Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Elusive “Dream Agent”

Like many writers, when I first completed my manuscript I had a few ideas about who my dream agent was. What I wish someone had told me is that the dream agent doesn’t exist. Correction: they do exist but they may not be who you first imagined.
At the cusp of querying I assumed I wanted the Ari Gold of agents. The uber-agent at the largest agency.

For those of you who watch Entourage, you’ve seen that outside of Ari’s biggest names, his other clients often receive very little personal attention. So why stay with someone like Ari? Because he has connections to EVERYONE.

Once you have an agent and they’re marketing your book around to publishers, having someone like Ari pushing for you is like striking gold. But what about all the other agents? I wondered.

When I was at the Jennifer Weiner reading she discussed how she became an agented author. At the time, she had interest by a more experienced agent who thought her work could sell and a new agent who LOVED LOVED LOVED her book. Jennifer explained how important it was that she went with the later. The newer agent had more time to work with her on editing her novel to get it in shape to send around and, as one of the first writers this agent represented, Jennifer got in on the ground floor. The two had a lot invested in the success of the other.

More than anything, however, the agent just “got” Jennifer and “got” Cannie, the main character in Good in Bed. And this is the takeaway, I believe. There are benefits to a larger agency as well as a boutique agency, benefits to a veteran agent and benefits to a newer agent, hungry to make a name for themselves. But the “dream agent,” in my opinion, isn’t specifically agent X or agent Y but the agent that falls in love at first read.

A few weeks ago I received a rejection on my full manuscript from an agent that I thought would totally get my book. It was a very kind rejection about loving my premise and liking the writing but finding the market so tough to take on new writers especially as my story competed with other client work. I was heartbroken. I mean I followed them on Twitter and read their blog posts and previously thought, “if only I could get my work in their hands.” And I got my work in their hands…and they passed.

I’ve heard over and over again that finding an agent is like finding a spouse. I never fully understood the analogy so I scrolled back through my dating history for some insight.

1. The unrequited love. You think agent will fall off their chair they’re so excited at your query; you receive a form rejection letter.

2. "It's not you, it's me." or "It's not me, it's you." You have an agent who likes your work, thinks it can sell, but doesn’t seem blown away.

3. True love. The agent believes in you, your work, and in building your career. PERIOD. You want them to feel like this.

So while I wait to hear on some more partials a couple full manuscript requests, I’ve realized that as writers all we can do is create the best work possible, research agents, and hope the best match will step forward. Once they do, they’ll be your biggest advocate and that, I believe, is the real dream.

If you're still in the research phase, some great places to look-up agents are Query Tracker, Literary Rambles, and Publishers Marketplace.

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