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The Not So Bad, Not So Great Agent
This agent is legit but is not very good at what they do or has a slightly shady work ethic. They're the poor communicator, the unorganized, the overwhelmed, the manipulator, the rude, the in-it-for-a-quick-sale, or making-few-if-any sales agent, the one editors aren't eager to (or won't) work with, etc. For one reason or ten they're just not that great. They're not representing their clients like they should be, and their current and former clients aren't willing to speak up about them (by name) because a) the agent isn't doing anything that bad, b) they're still trying to work things out, c) they don't know what a good agent should do for them, d) they're being professional and sheltering their reputation, e) a few or all of the above.
You don't want this agent. This agent will frustrate you and make an already tough, emotionally draining business tougher.
The problem is, these agents are hard to recognize because few will speak up about them publicly. They're reputation (from our limited view on the web) often appears as good as some very, very good agents.
So what can you do? Well, start by being aware that they're out there (not all agents are created equal!) and then muster all your self-discipline and patience to be selective.
I know the search for representation is hard enough as it is, but take my advice and aim high and don't settle (I see the horror stories all the time). I'm not saying you should only query hot shot agents or the agents of best selling, award-winning authors (that's no guarantee anyway). No, I advise querying widely with the best of them. But I AM saying it's in your best interest to know what you're looking for in an agent and then to put whoever offers through the wringer to see if they meet your standards and click with you.
In my opinion, the best agent will be the agent that is actively making sales and is knowledgeable in your genre (avoid genre-trend jumpers), has established clients they'd be willing to let you speak to (one or two), has a golden, public reputation, is a really good communicator, is passionate, and has a plan for you and your manuscript(s) from the get-go.
You never know how it's going to work out when you accept an offer of representation (from any agent), but I believe this is the best way to make an informed decision and give the partnership every chance at success.
What do you think makes a great agent? Do you recognize that some agents are better than others? Have you had any experience with this type of agent? Please add to the discussion!
Posted by Casey Something on Wednesday, April 07, 2010