Friday, May 11, 2012

The Right Agent for You

When I think about what I've accomplished in the past year, I know it stems back to something that happened on Valentine's Day 2011. I accepted my agent's offer for representation. Since then, Lauren has inspired me to do things I never thought I could do. It used to take me about six months to draft a novel. Now, I can draft a book in as little as 12 days. What's the difference? Lauren believes in me and cheers me on. She pushes me to be a better writer.


When I was querying agents, I heard people say that finding an agent was like searching for a spouse. Well, it's a little different. ;) But I have to say the relationship does require trust, support, encouragement, and so many other things that you would look for in someone you're going to commit to. And that's why I can't stress enough how important it is to find the right agent.


Not all agents are right for all writers. You have to have personalities and work styles that mesh. The first time I talked to Lauren, I knew she was right for me. And while I waited to hear back from the other agents who had fulls, all I thought about and talked about was Lauren and how much we'd clicked. My husband said to me, "You sound like you've already made up your mind." And I had. I just knew--call it the Irish intuition in me.


So my advice to anyone querying agents is to be patient and find the right agent. I know what it's like to just want an agent, any agent. But you owe it to yourself to find the person who will guide your career and make you a better writer. I want you to find what I've found in Lauren.


What's the best agent advice you've heard or can give?

52 comments:

  1. You are so correct. Finding the right people to move you forward in your focus helps you become better and opens the doors to many more opportunities. For me, my journey in finding an agent bought out my realization that what I was looking for was staring me in the face. My publisher partner is the best person to focus my journey as a writer and a publisher. And even as a small press we have to find the right fit for a Foriegn Rights and Subsidiary Rights Agent and lawyers to help us navigate into new territory. So even publishers have to find the right agent to help them grow in their business.

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    1. That's a great point, LM. Thanks for sharing your experience. And I love that you have such a supportive publisher partner. That's simply awesome.

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  2. Thanks for the advice, Kelly. I really hope when I begin my search I'll find an agent who inspiring as well. Gosh, it takes me months work on a draft.

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    1. Cecilia, it used to take me a long time to finish a draft, too. I'm amazed at how much I've changed (for the better) since signing with Lauren. :)

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  3. It is important to find the right person, but as Kelly warns, we have to align with someone who will push us forward, without clashing at every junction.

    But I have to admit I don't feel the "marriage" analogy is apt for describing this relationship, even though I'm not married (Still waiting for that first DATE) I do think finding a life partner is a far more even playing field than new writers trying to attract agents with the connections needed to reach the right editors.

    The main reason being that we can be more direct and informal than the potential agents we're "courting."

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    1. I totally see what you're saying, Taurean, but that level of comfort comes into play before signing. I was comfortable with Lauren the first time we spoke. I went from speechless when she offered representation, to not being able to breathe, to her calming me down so I could talk like a normal human being. That level of comfort is so important.

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    2. Can you please elaborate, Kelly? I'm not sure I follow, since I can't imagine you married your husband "On committee."

      I just wonder how much chemistry you can pick up on beforehand.

      I only ask since I personally only got beyond query stage once, and even then it never led to personally aimed attention, as you describe, and that could be why this sounds so offbeat to me. Does that make sense?

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    3. Sorry for the confusion. It's not the same as choosing a spouse. Don't think it is. But I'm saying you have to feel comfortable with the agent you sign with. I knew I could call, text, or email Lauren any time and she'd be happy to hear from me. I think some people are afraid to "bother" their agents. It shouldn't be a bother. It's a partnership. That's all I meant. I felt like Lauren and I connected and had similar personalities from the communication we had before I signed with her.

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    4. Maybe some of that sheepishness comes from trying to respect their agent's time. Most agents, especially those who've been in the business awhile have more than one client, and those other writers need attention too. Maybe that's where some of the angst comes from I'd think.

      Plus, after years of reading various market guides who remind you endlessly how busy agents, and later editors at publishers are, it's hard to dial it back when you've been in survival mode so long to be comfortable with someone, even if that agent's the right match, and maybe your adjustment period's comes sooner than mine might when my time comes.

      That's my best estimation right now.

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    5. Yeah, agents are crazy busy. That's definitely true. No argument there. I'm not sure how they do everything they do.

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  4. I had to go through a couple of horrible relationships to find the right man, so I really hope I don't have to do that when it comes time for an agent. Thanks for writing about this, though, because I am thinking about my next steps and know nothing about agents, publishers, etc. I think it would be hard not to jump at the first opportunity. Patience is a virtue I may someday have to employ in this journey!

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    1. This industry really forces you to be patient. It's not easy, though! LOL

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  5. Well I haven't even attempted to find an agent yet, however when I do, I can't imagine any better advice than what you just gave. You can find the best agent in the world but if that agent doesnt mesh with you and believe in you, than what's the point!

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  6. That's very encouraging, Kelly! I haven't thought about this yet, but I know at some point I'll be looking for one. This will stick with me because commitment is something with which I'm very familiar. :)

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    1. I'm glad you found it encouraging, Diane. :)

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  7. I've been "bookmarking" agents. I want to find someone I just fall in love with (figuratively, of course). :)

    I got a book at Barnes and Noble, JEFF HERMAN'S GUIDE TO BOOK PUBLISHERS, EDITORS, AND LITERARY AGENTS 2012, and it's amazing. You get a feel for people by how they present themselves, and there are some in there that I'm like, "OH! I really like them. OH! I REALLY like them!"

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    1. Yes, some agents are just themselves online, in print, and in person, and you know you like them.

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  8. I think that sums it up perfectly. This week an agent who had requested a few pages wrote me back to tell me she was passing. I was surprised by her reason - she noted something she read on page 25 didn't seem plausible to her and because of it she felt she couldn't carry on but she really like two characters Stella and Bono. t thought her reason strange but I totally understood and thanked her kindly. What was odd for me was the one point she said was not plausible in real life was one of those real truths - it was a page right out of my own life. My point in all this, reading is as subjective, as is the writer finding the agent, as you have, in Laura. It's a match and both have to connect or the relationship to succeed. As always, I am very happy you. It's your moment, ride it with joy.

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    1. Brenda, readers always find the things based on the truth the hardest to believe. Odd, isn't it?

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  9. *for the relationship to succeed...

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  10. I used to just want an agent. But now that I've spent two years reading blogs and tweets and going to conferences, there is only a handful I really want to work with.

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    1. That's good. It means you're doing your homework. :)

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  11. Thanks, Kelly. You always have such great advice and this one is really timely for me right now.

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  12. So true Kelly! I hope to find a great agent someday (preferably sooner rather than later). And this whole industry is full of rejection so it's nice to have someone on your side willing to tell you when you've got a story that can go the distance or willing to tell you--hey, it's not quite there yet. Thanks for sharing this. Looking forward to the day I get my agent. :) (Now, just needa finish my latest WIP)

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    1. Yes, finish that WIP. :) It's so nice having someone in your corner. For me, it makes a world of difference.

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  13. Sounds like a wonderful plan Kelly, except the agents that I thought would mesh with my personality didn't seem to like my writing. I guess there are a lot of permutations. Lauren is lucky to have you!

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    1. Aw, thank you. I remember finding agents I loved and thought would be a great fit for me, and they didn't work out in the end. It happens.

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  14. Thanks for the advice. Maybe someday ...

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  15. I don't have any advice to give yet. But I'm glad to read this! I hope to find an agent that's a good fit for me soon.

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  16. I've done a ton of agent research in the last year or so, and have been querying since the first of the year. I was previously agented, and that was more the "old style" relationship -- when it was hard to get an agent if you hadn't already sold a few books on your own, and the agent was not editorial. Everything is so different now. So far, I've had full requests and glowing Rs, but haven't found a match yet. I just talked with a writer friend who queried 70+ agents before she signed with one. One thing that's a little confusing about the whole process is that we want to find this great match, but we usually have to query WAY beyond the 5 or 6 that look like a GREAT match. I do believe we have to be very careful about considering someone our "dream" agent. The actual right match might be someone we don't query till our 6th or 7th round.

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    1. That's very true! It's hard to really know who will be your perfect match. I know I was wrong about a few. Nothing bad about them--just not a good match for me.

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  17. This is great advice, Kelly! With my agent, I have been so grateful for open and timely communication. There is also no power dynamic with us, and that makes me happy. We are partners on the journey. Obviously I have great respect for her expertise, but am not afraid to ask questions and state my opinion even if it differs from hers. This is important to me, because I know people who seem to be quite intimidated or even afraid to approach their agent. I believe that we need to advocate for ourselves and our career. Sometimes this will mean trusting and deferring to our agent, and sometimes it will mean thoughtfully and respectfully asking for something different.

    Great post!

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    1. Amy, it sounds like you and your agent have a very similar relationship as me and my agent. :)

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  18. When I was querying, I was dying for representation. It took me years, and two failed relationships with agents, to realize that there's such a thing as compatibility. Representation does not mean bliss. I'm so glad I found my current agent a few years ago. Third time's a charm.

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    1. I'm glad you found your perfect match in the end, Medeia!

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  19. kelly, you are uber talented and quicker than most! Maybe fiction is easier than non fiction?

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    1. I think you may be on to something there. I still have to research, but not nearly as much as when I write nonfiction. That really does save time.

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  20. I agree with you that it is important to find the right agent. For a while I did't understand that- but I can see how the right person will cheer you on and push you in ways that the wrong person wouldn't be able to do. I also think the right person will have your best interest at heart. I recently met two wonderful agents who I felt a connection with- I guess everything takes time. :)

    So happy for you that you found the right one!
    ~Jess

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  21. I have a question for you Kelly. When you get an agent is there something you have to sign a contract I'm assuming. I get nervous with contracts but I guesse its just there so they know your committed and you know they are as well.Do you know what we should look out for when signing a contract if offered?

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    1. Legacy, it depends on the agency. I did sign a contract. If you ever have contract questions, feel free to email me. I'll look it over for you.

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  22. I think your advice can also apply to mentors, critique groups and even publishers. I just sent out my first agent pitch. in the meantime I'm working on the rest of my series.

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    1. Yes, it really can apply to those, too. Good luck with the agent pitch. Keep us posted.

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  23. I've heard this about finding the right agent. If you're going that route, I think you do need to not jump at the first one that comes along.

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