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So Tell Me: Your Ideal Literary Agent

No matter how much research you do, it's nearly impossible to know whether or not you and a prospective agent will be a good match until you've worked together.  But what ARE you looking for in an agent?  Have you thought about it?

Logically, I think it's smart to know what you're looking for before you start looking.  But I also think life and this business require us to be flexible.  After all, we often don't know what we really want until we've experienced it or what we're looking for until we've found it (or hey, until we've experienced the opposite!). 

As it is, however, our view is limited to the present and to what we suspect we'll want.  But that shouldn't stop you from thinking about it and educating yourself on the what you can and can't expect.  So tell me: What are you looking for in an ideal agent?

And if you have an agent (ideal or otherwise), and especially if you've had more than one, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well! 

22 comments:

Jody Jensen Shaffer said...

Great question, Casey.
1. Connected
2. Editorial
3. Good negotiator
4. Relentless advocate
5. Able to manage my career
6. Able to see beyond my current skills into areas I might not be aware of (Eww, a preposition at the end)
7. Funny and warm are always good :)
How about you, ma'am?
Jody

Casey Something said...

Great list, Jody!

I too want a career agent that is knowledgeable, editorial, passionate about my writing, and well connected and respected. Preferably a fantastic negotiator with great sales/clients who will look out for us as a team.

I'd also like an agent who communicates primarily via e-mail (I'm awkward on the phone), touches bases with me regularly and keeps me updated, and is warm and encouraging.

Of course, some of that is less important than the rest. But we're talking ideal here! ;]

Jody Jensen Shaffer said...

Ooh, I love the "touches bases with me regularly and keeps me updated." That's number 8, not necessarily in order. :)
Jody

Mame said...

I'll take a one armed Splankton from Mars, but that's me.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

I knew my agent was right for me - because she got me excited about my book. she seems to love it more than I do. She also had a very specific plan and idea of my writing career. That was important. we just clicked.

Unknown said...

Oh, I like Shelli's answer.

I want an agent who can see what I really meant, and help me get there. I don't mean I want my agent to be my critique partner, but I do want an agent who won't let me get away with lazy writing, or who can help steer me towards something better. Basically--I want one that won't just submit to editors for me, but who really thinks that writing is key.

Jenni Bielicki said...

Hey Casey! Great topic and thanks for asking!

#1 First and foremost, my agent should FALL IN LOVE with my work and understand and connect with my long term career goal.

#2 Encourage and inspire perfection (i.e.: the absolute best the project can be)

#3 Know the industry and have great connections

#4 Be detailed and able to communicate well

#5 MUST have a great personality. For me, this means he/she loves a good laugh, is easy to talk to, is a great listener and drinks coffee.... OK... maybe I could settle for drinks tea or cocoa.

OH... #6 - MUST LOVE KIDS

Jenni

Casey Something said...

You're hilarious, Aimee. Tell me you at least want one that knows what they're doing and has the connections! Otherwise it would be kind of pointless to have one.

That's awesome Shelli! It would be amazing to have an agent that amped about my writing.

I love yours too, Beth. Definitely want an agent that pushes me to do my best!

Casey Something said...

Those are great, Jenni!!! I love the coffee one.

I also think it's important that the ideal agent is not just connected and knowledgeable, but connected and knowledgeable in the genre(s) we plan to write in. Someone specialized or with a heavy hand in kidlit would be amazing!

Corey Schwartz said...

Great discussion and very timely for me since I got an agent yesterday.

I really believe that my current manuscript would sell with or without an agent.

But I definitely need an agent to help me with my broader career goals. To look at my whole body of work and help me determine which manuscripts are worth pursuing and which aren't. To steer me in the right overall direction.

Casey Something said...

Yay Corey! See what happens when I ignore my google reader for a day?!? I miss the news right when it debuts (ha!). On second thought, maybe I should ignore it more often.

Congrats, congrats! I hope your agent-author relationship works out splendidly this time.

Jenni Bielicki said...

Very well said, Corey! And CONGRATULATIONS on getting your new agent! How exciting!!!

Unknown said...

As want one agent to grow old with me (sort of like a business marriage), I want someone who
1) loves my writing,
2) is great at their job, and
3) is a funny and decent human being.
For me, that last part is just as important as the other two. It has to be a good fit for me to stay "married" forever.:)

Casey Something said...

Well said, Kristi. I think many of us wish for the same, which is why it's so frustrating that we have, often, such limited information on agents.

Also, one of many reasons we should take advantage of interviewing and questioning before we accept an offer!

Anne R. Allen said...

Fantastic topic. I'm with Aimee--going for that one-armed Splankton. As long as she doesn't charge weird fees.

I've actually had a couple of agents who worked hard but weren't any more on top of the trends than I was. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

Congratulations, Corey! Wahoo!

I've just posted a blogpost on researching the right agent and gave this blog a plug. Stop on by! http://annerallen.blogspot.com

Casey Something said...

Thanks so much, Anne. Really great post. And yay spreading info on agent research!

Mame said...

Ok, if I'm being honest, I want an agent who can tackle the industry like a lion and take care of my artistic sensibilities like a lamb. I have a lot of leeway with the rest.

Casey Something said...

See, there you go. That's a great sum up!

Sherrie Petersen said...

I want an agent who loves my work and can get other people excited about it too.

I want someone who can negotiate a fabulous contract for me and who will stick with me for my entire career. Because all this research and letter writing is a royal pain and I really want someone to handle that business end so I can focus on writing novels.

Casey Something said...

So true Sherrie. I'm so glad there are agents out there to do the contracts and negotiations and be the middle man for us!

Marc Franco said...

Casey, thanks for researching and profiling agents under the agent spotlight. It's a big help for those of us looking for an agent. I'm looking for one to represent and sell my middle grade novel, The Kringle Chronicles, Book One: Catching Santa. You can check out my website and blog at www.marcfranco.com Any way, as for your question ... the ideal agent would be a successful salesperson.

Marc Franco

Casey Something said...

Hey Marc! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Your mg sounds like a lot of fun. Heading over to check out your site now.

Good luck on the agent hunt!