but I want an agent who’s willing to try her hardest to find it.

  • Contacts: Obviously these are critical, but I don’t want an agent who is relying on the same contacts this year that she relied on ten years ago. I want someone who is a networker. Who is always out there meeting fresh young editors, and selling to them.

  • Comfort: She doesn’t need to be Grandma Moses, but I need to be comfortable with her. Long talks on the phone might be necessary, and I don’t want to be sweating my way through them.

  • Growth: Almost anyone can sell a book, not everyone can build a career. I want an agent who can sell my first book and build my career from there. Who can sit with me to discuss my hopes, dreams, and goals, and come up with a plan to successfully make them happen.
Your turn. If you were an agent looking to build a client list, what would be the qualities of your dream client?