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. Certain agencies separate their query piles, or have assistants review it so I know they pass things between each other. At our agency we all look at the same slush pile where all the queries go, so I very rarely send things on to Curtis or Maria because I know they’ve already seen the query. Sometimes I get personal referrals which I will then share.
4) It’s not our job, it’s yours. This question stems from a sense of hopefulness that agents can make magic happen. It’s not our job to give you a list of agents. Yes, we can do it in our sleep. But no, we can’t because if I did that for every full manuscript I read I’d be giving away about an hour of my time every week or so. I say it time and time again, but there are so many resources out there to help you find agents. Namely: here, here and here.
There are instances where I will send a writer elsewhere:
- I have an author writing something similar so I can’t take both on
- My list is full right now
But these are rare instances (i.e. once per year) for me at this time in my career. So that’s why agents don’t give referrals often.