Agent Janet Reid wrote a great blog post about agent burnout among other things. One part that stuck with me was her comment about agents reading things that aren’t client work.
I can understand when writers see their agents talking on Twitter or Facebook about books that aren’t theirs and they think: “If they had spare time, why weren’t they reading my manuscript?” But one of the most important things an agent can do is read and READ A LOT.
Why you want an agent who reads:
1. They know what’s selling.
If we don’t read published books, how up-to-date is our taste? How do we know what is working in the market? I call it ‘cleansing the palate’ and it’s a much needed respite.
2. They know what’s successful.
Not only do we need to know what’s selling, we need to know what’s selling well. We follow the ‘best of’ lists, bestseller lists, and indie picks. We read bestsellers to know what makes it to the top.
3. They know what certain editors are excited about.
Editors send us stacks of books all the time. We read these to know what editors are working on and what gets them excited about projects. We also get to support our agent friends and read their clients books.
4. They take breaks from work.
Work life balance is not a joke. In order for us to stay enthusiastic about client projects and keep our sanity, we need to take a time-out every once and awhile–and we’re book lovers at heart.
SIGN WITH AN AGENT WHO READS
Agents talk a lot about query letter writing and how we manage the slush pile. There’s the flip side of that too: once we request your material what happens? Well today, you get inside my brain. This is how I read requested material and how you make yours stand out:
1. I read on my iPad
I don’t print manuscripts out until I sign them and start to work on them. So I’m trying to see if I enjoy the writing and pair the writing with a name or book title to distinguish one manuscript from the other.
Lesson: Formatting! For the love of pete number your pages and title your file something like: Author Last Name BOOK TITLE. I don’t want to play a guessing game about which manuscript matches which query. The last thing I want is confusion when I’m trying to organize my slush. I also ask for a synopsis pasted into the first page of the manuscript document so that I can jog my memory and refer back to it.
2. I read 3-10 partials in a row
I’m not sitting down to indulge in one story, I’m sitting down to get through the virtual stack of manuscripts. Often it is between 3-10 when I start to read. That’s 3-10 different authors, voices, characters, plots and things to keep straight. When I read partials and other requested material I’m reading for plot, pace and potential. All I want is to be drawn in more than the story before that one. Continue reading
Among the many things we do for our clients it includes editing their work. Sure, the crux of our job is selling our authors’ books, but getting the projects to the point of selling involves anything from a light copy edit to complete overhauls.
We all know there are so many layers to get published: write the book, get an agent, get a book deal, publicize, have a writing career that spans many more books. And know that each opportunity requires its own mental stamina to achieve success. However, I still see so many aspiring writers putting an emphasis on getting an agent and think perhaps the rest falls into place. If it’s so hard to get an agent, then it must all be downhill from there, right? Wrong.
One of the big parts of our agent responsibilities is getting our client’s projects ready for editors’ eyes.
Why Agents Edit:
Because we know the difference between creative writing and book publishing. There is a lot of really good writing that doesn’t get published. Publishing is where creative writing meets Hollywood: Does it have a hook? Can you sell it in a sentence? Are the characters memorable? Is their journey compelling? Does it start when we meet the characters at an interesting point in their lives? Getting published requires some stripping down of overwriting and self indulgence. Getting published is about making your writing accessible to mass readers.
Because the competition is fierce. Sometimes I feel like this is the title of my blog. I do harp on it, but it’s only because I want everyone to know the stakes to ‘make’ it. It doesn’t make it easy when you know how many other writers there are out there trying to get published, too. But that information has to light a fire under you and make you want to revise and want to write the best book you can. Competition is about writing better than you did the day before, and the book before this. You are your own competition. Make that your mission.
Because we need to know that you’re able to work in a collaborative environment. Continue reading
One of the most popular question when I’m on an agent panel at a writer’s conference goes like this: “If an agent reads my book and it’s not for them, will they send it on to another agent who they think it might be a better fit for?”
My answer is usually no. Some agents say yes, but I say no.
This is why (I should clarify) MOST agents don’t give referrals:
1) If we loved it we wouldn’t let it go. If we are over the moon about the book we’ll make time in our busy schedules. If we’re not, we don’t have energy to spend on projects we aren’t pursuing. It’s a reality of our job and saving energy for what we choose to invest in. You’ll be thankful of this when you have an agent, believe me.
2) We don’t have time. We work for our clients first and foremost. Looking at queries, helping writers on Twitter, and all of these extra things we put on our plates are not part of our business model. So when we know a project isn’t right for us we don’t wrack our brains thinking of ways we can help. We try to get the project off our desk as soon as possible to help the writer move on and seek out someone else.
3) Within the agency: sometimes yes. Continue reading