3.22.2006

"All Things Being Equal"

First this question came in:

Hello Ms. Snark.

How is the best way for a writer to handle two or more agents offering representation? Each one knows the material was not an exclusive.




then this one:

After about a 100 rejections and a horrible first agent experience, I find myself in the unenviable possition to have to chose between two great-sounding agents.

One was a recommendation from a writer-friend who's known her for as long as she's been in the business (over 20 years) and thought we'd be a good match. The other is one of my last top picks (she's been in the business about 3 years, is probably around my age or a bit younger, and has a nice sales track record).

I've talked to both on the phone and seen their agency contracts. I like what I hear from both of them. I've even got emails out to a few clients on both sides and a list of recent sales. How can I figure out how to tip the scales one way or another?

I've asked my gut but it's not answering.



The first thing you make sure to do is exactly what Questioner 2 did: ask clients about their experience, talk to each agent on the phone, take a look at the contract.

But all things being equal here's what I think:


1. A list of sales to a wide variety of publishers. Some agents have their "usual suspects" and they sell repeatedly to the same houses. Not a problem at all, but all things being equal I'd want an agent who sells to and respects small houses as well.

2. A list of books that have done well. Not just sales but books that have done well.

3. The agent that gets back to you most quickly.

4. Books that have film deals and solid sub rights records.

5. In NYC rather than not.

And before everyone gets hot under the collar and fires off an angry comment/email/carrier pigeon let's all remember VERY good agents live outside NYC, and take a while to respond, and only sell to five houses in a given year. This list is simply what I would look at "all other things being equal".

9 comments:

Lizzy said...

"I find myself in the unenviable possition to have to chose between two great-sounding agents."

What about this is unenviable??

Anonymous said...

Also, Know Thyself. For my taste, it matters a good deal to me how quickly my agent gets back to me. For other writers, this might not matter as much.

Anonymous said...

I know to some people this might not sound like a bad place to be, but this is my career. The last time I chose and agent I make a serious mistake that set me back a year and I don't want to go through that again.

And thank you Miss Snark for answering. I really appreciate it.

doc-t said...

if i stood outside an agents office and sang ' it's a small world' until they agreed to represent me..... would that be legally binding on their part?

Elektra said...

Only if they have the mouse ears on

Lady M said...

I am not envious - I'm downright JEALOUS!

I think go for the newer one. Why? Because sometimes, newer means fresh - willing to jump in front of speeding bullets and leap tall trains in single bounds. *G*

But - I would also talk to both of them and see how I felt about each one. Sometimes that is all it takes.

I don't know about experience - having never been represented - but I can say that I think each agent should offer something unique.

Whether it be personality - or good multiple contacts... or something that would bring me closer to them.

Remember - to me - the cross-genre capability is most important. I want an agent who has the ability to sell all sorts of genres, not just one. That means they have to be well connected with places that do and have the "desire" to read multiple genres.

Personally I think that what the agent is currently reading, or what they enjoy reading should be totally visible - so that you know if your style of writing might make them interested.

So sit down and figure out what you want from an agent - what is most important... And decide how each agent fits that billing.

That's just my envisionment of what I would do - if I weren't so darned jealous of your fantastic luck. *G*

And follow Miss Snark's list. She knows what she speaketh of.

Lady M

Yasmine Galenorn said...

I know to some people this might not sound like a bad place to be, but this is my career. The last time I chose and agent I make a serious mistake that set me back a year and I don't want to go through that again.

Every step along the rung has dangers and risks that you can't see until you're there, so you're right to be cautious. As with any career, you need to think about it and make the best choice you can that will serve you best in the long run.

I, personally, would go with the one who had the best track record of sales in my genres...but that's just me. Good luck, whichever agent you choose! Pairing up with the right agent makes a world of difference (while being with the wrong one can be worse than having no agent at all).

Anonymous said...

Chat and see which one you like - where the chemistry is.

Hopefully the marriage will be a fruitful and lengthy one so the small fact you get on is important.

Anonymous said...

A litmag editor gave me great advice when I had a choice of four (!) agents. He said, "Choose the one you'd want to call if things went wrong." I thought, four agents, what could possibly go wrong? Knopf and FSG will start squabbling over my novel any day now. They didn't. Things went wrong. It seems I wrote a novel only agents could love. I'm eternally grateful I followed the editor's advice; it's advice that makes you listen to your gut, I think, and it should help you pick the agent who will really stick by you. Loyalty, and the fast return of phone calls, is worth, oh, everything.