Friday, September 19, 2008

Working with New Agents

I signed with an agent that doesn't have a lot of sales but has been with one of the best agencies in New York for a couple years. Everyone she works with says she's great but I'm worried that she won't be able to make the sale come time, simply because she hasn't had any so far. I think she has a lot of books waiting to close but I don't know what that means. Do these new agents work with their more experienced agents at their agency to help them break in? Should I have gone with another agent with more sales under her belt even though this agent really seems to get my work?

It can be tricky signing with a new agency, and certainly I think even more so than when you’re signing with a more experienced agent—you are certainly putting your trust in someone. I know that I am eternally grateful to all of those clients who signed with me when I was still new and had few to no sales.

In some cases I think these are questions you should have talked over with the agent before signing. Working for “one of the best agencies in New York” doesn’t mean anything if she was a receptionist. If she doesn’t have any sales under her belt as a new agent, what was her experience at the other agency? Did she represent clients there? Make sales? Negotiate contracts? What did she learn that can help give you confidence that she can do the job for you now? Knowing the answers to at least some of these questions can help calm you and help you feel more confident about this agent.

What the answers to these questions are though aren’t what worries me. What worries me most about this question is that it seems to me that you signed with an agent that you don’t have confidence in, and I would ask why you signed with her. It’s always, always stressful signing with an agent, but it's important that when you do you feel that you’ve signed with someone you can work with and who can work for you. Granted, she might not be able to sell that book immediately (as is so often the case), but will she be able to build a career for you? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself.

I can’t tell you whether or not you’re with the right agent or should have signed with someone else. There’s no way to tell anyone that no matter how big the agent’s track record or how many sales they’ve had. What I can tell you is that you should probably have a heart-to-heart with your agent about your concerns and find out more about her and, more important, find out about her plan for your book. If you’re still not feeling confident that you’ve made the right decision with this agent, maybe it’s time to cut and run now. You aren’t doing anyone any favors if you can’t trust the one person who is supposed to be on your side in this crazy business.