The Ideal Agent


Last week, my blog subject was The Idea Editor (hereinafter to be referred to as the IE). Admittedly, it was only my opinion, but I believe in the importance of a good, professionally trained, experienced, NYC publishing house, acquisitions editor. Now, because a couple of people have asked, “What makes the Idea Agent?” I’ll turn my thoughts that way. And hey, it’s the Holiday Season and Santa is stuffing his bag, so why not ask for what we really want?

Like the IE, the Ideal Agent (hereinafter to be referred to as the IA) has a lot more going for him than just talent. A *LOT*! I’ve had two, and I have friends who have been through several. Not one is perfect. But they are all involved in the process of writing a book from start to finish. (As usual, I am using the universal he.)

  1. Most NYC agents either live in New York, or travel there very often.
  2. My IA has at least 2 years working under a senior agent in a mid-sized literary agency.

a. I’d prefer the senior agent himself, because when he calls an editor (yes, he will call them by name and send them Christmas gifts and birthday cards) they pick up immediately. When he says, “this writer is multitalented and marketable,” the editors listen and may well put aside works by lesser agents to take a look.

b. That said, if I have a younger, junior agent, he may be more hungry, more intense about selling my book, because he has a name to make. There are things to be said for both experienced-senior and younger-hungrier.

  1. He is well read in my genre. He knows *everything* that has happened in the genre for the last 5 years or more, and he can site author and book when talking about trends.
  2. If he is a former acquisitions editor, so much the better. It means he  knows what to look for in good, quality writing and will know the IE for me.
  3. Like the IE, the IA has studied his particular genre back and forth and can quote sales numbers, new promo methods, and give me the latest NYC gossip because he is plugged into the scene.
  4. He knows agents and editors in his genre and in others. They like him enough to buy him drinks at cons, and to steer clients his way when they discover a gem-of-an-author who is not right for their house. (Yeah, this one is stolen verbatim from last week’s blog. So sue me…)
  5. His knows the buyers for my genre at B&N, BAM, and Borders.
  6. He returns my emails within 24 hours (except weekends and when he is out of town.)
  7. He returns my phone calls within 24 hours (except weekends and when he is out of town.)
  8. He has no fear when it comes to fighting for my work. And he doesn’t give up easily.
  9. He likes me. Yeah, he has to like me, because I can’t develop a relationship with him if he doesn’t. IEs come and go. The truly IA may be with me a lifetime.
  10. He likes my work. Again, this should be number one. An agent who likes my work is a gift from heaven. If he likes my work and me then he will talk about me at cons and increase my name recognition. Then when I need to change houses, he can up the IE and say, “Faith is ready to switch houses and she has a killer manuscript. She is contractually free and you two would be perfect for each other.”
  11. Perfection is impossible, and every writer will have some desired agent qualities not listed here. So feel free to toss in your own requests

A good agent is worth his weight in gold. Like the Ideal Editor, the Ideal Agent makes writers better writers.



12 comments to The Ideal Agent

  • I just hope I can find an agent and editor who doesn’t mind the two-way street approach. I kinda like explaining myself from time to time and I feel that it helps both parties come up with a solution to a problem if the other party knows the reasoning for what the writer wrote. I don’t do it to argue, but to give my original POV or thought processes. Knowing the background reason might possibly cause both parties to come up with an even better solution to a problem in the end. Also, they have to be able to appreciate my goofiness. 😉

  • The goofiness will be appreacited in a biz too full of big egos! I explain too, Daniel, when something is necessary thing to the plot or character development, or when they missed something earlier in the book. (It happens.) But I do remember to keep it short and sweet.

    IAs and IEs work long hours, and when we have a difference of opinion, I usually outline my thoughts in advance so I can spell them out in a logical progression. Most people in the biz think I am very logical. I know. Go figure.

  • Heh! Thumbs up then. That’s pretty much how I roll. Sadly, I’ve spent hours on a response or email just to get the thing right and sounding intelligent and coherent. Too bad I can’t do that in real life, just turn off time and come up with a well thought out response. Usually what happens is I try to turn off time like that and the person I’m speaking to wonders why I’m just suddenly staring off into space and drooling.

  • Another great post, Faith. Not a lot of new material, but it can be good for newer authors to have a sort of checklist, just in case they are a bit forgetful.

    I note the comment about knowing the genre again. It makes me sad. As a writer and reader, I’ve always considered knowing the genre a very important thing, and it pains me to think of a time when I will be even less in the know than now, such that an aget with that qualification is so important. (To be clear, even if I was the most knowledgable person in the world about my genre(s), I would _still_ appreciate having an agent who was knowledgable, as well.) It’s why I usually go to my favorite writing forums, Absolute Write, and request recommendations of similar works when I start a project. I like to know what’s been done, by who, and how well before I tackle a project. Which is not to say I base my decisions on these things, but I try to keep them in mind.

    I know other writers, published and not, advocate keeping interaction with the genre to a minimum at such times, but that’s not how I do things.

  • Nice list, Faith. Again. I would add to this, “The IA is always honest with me. Always. Sometimes brutally. If he likes what I’ve written, he tells me so and why. If he doesn’t like what I’ve written or an idea I’m pitching, he tells me that, too. When he has bad news on the business front he gives it to me straight and then puts it in some context so that I can understand if my troubles are unique and something I need to fix, or systemic and a result of larger economic or industry forces. Honesty in an agent hurts sometimes, but it’s absolutely necessary.

  • Nice series of posts. Hello everyone! Just catching up after being away from blogging for a while. I’ve been living in interesting times.

    If all goes according to plan I’m still shooting for 2011 to be my year to land an Agent. This list will definitely come in handy.

  • Faith, thank you again. Since there are less than two weeks before I start submitting my queries, this is most timely. The list is great, though I suspected some crossover from IE to IA in the methods of dealing professionally. David’s addition is great. Honesty works in every relationship.

    How you find this match? If your lucky and a few agents answer you call, and you can chose, can you fire off a list of questions for prospective agent?

    That said, I already have a few on agent contracts I read about in Writers Digest.

  • Daniel, keep a hanky by the PC for the drooling.

    Atsiko, actually it wasn’t supposed to be anything new. I was asked for the list and so I gave it. Writing forums are helpful, as long as you have commercially published writers in the mix. Otherwise it can be problematic. I’ve never been to the site you mention so I can’t recommend it, myself.

    David, oh yes! In fact that should be number one. I hate the things I am told by agents but they know their genres. I listen. Even when it hurts to the bone.

    NGDave, When I chose agents, I did it thusly: I called agent number one (mystery/thriller agent) and we talked on the phone. He has the *best* phone voice. We clicked instantly. Agent number two (fantasy agent) was recommended by agent number one, who does not handle fantasy. He knows me and he promised me that I’d like her. He was right. Personal recommendations are good, a phone chat is good, and, yes, there are questions I’d ask. I’ll blog on that enxt week and get the others to all jump in.

  • Faith, I wasn’t critiquing your post or anything, it was ust sort of an opener.

    AW has quite a few published authors in the mix for anyone interested, and the number goes up every year.

  • CEDunkley, I have NO IDEA how I missed your post. Fingers crossed for your success, and for the writing and publishing success of everyone here!

  • CE’s comments were caught in the spam filter — I freed her earlier today….

  • That makes me feel better, David.
    You da man!