Friday, October 10, 2008

Working with Agents, Part II

In an earlier post on Working with Agents, I talked about signing with a new agent who had once been at an established agency. What one reader pointed out, however, is that the question seemed not to be about working with an agent at a new agency, but working with a new agent at an established agency. Oops. She was right. So whether you wanted it or not, you get a two-fer.

Before delving into what you can expect from this new agent and what kind of help the new agent might be getting, let me explain a little how agencies and publishers typically work. Now by typically of course I mean from my own experiences. Every agency and every publisher has their own set of rules and guidelines, but this is probably what you can expect. I’m also looking at this regarding a new/young agent or editor, someone who might not be new to the company but is only recently acquiring. This would not necessarily be the way new agents who have had experience in the business and are simply changing agencies work.

When starting in publishing you usually start as an assistant. That means working closely with an agent or editor who has more seniority. This means you do things like write rejection letters, read through the slush pile, answer the phone, and file. It could also mean you get coffee (thank you, Katelynn!). When an assistant starts acquiring they are often seen to the outside world as new to the business when in truth they have been slowly learning about the business for quite some time. When it’s time for a “new” agent to start submitting, it’s only natural that she’ll be receiving a lot of guidance, on everything from which editors to submit to to how to handle contract negotiations, from her senior agent/boss. In fact, when submitting here at BookEnds we often receive a lot of guidance from each other. I don’t know how often we ask each other for recommendations or suggestions when it comes to submitting certain projects.

So, I would assume if you have a young/new agent that she is working with others at the agency to make sure that she’s doing the best for your work that she can. However, I still stand by my earlier statement that if you have any concerns at all you should be talking to her about it, and if you don’t trust that this agent has the instincts to do the best she can for your work, no matter how big the agency she’s with, it might be time to cut and run.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the follow up post.

I'd still like to know whether the newbie agent at a big name agency is able to get in more doors because of the name on the letterhead. I understand that the senior agent helps the newbie, but I'd like more info on how they help--examples of what that can mean, how it might be carried out.

Great blog and thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think the only problem with working with a new agent -- I've worked with two -- is that you don't really know what you're getting into as far as "how" they are going to work. They have maybe a handful of clients, who maybe are only being submitted as well, so there's really no one to email or ask. As a client you never really have that "This person WILL sell this for me" feeling others have with a more established agent.

It wasn't until after I'd signed with a "new" agent that I learned first hand -- by her mood swings and condescending way she spoke to me and about my work -- that I'd made a terrible mistake.

The big problem in this industry is that writers often don't talk about bad experiences with agents, for fear they will get blackballed somehow within the industry. On the other hand, I did tell another writer about my bad experince with that particular agent, and the writer signed with the agent anyway. Fast-forward a year and a half -- that writer still hasn't sold, and the agent claimed it was her fault for not writing something "good."

H. L. Dyer said...

This is fairly off-topic, but I find it amusing that both you and I used "two-fer" today. I don't think I've seen that phrase in print before today.

My "two-fer": I was using today's blog post both for my entry for our blog chain gang, and for my weekly "In Deep Smit" posting. :)

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