5 Real Reasons Agents Are So Darn Picky

I think some of you swear when you say that line to yourself, but I’m keeping it PG on the blog. Really, why are we so #&$%(&-ing picky?

It’s not only the volume, but that has something to do with it.

We’re picky because we have to be. We wouldn’t be able to stay in business unless we were choosy about everything we signed up. So here’s the truth if you’re still wondering what happens at agents’ desks…

5 Reasons Agents Are Picky

1. Because editors are.

All we hear from editors is how much they have to read, how passionate they have to be in their editorial and acquisitions meetings, how much marketing and sales has a say in the books, and how they have to have a clear vision for projects they take on. So guess what, agents have adopted all those criteria too. It’s true, in this internet age the most important thing is being able to make projects stand out amongst all forms of media. So we’re looking for super special things.

2. Because the recession happened.

I wish we were still in 90s publishing when debuts got $250,000 advances. (Yes, I think we all do.) But the reason publishers don’t give out those advances anymore is because they looked at the books during the recession and thought, Hey, most of these books aren’t earning out. So why are we paying them that much? As much as I’m sad debut fiction doesn’t get that kind of up-front financial support I’m glad that publishers are thinking about royalties, authors earning out, and helping authors plan for a sustainable career–not a blockbuster model.

3. Because we care about the big picture, not the small one.

Good agents aren’t thinking next month or this year when we sign up a client. We’re thinking 5 years from now. We are thinking about all the wonderful things you’re going to do in the long run and how your career is going to grow with our support and guidance. If we thought about the short term we’d be more spontaneous and have more authors–when really it’s important for agents to dedicate our time to current authors on our roster and give them all our attention.

4. Because it’s a business.

Most agents I know are lovely, friendly, wonderful book-loving people that I enjoy spending time with always. But when it gets down to business we are tough cookies. Yes, we are creative individuals too, but when we put our agent hats on it’s all business and that means making choices that people don’t always love. Agents have made peace with that a long time ago. (You wouldn’t be able to dream up the things that get written to us in the horrible slush pile responses.) You don’t want an agent that doesn’t treat this like a business. So that’s why it’s worth the wait for the right agent. We’re picky because we invest our time. We’re not publishers so we can’t woo you with money–our time is all we have to give. And we’re serious about who we give it to.

5. Because being an agent in today’s market is demanding.

This job has never been easy. But the role of the agent has changed. We now have to be fully equipped with knowledge we never thought we’d need to have: consumer insights, meta data, marketing, publicity, social media, ebook technology and much more. If we can’t consult our clients on these things then we’re not doing our job. So it requires agents to have more industry awareness than ever before. Agents’ sole jobs used to be talent spotting and management. Now it’s managing on a more intimate level because publishers have gotten busier too.

With knowledge comes power! Some of you might know this already–but the industry changes daily–and agents have to stay on their toes!

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