Monday, November 21, 2005

About Finding That Perfect Match, aka Agent Hunts

The other day, someone asked me how she could find an agent for her first, as yet uncompleted novel. I gave her the standard answer without even thinking about it: "Do your research," I said. "Find a copy of Writers Market, subscribe to Publishers Marketplace, get a list of agents representing the type of book you’re writing, then check them out online at places like Preditors and Editors."

But then, later that day, I began to think about the process of finding an agent – or rather, the process of finding the right agent at the right time. Sure, all of the things I mentioned above are important, but there are also a lot of intangibles that factor into the search. I mean, the agent that’s right for me when I sell my first book may not necessarily be right for me when I sell my tenth. Or when I switch genres. So, here’s the question for the day:

How do you know when you’ve found the right agent for this stage of your writing career?

Seriously.

How will you know when you've found "The One"?

Will she – or he – come equipped with a flashing neon sign that says, “Hi! I’m the right agent for you!”?

Will the ghost of Eudora Welty suddenly appear and give you a serene nod of approval? (Okay, that one probably only applies to other Mississippi writers, but you get the idea.)

Or, will you simply feel it in your gut the first time you two talk?

How will you how when you've found your perfect match?

9 comments:

JoAnn Ross said...

With rare exceptions, I agree that we often need different agents at different points in our career. The last agent safari I went on was like looking for a second husband in a small town. I knew too much about too many people, which really diminished the the pool of prospects. :D

I dearly hope my current agent is my final one. Partly because I believe he's not only the best for right now, but the best for where I plan to be. Although I don't believe he's ever read anything I've written, I also have another day to day agent who takes care of business and with whom I can toss ideas around with, so, in a way, it's the best of both worlds. Finally, working in his favor is the fact that after four agents over the past 23 years, there really aren't any others left in the running. LOL

Oh, one piece of advice I can share is that although agents are always saying it's their job to help us build career plans, my personal experience ( and watching others) is that we can't really count on them for that. It's up to us to figure out our own personal career goals, then find the agent who can help us reach them. (In that respect, an agent is really more of a head coach than a magician.)

And finally, I'm from East TN, not Mississippi, but I'd be tickled to pieces if the ghost of Eudora Welty gave anything I did a nod of approval.

L. Faye Hughes said...

Thanks, JoAnn!

I totally agree with your take on agents and an author's career goals. What I'm hoping will happen is I'll tell my agent "This is what I want" and she (or he) will tell me "And this is how we can get you there."

Now...about Eudora, I had the pleasure of meeting her many (many) years ago. I had won an essay contest when I was in high school, and she was presenting the awards during a luncheon. I was totally star struck. I think I may have muttered "mm" a couple of times and a choked up "thank you." lol.

Candice Gilmer said...

Myself, I'm still looking, so I'm interested to see how things play out..

I keep hoping I'll have a "wham" connection with the agent, that I'll just "know" they're the right one for me.

Course, one thing that'll help is if they represent romance and scifi (a tough mix in itself)...

But at this point, I'm doing the "usual," Writer's Market, Preditors and Editors, etc...

JoAnn Ross said...

Candice -- Do you belong to RWA? Because, although this is my last month doing it, for the past couple years I've had an agent interview column in the RWR and featured an agent a couple months ago who came from fantasy SciFi to romance and had lots of authors who were blending both. I'm drawing a blank right now,but if you want, I can look back on my notes for her name.

Agentresearch.org offers a wonderful service where you can list authors who write like you and they'll send you a report on all that agent's sales. Deb Smith recommended them to me when I was looking for a new agent a few years ago and they proved hugely helpful. Also, of course, it helps to read all the dedications because people will often mention their editors and agents there.

Faith -- I would have been absolutely awe-struck. Wow, what a cool thing! That must've been some essay!!

L. Faye Hughes said...

Candice,

Good luck! I'm looking for an agent right now, too. I did some research - JoAnn's suggestions are excellent, as always - and I made a list of likely suspects. Um, I mean, agents. *g* In the end, I sent out one query letter. (I wanted to have the book nearly completed since it's different from what I've published in the past.) She is reading the first 200 pages now. I probably won't be doing a full-blown search until after the first of the year.

JoAnn Ross said...

Faith -- That's very exciting! Good luck in the search, and especially in this new direction!! I know the argument about writers sticking to one thing so readers will know what to expect, but I believe there's also another argument to be made about the enthusiasm that shows through in our story when we accept a new challenge and write something that excites us.

L. Faye Hughes said...

Thanks, JoAnn!

I'm having a lot of fun with this book.

Speaking of books, how goes your latest? I get headaches when I think of your deadline. lol.

Faye

JoAnn Ross said...

Faye -- First of all, I apolgize for calling you Faith. My mind knows who you are, apparently my typing fingers don't. LOL The book is coming along. It would admittedly be easier if I wouldn't keep changing the character's backstories, but that's what happens when a book doesn't have a lot of time to perk.

Candice -- the agent I was thinking of is Lucienne Diver, of Spectrum Literary Agency. The majority of the agency clients write commercial fiction such as science fiction, fantasy, mystery/suspense, romantic suspense, and historical romance. As I said, I know some of her writers who write a blend of the fantasy/sci fi/romance. She also, btw, was one of the most efficient agents I've interviewed, turning in her answers a full month before deadline!

Candice Gilmer said...

Joann,

Thank you for your suggestions! No, currently I'm not a member of RWA, but I'm saving up my pennies so I can join at the first of the year. I've been wanting to join for a while, but I haven't been able to afford it.

I've heard of Spectrum, and I thought I sent them a query, but evidentally not, so I'll get my query ready and mail it off tomorrow.

Ms Diver sounds like a very efficient agent, and that's always a good thing.

I do read dedications in books, but sometimes they don't specify much, except to say "thanks to Lynn my agent." At least as far as I've noticed... But maybe I need to go back and look again.

Thank you again!