You're Not in AAR? Off with your head!

In the comments to a previous post someone mentioned that it's important an agent have AAR membership. Several big name agents at big houses aren't AAR members. If they offered representation, I'd leap at it. What am I missing here? Also how about an update on books you've enjoyed reading this year and, more importantly, why they worked for you.

You're only missing the info that AAR frowns on book packaging and some big agents do that work. Also, some agents don't belong cause they aren't looking for new clients. And some cantankerous and brutally effective agents subscribe to the Woody Allan "oops, wrong person" Groucho Marx dicta: I'd belong to no club that will have me as a member.

Principally AAR is a marketing tool for agents: we subscribe to this code of ethics, have to meet a minimum standard for admission etc. The benefit is we can market ourselves as AAR members. There are other benefits too of course, but principally it's a shorthand way of saying the agent has been in business, made sales, and promises not to rob you blind.

There are some very well respected agents who don't belong. You're wise to know not to dismiss them out of hand. Like every rule, there are exceptions. This is one.

And I'll do the list of books but more toward the end of the year I think when I have a chance to collect my wits from where I left them on a cross town bus.


Bill Peschel said...

Just FYI, Google shows some giving Allen as the source for the quote, but it was really Groucho Marx.

Feemus said...


just in the mood for some errant pedantry....

David Isaak said...

Groucho Marx is indeed the source. Woody Allen quotes it (with attribution) in Annie Hall, which is no doubt how it ends up misattributed on the web.

My favorite Groucho quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Sal said...

An agent who has not been in business for two years is ineligible for AAR membership, iirc. If the agent you're interested in isn't AAR, there are reasons why that might be so.

Or not. Maybe they're incompetent or, worse, crooks. Check with sites such as Preditors and Editors as well.

A Googja search on an agent's name sometimes turns up interesting information -- to be taken with a grain of salt. As in life, so on Usenet -- cranks and crazy cases abound.