More on outside the 212

Dear Miss Snark,

You've made it perfectly clear that an agent needn't reside in NYC to be effective. The flip side of that question: do you think there is any advantage in having an agent geographically close to to the author? I can't imagine what difference it would make, but I get a little thrill when an agent's address is similar to my own.

You need to get out more. Seriously.
This is akin to picking a runner in the 4th at Belmont cause you like his name.

Effectiveness is not a function of geography. There are some crap agents in the 212 and they aren't going to be any more effective if they move to Buncombe County, North Carolina.


Cara said...

Jeez Miss Snark, there goes my chance of ever asking a non-nitwit question.
Some of those names are so intriguing ya just know they're gonna be a winner!

Anonymous said...

Ah, Snarky, that was kinda mean to tell him or her to get out more. Sometimes I think the same thing when an agent I plan to query lives near me. I imagine agent-author lunches, driving my edits over to her office, chit-chatting easily about the things we love about the city in which we live.

But, good to know that in the end, it's quality, not proximity that really counts.

Thanks for your 2 cents!

lizzie26 said...

Yeah, lunching with agents. Right. Or gossiping about local stuff. Right. Sharing the same congressman. Right. Not. It can happen, but it's not that common.

This is the 21st century. Email and cell phones rule.

lucy said...

and I thought only people in Asheville had heard of Buncombe County.

MTV said...

Well Miss Snark I was definitely heartened by your comment in the other "Outside 212" blog entry. You do read the blog! Being an ex-NY'er, and I emphasize EX. Truth is I do "heart NY", I just don't want to live there -:)!

Of course I was raised in da Bronx. In fact, the very neighborhood that Mario Puzo set the "God Father". I even used to eat at the restaurant where Michael shot the police lieutenant, "Vera Mario's". Unfortunately they chose to film the movie scene somewhere other than Arthur Ave. when they made the movie. My second movie script is set in that neighborhood. That setting and $1.75 will get you a cup of Starbucks "coffee of the day" after you leave some Hollywood agent's offices.

Still, the agent's enthusiasm is everything. I'd take a CA agent any day who was enthusiastic over my work vs. a NY agent, whatever area code, that thought the work was, well ... good.

Bugwit Homilies said...

For example, there is a concentration of agents in the minor outlying islands of the U.S.

illiterate said...

To 212, or not to 212, that is the question... You know what? As long as its not 'good old Barbra B. and Co', I'd ship my work off to an agent from any US whereabouts. Even some outsider locations.

Of course its just me, a desparate, unpublished, first timer...

Sal said...

and I thought only people in Asheville had heard of Buncombe County.

Buncombe County is the source of the word "bunkum" which may be why Miss Snark used that county instead of, say, Burleigh County, ND.

Zooby said...

Y'know, when Mom and I play the ponies, she's done much better just picking cute names. I try to do it scientifically, with all my horse sense ... and ... nada.

These days with cell phones and telecommuting, I wonder how long geography will be an issue. Won't all the agents move to ranchettes in Montana and phone everything in?

Mark said...

Agents outside the 212 that can do you any good are rare. Here in LA book agents are far outnumbered by screenwriter agents by a large margin. Those that aren't are iffy at best, scammers at worst.

Anonymous said...

I figure that whatever career benefit there is to be gotten from living in my (non-NYC) town, I'm already making the most of it by being here. All other things being equal (which they never are) I'd rather my agent live somewhere else.

(Why would I ever drive my edits to my agent's office? Wouldn't those go to my editor?)

overdog said...

Quoting Mark here: "Here in LA book agents are far outnumbered by screenwriter agents by a large margin. Those that aren't are iffy at best, scammers at worst."

Mark, please clarify: do you mean those that aren't outnumbered, or those that aren't screenwriter agents? Meaning, all LA book agents are either iffy or scammers?

I'm in LA too, and honestly curious. I admit to the nitwit fantasy of coffee, lunch, and chit-chat--when we busy literary people have time, of course.

jude calvert-toulmin said...

> Effectiveness is not a function of geography.

I don't understand, Miss Snark. You've said on this blog that, for example, you wouldn't represent a British author as you only deal with authors living in the States.

Say you're representing an author who lives in California...that's a loooong way away from NYC; you're hardly likely to bump into one another - so what difference would it make if the author lived in the UK?

...Or am I having a(nother) blonde moment? :S

Anonymous said...

My agent and I live in the same town (far from NYC) and we see each other by design maybe once a year, about as often as I'd see a NYC agent. Sometimes we run into each other since we're likely to show up at the same events, and that's fun. We email often, call occasionally, but hanging out - no. She has other clients, travels often to NYC or writing conferences, I have a day job, etc.

Don't let proximity be a deciding factor - even if you live nearby, the fantasy of liquid lunches and hours spent in your agent's office discussing the state of publishing likely won't pan out.

Felixpuppy said...

Part of the problem - for me, at least -- is not being clear what the process is yet of "clinching the deal" after an agent says s/he likes your manuscript.

Isnt there some sort of interview process? Or is the agent really repping the material, thus a face-to-face isnt really entirely necessary?

Anonymous said...

Quoting Mark here: "Here in LA book agents are far outnumbered by screenwriter agents by a large margin. Those that aren't are iffy at best, scammers at worst."

Overdog, I admit I'm completely biased here, towards true literary agents. Have you ever met any agents for screenwriters?

Did you ever see Showtime's "Beggars and Choosers"? That series accurately depicts the scummy world of talent agents, those who handle screenplays. They are a very different kind of fish from those book agents. Sharks describes them very well. I think most of the talent agents have ADD in a bad way. The two kinds of agents are as far apart as the size of the egos in the entertainment industry versus the publishing world.

Jim Oglethorpe said...

My former agent lives in NY area (does NJ count?) and didn't so much as meet me for coffee when I was in town doing the Today Show. I think your relationship is mostly via email. Good agents are busy selling. In my home state of GA--I was eavesdropping on a man writing a book about cats. His local "agent" was there helping him figure out how to put together a proposal. Say what?

overdog said...

Quoting Mark here: "Here in LA book agents are far outnumbered by screenwriter agents by a large margin. Those that aren't are iffy at best, scammers at worst."

Actually, anonymous, one of my best friends is a screenwriter agent. I've known her 20 years and trust her completely. Babysat her kid, the whole deal. She's the only script agent I know; maybe she's the exception to the rule.

However, I'm not a screenwriter.

My question was about LA *book* literary agents, you know, like legit, and I thought that was what Mark was talking about, but I didn't really understand what he was saying. He's probably moved on by now.

MTV said...

Yeah - Overdog,

I'd like Mark to clarify that as well.

I've writen both novels and screenplays and need some agents to send the screenplays to. In that regard I do see some difference between screenplay agents and "true" literary agents. Although both scenes have their share of shall I say "politics". This is probably what Anonymous is referencing. Your friend sounds like an exception and that is cool. I wrote a screenply on spec for a NYC literary agent who had a Hollywood screenplay contact that didn't pan out. They "lost" the manuscript. Everyone in the loop was inept enough to have that happen, but sometimes I do wonder.

Manus Lit has a Palo Alto office and an NYC office. I realize that's like 500 mi from LA but thought I mention them anyway.

overdog said...

Essentially, a *book* literary agent is a completely different animal than a *screenplay* literary agent. (And in Hollywood, screenplay lit agents are called literary agents, not "screenplay agents.")

mtv, if you're looking for information about agents who represent screenplays, I only know the one, but you can check out the forums at AbsoluteWrite.com and find out plenty of info.

I was hoping Mark would clarify what he knew about LA-area *book* agents, but I think I'll be better off checking with Jeff Herman.

MTV said...

overdog -

Thanks for the tip re:screenplay agents.

Do you know Jeff Herman?

His last version of the "Insider's Guide" got some not so great reviews. Was someone dogging him or what? I used the ones he used to have like a bible and they worked wonders for me. Of course that was almost 10 years ago when you could actually talk to editors on the phone. Now with all the consolidation and merging the only people they'll talk with are agents. Now I get back letters - please have your agent contact us.

overdog said...

mtv: no, I just wish I knew Jeff Herman. That would be a big help, wouldn't it? I'm going the normal route: research, research, research!

Anonymous said...

I sent this question in a julep-soaked moment, thinking it would be funny. I live in Buncombe County, NC, and, as far as I know, there are no reputable agents here.

If I'd thought about my question more before sending it, I would have asked if there is any advantage for a Southern writer to deal with a Southern agent. (Or a Midwestern author with a Midwestern agent. Or wherever.)

Personally, I'm irritated by the Southern norm of slow-talking around a subject, but that doesn't mean I'd be more comfortable with the straight 212 style.

Miss Snark is correct; I do need to get out more.