Friday, April 15, 2011

Thought for the Day

It's understandable you have a dream agent, many agents have dream authors. But don't advertise on your blog who exactly your dream agent is. If I get a submission, go to check you out, and discover that Agent X is really your dream agent, why should I waste my time reading? I have a lot of respect for Agent X. She's fabulous. But if I offer and she offers, you've already made it abundantly clear you're signing with her, or are signing with me only because she already rejected you.

Thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll pass and find the author who thinks Agent Jessica is her dream agent.

Jessica

43 comments:

seekingzeal said...

That's pretty funny. I think sometimes bloggers forget that people actually READ their blogs (at least based on posts I've seen about things I wouldn't want my best friend to know, much less the whole world!)

Katie Mills said...

LOL. Is that agent angst I hear? I thought was reserved for authors only!

Anonymous said...

I recently ran across a blog post where somebody said Agent X was their dream agent. Agent X was once my agent. I had a very bad experience with Agent X. Practically a career-ruining experience. It was all I could do not to post a comment saying so.

It's unfortunate that in the discussions that go on online about agents, all most writers have to go on is the quality of that agent's rejections. Apparently Agent X's are simply darling.

Peace, Lena and Happiness said...

I can't believe anyone actually does this! That's crazy. Sure we all have dream agents. But posting it online? Sheesh.

Wes said...

Bloggers aren't the only ones who forget what they put online. I have some great stories about stupid things people have put out there and for some reason thought no one would ever see it. Saw a resume that gave a URL to the applicant's personal webpage.

The webpage was decent, but not really resume worthy. Of course, he also linked to his MySpace page right on the homepage, and that was anything but professional. I guess he thought either no one would really look at his webpage or that they wouldn't click links on it.

Alyson Greene said...

I think it's silly if people decide who their dream agent is before they receive any offers of rep.

A dream agent is the agent who LOVES your book and will work hard for it. You can tell so much from that first call, both in terms of communication style and the agent's vision for your book. It doesn't make sense to decide on a "dream agent" before that point.

Christine Ashworth said...

Well said!

Rachel said...

I think it is insensible for anyone to post about who their dream agent is.

Post dream agent online + bad blog = Instant Rejection.

marissameyer said...

To go against the grain here, I think that an agent who rejects an author because they weren't listed as their "dream agent" is being overly sensitive. Authors live on dreams - it's all we have when we're waiting to finish the book. It's easy for us to look at an agent who reps our favorite author or who just got a 6-figure deal for a debut in OUR genre and call them our dream agent, because these are the only dreams we have to go on for a long time.

When push comes to shove, though, most authors just want an agent who will feel passionately about their own book and do the best they can to sell it. Maybe that's our "dream agent" and maybe it's not - we won't know until we actually receive an offer of representation and have that so-important phone call to decide who makes the most sense for us.

Sure, authors need to use common sense about what they put on their blogs, but the idea that some off-handed comment could destroy our chances with ANY agent seems a little harsh.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

If I'm a die-hard Coke fan or a loyal shopper at a particular retail store do their competitors give up on me as a potential customer? No. They position themselves as better than -- or at least different from -- the competition in order to woo me away.

Seems if you know who a potential client's dream agent is, you have a leg up in knowing how you present yourself when you offer, no? ;o)

David said...

Jessica: I don't know if you're my dream agent, but you're my dream blogger. One of the industry's best and it RSS feeds to my home page every day. Thanks.
(I already have an agent and publisher, more at www.bydavidklein.com)

Laila Knight said...

Pretending is fun, a way to relieve stress. I guess that's why I write fantasy. I play around plenty in my blog. Still, a dream agent is only a tease. I'm sure we'd all rather have the real thing.

ryan field said...

I've been seeing this dream agent thing for years and I never get it.

My dream agent looks like Brad Pitt. But I wouldn't turn down one who looked like Swifty Lazar.

T C Mckee said...

Ouch, that's gotta sting a little. At least remove it before you query.

girlseeksplace said...

Sound advice. It's best not to mention any agent names on your blog.

Kim Lionetti said...

Phoenix Sullivan and MarissaMeyer --

But would you go to an interview at Pepsi Corporation, telling them how much you love Coke?

The key is to handle yourself professionally and keep in mind that this is a career move. Can you share with your critique partners and family that "such-and-such" is your dream agent? Sure. It's no crime to HAVE a dream agent. It's just not a good idea to talk about it in a public forum. And your blog is a public forum.

So I think the real issue here is that writers need to remember that they shouldn't make "offhand" comments on a blog. Blogs aren't personal journals, but I think a lot of people treat them as such.

Monica Mansfield said...

With blogs and Twitter, we can gain a sense for agents personalities, but that's not enough for me to have a dream agent. I would love to be repped by any agent on my list-based on what I know today. Right now, it's a one-sided affair...kind of like stalking.

What makes one ideal is how they respond to me. Then it goes from stalking to a full blown relationship.

How they react to my writing, what changes they suggest for the ms, where they see my career going and how we connect are the things that matter.

S.P. Bowers said...

Great post. I linked over here from my blog.

My dream agent is someone who loves my book and has a plan for how to sell it. I can't imagine choosing an agent without having a conversation with them. One not imagined.

Kristin Laughtin said...

This kind of reminds me of a comment I made on Dystel & Goderich's blog yesterday (http://www.dystel.com/2011/04/just-as-video-killed-the-radio-star%e2%80%a6/). Their entry was about, in essence, essays vs. blog posts. While I argued that blog posts don't necessarily require essay-level writing, people still need to know how to write and act professionally. I think a similar concept applies here. If you're using your blog for your writing career, then it's best to not treat it the way you would your diary, and be aware that what you're writing can be read by the people you're trying to impress. Think through the possible ramifications of your words, and if you really just want to post about your dream agent, make a personal blog and lock that entry so only your friends can see it!

5pocketphilosopher said...

My dream agent is the one that signs me :-) is that okay to say?

Sharla Scroggs said...

Can I say it? Can I? :) You ARE my dream agent, for the exact reason Alyson said up there. I found the agent that called to tell me she loved my book so much she stopped editing and just read it for the story. What better compliment is there than that? And what better connection? When you find that person that loves your work, that is your dream agent.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Kim: Continuing to play devil's advocate, I guess it depends on who is actually interviewing whom in the agent/client relationship and how confident the interviewee is that they have the right skills and reputation.

And actually, yes, I have mentioned a company's competitor when interviewing, pointing out the benefits the other company offers. That ensured a nice hiring package after the negotiations.

Do you think a company looking for an A1 programmer would pass over an A1 candidate who gushed and posted on a blog, "I would give anything to work at Google/Apple/Microsoft!? They have a game room! The company pays for X! And their benefit package is to die for!"

It becomes the interviewer's job to convince the candidate that they can love their company just as much.

I'm assuming, of course, that an agent isn't looking at someone's blog until they've already shown some degree of skill and competency, so we're leveling the playing field here at A1 client candidates.

Plus, if we start second-guessing ourselves about what an "off-hand" remark might be, where will that take us? What happens if we give an unfavorable review to a book that's agented by someone we query? For that matter, what if an agent has said they don't usually like the genre of a book they want to represent? What if someone says they're a vegetarian or a hunter, a democrat or a republican? Everything becomes a potential hot button, eh?

Dustin Hansen said...

What a great thread.

I admit that I am guilty of this and I got hammered for it by an agent not on my dream agent list. I took my post down immediately but I'm sure it still lingers out there somewhere in the interwebs. I'm even paranoid enough to think that said agent might have shared it with other well connected agents. The horror!

I felt worthless for making this mistake. Chastised and slapped down. In less than 140 chars, the agent made me feel horrible for making this infraction and it got around like wild fire. The agent only went public with your opinion once, but she has a billion followers and it was clear pretty quick who had crossed her ire. I'm still not over it.

In retrospect it was foolish, but to be honest, I was excited. I can see why you would advise authors not to post anything about an agent, but I think Pheonix S brings up some fantastic points. It's difficult to know where to tread.

On twitter, authors and agents banter all the time. The conversations feel natural and nobody seems to have the upper hand, but unpublished/un-agented authors their place. We know it well and if we forget all we have to do is dig around and we will learn exactly where we rank.

Authors, don't intentionally provoke agents. They treat them with kid gloves. In fact they often treat them like celebrities or royalty.

Agents, on the other hand, don't necessarily treat authors in the same manner.

If I had a dollar for every time I've seen agents publicly scoff at the mistakes authors make - well, I'd have time to focus more on my writing -that's for sure.

Honestly, I've deleted this comment three times because I feel threatened to post it and I know I'm not alone.

What I'm saying is - it's hard and in a remarkably subjective industry like this one, sometimes you don't know the right answer until you blog the wrong on.

Thanks for the post however, it is good to add another don't to the list.

Sara Thompson said...

I think the biggest point to remember is that nothing on the internet is personal or private. At fourteen, I tell my son to be careful what he puts on his facebook and youtube accounts because nothing ever disappears online. He's started a blog and I caution him that someday something he posts or does online will come back to haunt him when he goes for a job or other competitive programs out there (college, internships, and even relationships).

Virginia Llorca said...

Do you suppose a person would post that hoping the agent would be flattered into inquiring further? Don't think so. Some sites recommend getting on agent blogrolls, and some sites, your's sometimes, won't let people comment if they are not enrolled or logged in. Anyway, I would just be so flattered you read my blog all else would be moot. And you are on my followed list. How flattered are you?

Maril Hazlett said...

Ooooooooo. I'm still cringing that someone did that.

I can see the other points of view, too - but I'm still stuck on ooooooooooooo.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to fall for an agent's public persona. In order to build their list, they do conferences, contests, blog, write books and articles. But it is a persona. You don't have a clue what the real person is like to work with, or how they're perceived by their professional colleagues. I have yet to see any agent badmouth any other agent, yet I know there are some questionable ones out there. So deciding someone is your dream agent based on limited access to that person is just silly. One writer's dream agent is another writer's nightmare. Relationships are about chemistry, and some people have it and others don't. Also, relationships can change over time. An agent who was enthusiastic about a writer at the beginning of her career might not maintain the enthusiasm.

As for dream writers or clients,it's easy. A writer who is saleable and not high maintenance. Who doesn't need constant ego stroking or hand holding.

I think what Jessica means is why should she waste the limited time she has chasing someone she doesn't stand a chance of signing? There's no point in going that distance, because the writer will turn her down. There are plenty of writers who would be delighted to have Jessica offer.

Here's the thing I don't understand. If you have a dream agent in mind, go for it. Submit to the dream agent first. Get it out of your system. If that agent says no, then move on. It's not fair to use an agent's time you have no intention of signing with, especially if she could be reading my manuscript with that same time.

Donna Weaver said...

Brutally honest. You made me smile.

Daisy Whitney said...

I signed with my dream agent!! Lucky me! (I kept it off my blog though during the search!)

Trisha said...

Agreed! :)

To be honest though, my dream agent is an agent who wants to sign me :D

BookEnds, LLC said...

Phoenix:

I think the difference is that you are not my customer. I'm not selling anything so I'm not trying to woo you away. I'm trying to start a business partnership with you and I want someone who is as dedicated to me as I am to them. In other words, would you want to sign with me if I wrote on my blog that I read two manuscript this weekend. One was fabulous, but the author went elsewhere so I'm going to offer on the other instead? Wouldn't that make you feel that I was not as committed to you as you wanted?

If you're going to use the job interview as a comparison then I think you need to look at it this way, you're not talking about your competitor, you're sitting in an interview telling Pepsi that you would rather work for Coke, but instead you're settling for second best. There are two issues here. One is that you've decided you're settling for me, but the other is that if you're settling for me then I need to assume that the other agent has passed and if that's the case, and she's likely someone I respect, then maybe it's not a book worth my time either.

I would imagine there are plenty of great employees who would love to work for Pepsi, people with credential equal to yours, so why would they hire someone who clearly states she would rather work for Coke?

I've taken on many clients who have had agents previously and one of the things we discuss is what the agent did for them that they liked and what they would like me to do that wasn't done for them. I am always looking to other agents to make me better, but when entering a business partnership I want to know that I'm on the top of the list, not a fall back.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

Lists are popularity contests. They reflect how well an agent has established his/her online platform. Those writers listing dream agents have not experienced the reality of publishing from contract negotiation to actual publication. A list made after that process should hold a lot more weight for you.

Lists are good for two reasons, one and most importantly they offer a sliver of hope for an aspiring writer amidst the near-Sisyphean trial of publishing. Second, it shows they're paying attention, that they've done some kind of research and found people whose personalities and objectives are similar to their own. It gives you a clue into them.

It's a luxurious life agents lead if they can ignore the quality of the work and reject a person because he/she didn't include the agent on a list.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

One is that you've decided you're settling for me, but the other is that if you're settling for me then I need to assume that the other agent has passed and if that's the case, and she's likely someone I respect, then maybe it's not a book worth my time either.

But isn't this falling into the same trap writers are counseled against? You'd be reading into the fact an agent you respected passed on a work to mean it's not good enough. But writers are told over and over a manuscript could be rejected for many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of the work:
- The agent has a full list already.
- The agent recently took on a similar work.
- The story has a religious or political element the agent is personally not comfortable with.
-The agent's assistant read it and didn't pass it up to the agent herself.

Would knowing Agent A passed -- without knowing the circumstances why -- really influence your instincts about a manuscript?

I also think that if you didn't describe my manuscript as the fabulous one of the two on your blog, but expressed enthusiasm for it on the phone, had the same vision I did for it, and provided a top-notch submission plan, you could easily convince me to "settle" for you.

Besides, agents often mention on their blogs or in their tweets that they lost out on a manuscript to other agents. The atmosphere is generally that of friendly competition not overall competence. If that's my dream agent who lost, does that post change my overall perception of the agent to know that she isn't always someone else's preferred agent?

I guess, IMO, as long as there's no badmouthing on either side, it really should be a non-issue. ;o)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

One is that you've decided you're settling for me, but the other is that if you're settling for me then I need to assume that the other agent has passed and if that's the case, and she's likely someone I respect, then maybe it's not a book worth my time either.

But isn't this falling into the same trap writers are counseled against? You'd be reading into the fact an agent you respected passed on a work to mean it's not good enough. But writers are told over and over a manuscript could be rejected for many reasons, some of which have nothing to do with the quality of the work:
- The agent has a full list already.
- The agent recently took on a similar work.
- The story has a religious or political element the agent is personally not comfortable with.
-The agent's assistant read it and didn't pass it up to the agent herself.

Would knowing Agent A passed -- without knowing the circumstances why -- really influence your instincts about a manuscript?

I also think that if you didn't describe my manuscript as the fabulous one of the two on your blog, but expressed enthusiasm for it on the phone, had the same vision I did for it, and provided a top-notch submission plan, you could easily convince me to "settle" for you.

Besides, agents often mention on their blogs or in their tweets that they lost out on a manuscript to other agents. The atmosphere is generally that of friendly competition not overall competence. If that's my dream agent who lost, does that post change my overall perception of the agent to know that she isn't always someone else's preferred agent?

I guess, IMO, as long as there's no badmouthing on either side, it really should be a non-issue. ;o)

Donea Lee said...

Not posting dream agents on your blog seems so - common sense. I guess you just never know about some people...

Luckily, after-thoughts and delete options come to the rescue on occasion!

Anonymous said...

I think this probably goes for comments on an agent's blog. I remember a lot of poeple used to comment on NB's blog that he was their first choice--to be fair, often after they'd already been rejected by him. But still, how does that seem to other agents who probably read his blog?

tamarapaulin said...

Okay, mentioning agent names, that's pretty obvious. But I get paranoid about other things on my blog.

If I post about how I am turned off by people who drink Diet Coke, is that going to scare away agents? (Seriously, I canceled a blog post because of this fear.)

We're supposed to have author platforms ... but a big-mouthed person like me with a blog and a twitter account ... isn't that sort of like giving me just enough flexibility to stick both feet in my mouth? :-)

Andrew said...

Great post, I think the discussion about the job interview is interesting, but I'd say that Phoenix's approach is summed up by "we're writers and you should want to hire us", when I think from experience the reality is often more that the agent is in control - there are, after all, fewer agents than writers. So the agent is the one to say "I can make your book sell, but why should I take you on." Of course, it's all far more complex than that - a careful balance must be met - but at the end of the day, I'd say it's not worth jeopardising any chance of getting published simply because you don't want to impress every agent you submit to.

JS said...

If you were looking for a real estate agent, would you ever blog "OH I REALLY WANT JONES AND SMITH TO SELL MY HOUSE THEY ARE THE BEST REALTORS IN THE WORLD" while interviewing a bunch of other agents?

If your answer is "yes", then let me know how that works out for you. If your answer is "no", then you see where Jessica is coming from.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

That's an awful lot of 'Johnny wants to take Cindy tot he dance instead of me' crap.

This is business folks. If anyone - agent or author - is this sensitive, maybe they need to take up gardening instead.

I hire an agent to provide a service. Period. The agent should remain with me as long as it is financially sensible to do so. The moment that is no longer clear, the relationship should be terminated.

Why does everyone act like they are asking out a prom date? IF I live in Texas and you live in NYC, we will probably NEVER meet. I could care less if you a a total asshole who tortures puppies. Shop my book. Knock on some doors.

Leave the drama for the Lifetime network or the WWE.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Anon 10:18:

I disagree completely. You are not hiring an agent to provide a service. You are hiring an agent to be your business partner, to make an investment in your product and if you think the relationship ends when the money stops coming in you don't understand the business. It can take years before the money even starts coming in and a good agent along with a strong-will author will keep plugging along as long as they still believe in each other.

When choosing a business partner personality does matter, as does the ability to communicate well. If I'm going to make an investment of my time and money I want to trust not just in the product, but the person bringing the product to me and if that person doesn't have professional business sense I don't know that they'll survive in the business world of publishing. Doesn't sound like a good investment for me.

--jhf

Anonymous said...

That is where we disagree on then. 'I like you and want to be your #1 choice' doesn't = good business sense to me. It would help, but if I had a 'dream agent' and a professional, capable agent that wa snot that person offered to rep me, I certainly wouldn't brush them off.

I know we like to pretend publishing is somehow a mystical business so far removed from all others as to be incomprehensible to the unwashed masses, but let's be honest here. Business, all business, is about money. People can pretend and I am not accusing you of this BTW) that it's about being rewarded in other ways and all that nonsense, but business is making money. No company does it 'to feel good'.

As an author, i am a small business. I make money. If I am not working toward making money, I don't need an agent. That would be a hobby.

So if Agent X is not the kind of person I want to watch a ballgame with, but has the business sense to really be an asset to me, I will hire that agent in a heartbeat. If some is super nice and makes great conversation and does nothing to forward the business, I fire them.

Likewise any agent (and I'm sure you would agree) that likes an author but can't sell his/her work is not going to maintain a professional relationship with.

The head-scratching part seems to be that is someone wrote the next Harry Potter or Twilight or whatever, but an agent didn't get the warm and fuzzy from him/her, it's not going to happen.

One of those scenarios makes sense to me. The other does not.

If it does to you, we can agree to disagree. Accusing me of being ignorant about the business really doesn't forward the argument.

You don;t strike me as the snippy kind, so I'll assume it wasn't a slap. I was just pointing out that I really don't think 'liking' people is essential to doing business with them. I also don;t look at agents as business partners either - at least not fully - but that's just me.

Cyprith said...

I agree, to a point. But I think your view on the situation is painfully simplistic.


So let’s say on my blog I write, "I love Neil Gaiman."


Does that mean that I never want to read a book by any other author? Does it mean that all books written by Neil Gaiman will be to my taste?


No, of course not. So while Agent X may be my Number One fantasy agent, it doesn't diminish the appropriateness of any other agent for my work. Perhaps you sacrificed nuance for succinctness, but to refuse to work with someone on the basis that they like a particular agent’s body of work? Does that mean if I play with Susie on the playground, I can’t sit with Jen at lunch?


I see what you’re saying, though. Don’t alienate clients with forgotten bits of internet. I’ve had some editors I wish would have taken this to heart. A quick Google name search and I’ve found old tidbits about editors’ personal lives that would give my grandmother vapors.


Personally, I don’t want to know anything about my editor’s sex life. But, hey. Maybe that’s just me.