When I was querying, I did an extensive R&R for an agent I naively thought was going to sign me. She passed – not because she was unhappy with the revisions, but because she found a broadly-written option clause in the contract for my un-agented first book. She said I was bound to that publisher indefinitely and couldn’t take me on. She implied that no one would.
A month later, I had an offer from the inestimable Sara Crowe. I confessed my option problem, thinking it would be a deal-breaker. Instead, she said, “That’s unenforceable.” She referenced court cases where it had been struck down as “practically indentured servitude.” I signed with Sara. She made one phone call to my former publisher, who released me immediately.
I love my agent not only because she’s upbeat and responsive, but also because she knows her business and does more than submit my manuscripts. She solves problems.
Dianne K. Salerni is the author of the The Eighth Day fantasy series (HarperCollins) and historical novels, The Caged Graves, a Junior Library Guild Selection, and We Hear the Dead, optioned for TV and inspiration for The Spirit Game, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. Blog-Website - Twitter - Facebook
Many authors focus on those who have years of experience and a full roster of clients during an agent search. I had the opposite instinct. While I always focused on well-established agencies, I often would hone in on the new person on staff—the young agent eager to find the next big thing.
I found that in Natalie Lakosil. When I first queried her in 2009, she was the new agent at her agency. I can’t remember exactly what she stated her interests were at that time, but today she lists a wide range of interests, spanning from picture books to thrillers. I sent her a query for my middle grade novel about ghost hunters (my Ghost Patrol series, may it rest in peace!) and she immediately requested the full manuscript.
Six years and six book deals later, I can say that signing with an agent who was new to the industry was a very smart move. Natalie is far from “new” now, with a long list of clients and new sales every month. The most important thing to look for is someone who will champion your work. A new agent has an enthusiasm and excitement that you might not find in a veteran, so keep that in mind while you’re pounding the pavement, looking for representation.
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When you talk to an agent who has offered to represent your work, find out how much editing they expect, what their plans are for submissions, if your relationship will be for one book or your entire career, and what happens if your novel doesn’t sell or if he/she doesn’t like another book you write.
While it’s fun to find a super sweet agent who adores your story, remember this is a business relationship as well, and you want someone who knows what editors are looking for and will do what it takes to fight for your book in this highly competitive industry.
I love my agent. She answers my emails promptly and takes the time to address my concerns—from contract details to any aspect of the publishing journey. She celebrates with me and talks me down when I’m in crazy stressed out writer mode. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my awesome agent!
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What are you looking for in an agent?