Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

Miss Snark,

At AgentQuery.com I noticed a few agents had items in their profiles saying they were most interested in sticking by writers over the long haul - building careers, etc. I thought all agents wanted that? Do there, in fact, exist agents who prefer only to help first-timers get their start and then let them move on to longer-term agents - a "starter marriage" of sorts?

And is that one of the questions new writers should ask... not just what you've sold, but how long your clients have been with you, "relationship" philosophy, etc.?

I've never felt the need to say "I want you for the long haul" in my agency listing cause I thought it was akin to "I want you to produce good work"...obvious. I can't imagine a "starter marriage agent" by choice. For one, it's cost ineffective. Most novelists don't get out of the red with me till their second book, and even then there's usually a paperback deal or some sort of other deal that has helped. (The novelists themselves make money; remember I only see a portion of the proceeds AND I've invested more than one and less than one million hours in you).

As to what you should ask a prospective agent, you've got to remember that you cannot, absolutely cannot determine if something is going to work without fail. You take a risk when you sign with someone, as we take a risk signing you.

The questions ahead of time should first focus on making sure the agent runs their business responsibly: accounting practices, business structure, codes of ethics etc.

Second, you should make sure the agent's business practices mesh with what you want: does she invite you to participate in strategy, share rejection letters, stay in close contact etc, or is she like Miss Snark-cool as a cucumber to all advice and input and much more "I'll let you know when I have something for you to chew on".

After those questions, you just have to sacrifice a goat, say three Hail Marys, chant to the east, return all your library books on time with dollar bills tucked in them as a mitzvah, and hope for the best.


Bill E. Goat said...

:::sacrafice a gaot:::

You wouldn't!

Sideshow Bob said...

Miss Snark,

Off the subject, but you contradict yourself in places, like below. In one place you're asking for definition and including chick lit in the same breath as other genres, and in another post you are redefining chick lit as non-genre. And not only are you contradicting yourself but you are not in line with mainstream thought on the subject. Chick Lit IS a genre, or at least a sub-genre of women's fiction.

As follows:

"But what IS the novel? mystery? sf? chick lit? The fact I don't know says the writing is pretty pedestrian."

"Genre is a word we use to distinguish only a few kinds of writing: SFF, romance, mystery (and all derivations like thriller, cozy etc) and western. Chick lit isn't a genre."

Miss Snark said...

Gosh Bob thanks, I guess you straightened me out here. I'm so glad you're reading all the posts so carefully.

Bernita said...

I have wondered, in a typically paranoid way ~eyes left, eyes right~, if an agency strongly emphasizes career building,guidance, bells and whistles, particularly if they seem eager to acquire new writers, that they offer career "consultant" services - for a reasonable price, of course.
However, I've also seen it suggested by established agencies.

Anonymous said...

My agent stresses career-building. I took it to me mean that her interest in my writing career won't wane, and I won't be dismissed, if my manuscript isn't snapped up in a frenzied auction for six-figures after a week on submission to five editors. Or if it doesn't sell at all.

Anonymous said...

My agent is also career-oriented. I think it's weird when an agent isn't.

How can they make money author hopping?

Bella Stander said...

An agent stating that s/he is interested in "career-building" and working with authors "over the long haul" is a subtle way of signalling that s/he wants to work with career writers who are in it for the long haul, not ammies with just one book (if even that) in them.