Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Agent That's Right for You

Almost every week you hear me talk about the need for an agent that’s right for you, and yet almost every week I get a reply to a submission that says, “Come on. If you find it interesting, why don’t you give it another chance?” Because, in truth, it’s not fair to you that I do.

I find a lot of books interesting. I am an avid cook and love cookbooks. I read memoirs in the winter and literary novels when they’re recommended to me and, as a parent, I read lots and lots of children’s books. I find them all interesting and enjoy most of them. However, I don’t represent them. Because there’s a big difference in liking a book enough to read it for pleasure and representing it.

In order to be the best agent I can be and the most successful for you, I need to know the market. I need to have contacts within the publishing houses and with editors, but most important, I need to understand what makes a book work in that genre. There is no way I could represent children’s books because I have no idea what would make one alphabet book better than another.

That’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of getting an agent who represents the types of books you write. It’s not going to do anyone any good to try to convince an agent to work with you. If she doesn’t have the passion for your book or knowledge of the market, she can do more harm than good.



Anonymous said...

What does a writer do if a book is the first of its kind in its genre? It does exist in other genres, and is very popular--and I do believe it'll come to mine eventually. But so far, it's made finding an agent really difficult--no one seems to know what to do with it.

Kimber Li said...

Write another book. And another one. Polish up the one which works best for a genre or sub-genre and submit that one. Meanwhile, be writing another one. Keep learning the writer's craft. Someday when I'm an established author, maybe I'll have enough clout and skill to have my more unusual books published. Maybe I'll even start a trend of my own. As first-time authors though, we're a risk for any agent. Like Jessica indicated, they have to be reeeally sure about us first.

At least, that's the wisdom on this topic I've gleaned elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

If you're reading, Jessica, what are your thoughts about writers having more than one agent if they write in a couple of disparate genres? You may, for instance, be the perfect agent for that writer's hot paranormal romance, but would you recommend the writer get another agent for that MG novel they've also written? Or recommend the writer try to find an agent who handles both?

Isabelle Santiago said...

Here here, Jessica. The last thing we want is to pair up with an agent who though enthusiastic, will not know how to get us the best deal. Enthusiasm and liking a genre is one thing, but knowing the business aspect is something completely different.

Besides, it really is the author's job to make sure they target the right kind of agents. That's what research is for.

Anonymous said...

It would be great if writers had the power in deciding the agent/writer relationship. Some writers do. Most don't. Agents will tell writers, "It only takes one yes." But if that one yes is all a writer gets, options are limited. While Jessica is, commendably, afraid of doing a disservice to a writer she's not 100% behind, which is worse to the writer's mind: a disservice or no service at all? If options are running low, I'll take the disservice any day.

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


I thought I did a post on this at one point, but we couldn't find it. However, read a previous post on switching genres http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2007/02/reader-question-switching-genres.html and make sure to read all of the comments. At some point I'll expand on this and repost my comment as a post. This should answer your question.


Anonymous said...

"While Jessica is, commendably, afraid of doing a disservice to a writer she's not 100% behind, which is worse to the writer's mind: a disservice or no service at all? If options are running low, I'll take the disservice any day."

Not if that agent stalls your career for two years because she doesn't know anything about your genre, but led you to believe she had contacts and relationships with your genre's editors.

I had such a disservice giving agent. No agent is much better than an agent like that!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the link, Jessica! Your last comment certainly helped with my immediate question (especially if the [not a hot paranormal romance] partial I currently have with you resonates beyond the interest stage).