Agents are looking for projects that are as close to ‘ready’ as they can be. Of course we want a quick turn around on projects because that gets the enthusiasm moving right along from writer to agent to editor. However, we’re always doing edits and we’re always looking for potential in our query inboxes as well as finished projects.
The reason that this business is so subjective is that all agents have different taste and different ideas about what potential projects can be. I’ve passed on projects that I thought needed work, because I wasn’t the one that was going to be able to connect the dots on that manuscript. And I’ve signed up projects where I could see the potential screaming at me but it needed a bit of work to get it there.
What agents do for authors in the slush pile:
- We look at what has potential
- We look at what we can bring to life
- What look for what we get excited about
This isn’t an excuse to send us less than ready projects. But, it does let you know that all agents are looking for something different.
If you are looking for a collaborative agent focus your queries on newer agents who have time and energy to give. More established agents don’t have as much time to edit and grow new writers.
What you can do as a writer to make yourself open:
- Accept revise and resubmit letters with the intent to always make yourself better
- Don’t take rejections as the ‘be all and end all’ of your writing career
- When an agent opens the dialogue, whether by email or at a writers conference, take notes and listen objectively
- Take time away from your writing so you came come to it with an open mind when you do get feedback
At the end of the day this is a very collaborative business. Your agent and editor will provide lots of feedback and things to think about. There is not one way of reading anything, not one way to make improvements. Listen to the agent that provides the notes that connect with you, not the agent whose notes push you in a different direction.
You are the writer and creative force behind everything you do, an agent’s job is to recognize and cultivate it so you can grow together.