Friday, October 12, 2012

Why it’s Important to Click with an Agent When Offered Representation


I’m lucky to have many writer friends in the blogosphere, and I chat with them often. Around twenty of them are agented, and more than a few don’t click with their agents. Fortunately, that’s not my case because I *adore* my agent (and, um, I hope she adores me too). Anyway. I’ve been hearing a lot of troubled writers and it makes me sad. :(
So, if you don’t have an agent yet, you might like to hear these thoughts—they may help you decide between offers so that you can land an agent that is great for YOU.

As a big FYI, this isn’t a post about some agents being bad at what they do or something like that!! It is just about clicking together.

For instance, there’s the type of agent who is all like, “I want to handle everything by myself; you just sit back and worry about writing.” So, if you’re a nervous writer who’d like to take a break from the submission process and don’t want so many updates, that’s great. That agent is for you. However, if you like to be on the ball, you probably won’t feel so great with an agent like that.

Then there are the huge agents, who have tons of experience, are close friends with many editors and have coffee with them often, and they have so many six-figure deals on Publishers Marketplace that your eyes go like this: 

If you like the wow factor, and you want all that experience from them no matter what, then great. But probably those big agents have a big list of clients too, which means that they won’t have so much time for a new one. And they probably won’t become your BFFs, either.

There are also the agents who are just starting and have all that oomph and energy for new writers, but maybe don’t have too much experience and don’t elbow with editors that often. But they love you, because you’re one of the first authors they’ve ever offered representation to. You are their babies. If you want to be cuddled and self-assured, then that might be a great agent for you. Most likely, they will read your new projects so fast and they will gush about them, apart from giving you notes to make it shine. But then again, they are just getting started, and what if suddenly they decide that agenting is not their thing?

Now let’s talk about their personalities. Some might be shy and sweet. Some might be competitive and aggressive. Some might be very friendly and chatty and some might not. And you have to know what types of personalities you’re okay with. Because let’s not forget: agents are people too!

And then there’s a huge thing that might make an agent/client relationship crack. Tastes. What if the book you wrote that landed you some offers of rep. has a mochachino flavor… but now you’re thinking about writing a book in that same genre, but that has a pistachio flavor? Mochachino and pistachio are very different, right? What if the agent you’re excited about gags when he even hears the word pistachio? So this is why it’s important to know where you want to go as a writer after you’re done with your current book. It’s good to chat about the agent’s tastes and what type of book in the genre they represent they wouldn’t do. And sadly, this mochachino/pistachio problem happens more often than not. And we don’t hear about it openly because no one wants to post their troubled stories on the web.

So. If you’re querying, I say take a long while to research. Follow agents on twitter, feel their personalities. Chat with them. Read their blogs, if they have them. Talk with persons who have met them. Because these agents might be INCREDIBLY GREAT… but not incredibly great for YOU.

I hate to see writers who are going through a rough time, even being “released” by their agents, and that is why I really wanted to write something like this to maybe help someone in their process.
Is there anything you would like to add?


<3
Mónica

PS: I really do adore my agent. And if this post wasn’t as long as it is now, I’d probably write a few paragraphs gushing about her. ;) What can I say, I’m a really lucky gal!

40 comments:

  1. Great post, Monica! A bunch of close writer friends and I signed within months of one another and it's been really interesting seeing all the different ways agents operate; they vary in ways I never would've thought. Some don't really care about anything other than dealing with your manuscript and some want a strong say in your social media platform. Some nudge after a few weeks and some after a couple of months if at all. There are so many different styles, and it's really worth knowing what's a good fit.

    I would DEFINITELY advocate talking to other clients of agents you're considering to have an idea of their style so you know what to expect. I didn't and am extremely lucky to absolutely love my agent, but I absolutely had some "OMG is this normal??" moments as a result, just because I was hearing about other agents and mine was different. As it happens, mine has the PERFECT style for me, but I've definitely heard about other totally fantastic agents I don't think I'd feel nearly as good about working with because of their approaches to certain things. Research research research!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts. And you're absolutely right...so many different styles. And let me just add that I'm so happy that you love your agent. :)

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  2. I'd also recommend meeting agents in person, whenever possible. A) it reinforces that they are people, too, and B) it can give you a better sense of their personalities than any blog post or twitter feed (although those really do help). There was a certain agent I thought I was in love with, and then when I met that agent at a conference I realized I could never ever work with that person.

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    1. Oh, yeah, THAT!! I guess I forgot to say that because I've never met an agent in person given the fact that I live so far away. But I'm glad you got to meet that agent and realized it wasn't a good match.

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  3. Thanks for the reminder. I realize it needs to be a good fit for everyone's sake.

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    1. Right!! And thanks for stopping by. :D

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  4. Love this, because everything is so true. If you don't click with your agent when you sign, it's only going to be tough from there. That's why it's so important to ask the right questions during that phone call.\

    Miss you Mon! <3

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    1. Exactly!! It's really important.
      Miss you too, hun!! <333

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  5. This is great advice but unfortunately, a lot of writers don't get offers from their dream agent and many only get one offer (and after years of querying, are likely to jump at that offer no matter what!)

    I think the big question is, what do you do if it doesn't click? How do you walk away from what may be a great agent and return to the land of the agentless? I know people say, "Just do it" but it's not that simple.

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    1. Great comment!

      I know what you mean... So that's why I said (or meant at least), research when querying. After I parted ways with my first agent, I took a step back and said, okay, so which agents are truly a right fit for me. And when I found them, I ONLY queried them. (And I researched A LOT before querying.) That way, I knew I wouldn't get an offer from an agent I wasn't sure about. Because it's true--how could you walk away from an offer of rep. if that's your only offer?

      Hope I answered your question! :D

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  6. Loved this post! So true, and very encouraging to know that it really is possible to click with your agent. I only wish it were that easy to tell your perfect agent from a few emails, an online reputation, and maybe a phone conversation or two. Asking an agent questions isn't necessarily accurate, because the agent can present him/herself however they want. Conversations with current clients aren't all that accurate, either, because most clients don't want to be too honest with perfect strangers.

    So, of course, the question is what should your friends do if they did all that research and still ended up with agents that were not horrible but not right for them? When do you call it quits - and how? That's the question!

    Anyway, that's what's on my mind today after reading this post. I love your blog, by the way, but had to go the anonymous route on this comment for obvious reasons...

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  7. Oh, and the other thing is that it's hard to know what you really want/need from an agent until you actually have one and are going through the process. For example, some people may think that the most important thing is having a super-star agent with a reputation for making sales, but when it comes down to it they need someone warm and fuzzy - but don't realize it until the rejections start rolling in. Or the opposite could happen. I think that's why so many people end up with "starter agents".

    By the way, I don't mind telling you who I am. I just didn't want it posted online, just in case.

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    1. Hey there! I'm glad you liked the post :) And yeah, you're absolutely right that sometimes you just can't learn too much from a person who, for example, doesn't tweet or doesn't blog. So it's tricky. At least, I did manage to somehow research a lot about the agents who interested me, and then I narrowed down my list before querying.

      You ask...when do you call it quits--it's difficult to say. I guess there comes a time when you just know it in your stomach what is the right thing to do. Sorry I can't be more helpful! And how to do it? Well, I think that's easier. I think you just have to be honest with your agent and say what you think hasn't been working for you.

      I was just talking with another friend who said that had noticed how many authors "blossomed" with their second (or third+) agent. So I think you're right there.
      Anyway, if you want to chat more, you can always e-mail me--you can find my e-mail on the contact section of this blog. :)

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    2. I think in some ways it's easier to get a 2nd or 3rd agent. You know the saying - "a book publishable by one is publishable by many." I think that's true of agents. If one agent was passionate enough to take the project, another probably will be too. Plus, authors who have been through the entire agent-getting process are probably a bit more comfortable with it, so they're more likely to ask the right questions (and hold firm to their convictions).

      When you're on the querying side, it's really easy to think, "Oh, gee, you poor thing, but at least you have an agent!" and that sort of 'any agent is better than none' thinking gets really dangerous, but it's pervasive.

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    3. Wise words, T.L.!! I totally agree :)

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  8. Very, very true.

    And don't forget that if, for some reason, things don't click between agent and client, it's a business relationship and can be ended like any other. Your contract should tell you how to go about it, and so long as you're on good terms (not clicking does not an enemy make) it shouldn't be too traumatic an experience. Ideally, your agent will be of a like mind and wave any waiting periods required in your contract so you can go ahead and find new representation. Just because you don't click doesn't make them any less awesome an agent for someone else whose personality is more in line with theirs.

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    1. Great advice, Josin, and very wise words. Thanks so much for sharing! :)Lots of good points there that I forgot to mention.

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  9. What a wonderful post Monica. Love this!

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  10. Excellent post. I recently attended a couple of writing conferences and met a few agents and editors. Most often, in remote areas like where I live, a real life meeting is impossible. I really like the reading list idea. If an agent hates one of my favorite books, then our tastes are probably too different. Although I agree with Mr. Bodine, when you don't have an agent and you finally get THE CALL, I imagine it would be easy to say yes even with doubts or even if it wasn't a match made in heaven.

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    1. Oooh. Yes! The reading list idea. I had forgotten about that one...but I do remember snooping into the agent's GoodReads account and seeing how many stars did they put to my favorite books. Thanks for adding that! :)

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  11. Thanks for a helpful and honest post, Monica. I've read so much about agent troubles and writing issues that published authors go through, it's clear that this "seeking to be published" business isn't all an aspiring writer may think it is. I'm certainly sitting back a bit and taking my time with the whole process. Thanks again for the confirmation.

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    1. Oh, I'm glad you're researching! Good luck, June! <3

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  12. Excellent tips, my friend!

    I feel very fortunate too because I found an agent who is a perfect fit for me :D !

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  13. All great things to keep in mind =-) thanks

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  14. I TOTALLY agree with this. The biggest thing for me when I decided to sign with my agent was that we had similar ideas on my book, my career and how to handle it, and that we could connect personally as well as professionally. She's sweet and straightforward, which I adore. I really liked the other agents, but I felt that "click" with the one I chose! Thanks for bringing up this point about the different kinds of agents and the research we writers need to do to find the right one!

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    1. Oh, I'm glad you're part of the lucky ones. But as you said, maybe it wasn't so much luck, since apparently you knew she was a right fit even before you signed! Kudos!

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  15. This is an AWESOME post, Monica! And I am so with you. Whenever I'm ready to query, I have my list of ones I feel pretty much match up with my style and needs, at least from what I know about them. And I also feel it's important to get to writing events and conferences if possible, because that's how I definitely knew who I'd connect with and who I wouldn't.

    Also, SO glad you found an agent who you connect with! :)!!!

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    1. Thanks, Allison! And that's so awesome that you can get to meet agents in conferences. I think that's a great way to see if they click with you. :)

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  16. This is so helpful and a great reminder - thank you Monica!!

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  17. So... is it appropriate to ask writers what their agent's working style is? I wouldn't do this with a complete stranger, but there are many writers I have a small connection with online. But I'd feel weird asking the question, like I was being nosy.

    Is that okay to ask, do you think?

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    1. Suzi,
      I don't think it's a appropriate to ask subjective questions to a writer you don't know. Like, "Are you happy with your agent?" but I do think it's okay to ask objective questions (after asking the writer if it's okay) like, "How long does your agent typically take to read one of your mss?" Or, "How many clients does your agent have?" and things like that that will help you decide whether to query that agent.
      Actually I did that once. I contacted a very nice girl who I didn't know much about, and I sent her a quick e-mail explaining that I was between agents and I was researching agents and if she didn't mind to answer some objective questions. She said sure, and after her answers, I decided it wasn't the right agent for me and I didn't query that one.
      Hope this helps!
      :)

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  18. Wonderfully said, and so important for authors to understand. It's all about clicking, not just signing with them.

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  19. It's so hard to get an agent, it would be tempting to just say yes to anyone who wants to represent you, but if you don't click with the agent, you might not sell your book anyway.

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  20. It is all about clicking. Nice post!

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  21. Super insightful post. I've had friends that are with the same agent and have completely different dynamics in their relationships. Finding a partnership that works really is key. I agree with you research with a capital R.

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