Things I Wish I Knew: Kurestin Armada’s First Year of Agenting

photo-1434030216411-0b793f4b4173Being an agent is a tough job in general. Your first year of being an agent is one of the toughest of your career if not your life! Not only are you learning as you go, you’re also acquiring clients and building your career from the ground up. I likened my first year or two of agenting to a startup. We have to pitch ourselves to prospective clients, start a brand from scratch, network all the time in person and online, work around the clock (often while having other jobs) and keep up with all kinds of reading and events while our brain expands with new industry knowledge. Not to mention we have other people’s careers in our hands! We take that very seriously.

Today, we have P.S. Literary Associate Agent Kurestin Armada with 3 “Things I Wish I Knew” about being an agent. She just finished her first year at PSLA and we’re so glad to have her. Follow her on Twitter for more. Here, she reflects on her year:

Network with Your Peers

I knew going into this that I would need to constantly be looking for ways to network with authors and editors, the two groups I’m looking to more or less “get something from” to make connections and deals. But I didn’t realize until further into things how important networking with fellow agents would be! Google hangouts, happy hours, snatching meals at a conference, and of course Twitter, all of these are ways I can touch base with other agents. We let off steam, we laugh, and I get to hear so many stories about how other agents tackle things.

Agents have many different methods and viewpoints, and we’re a remarkably open group when it comes to helping each other. I always leave these hangouts feel refreshed and energized, and maybe with an extra tool tucked into my belt for the next time. It’s easy to think of networking as always trying to get an “in” somewhere, but really, it’s also about building a support system of other people who have been in the exact same place.

Trust Yourself

Initially building my list was a somewhat nerve-wracking experience. I knew that the things I brought on had to have two qualities: 1. I really enjoyed the book and could read it five times and not be tired of it, 2. I could see its place in the market. But when it came time to go through the first wave of submissions, I kept wondering… will I know it when I see it? Will it feel that noticeably different when I encounter a manuscript I want to offer on?

The answer is of course, yes, it does feel that noticeably different. As I’ve encountered the feeling a few times now, I’ve begun to sense earlier on in a manuscript when I’m probably going to offer on it. There’s the feeling of excitement that hits, when I start to think “Oh please, let the second half of this book be just as good!” If I get to a certain point and haven’t felt that flare of excitement, and I feel like I could put the book down and never care what happens next? I know then that it’s not going to work out long term. FOMO (fear of missing out) is always a ghost over your shoulder, but at some point you just need to trust the taste, experience, and skills you’re bringing to the table.

Protect Your Time, and Don’t Feel Bad About It

This is one I’m still working on, admittedly. Working on creative pursuits, or working from a home office, or having a flexible schedule can all lead to people thinking you’re eternally free and available. It can be difficult to enforce the boundaries around your work time gently but firmly, but it’s also incredibly important. Just because you’re in the next room, doesn’t mean you can help solve every family dispute!

I also need to protect my time from myself, oddly enough. Since I work from home, it’s very easy to get drawn into doing just one more hour of work, until suddenly it’s 12pm and I need to go to bed. For a while I was doing nothing outside of work, literally no other activities besides eating and sleeping, and that was really bad for me. Now I make sure I spend a certain number of hours in a week reading “for fun” (which is really necessary market research!), and I stop working a couple of hours before bed so I can knit or watch TV. I try not to feel too guilty about these times, because I know I’m overall in a better state of mind (and thus more productive in my work hours) when I make time for relaxing. Sometimes I even take a whole day off on the weekend!

Kurestin Armada began her publishing career as an intern with Workman Publishing, and spent time as an assistant at The Lotts Agency before joining P.S. Literary. She holds a B.A. in English from Kenyon College, as well as a publishing certificate from Columbia University. Kurestin is based in New York City, and spends most of her time in the city’s thriving indie bookstores. She reads widely across genres, and has a particular affection for science fiction and fantasy, especially books with a fresh spin on a familiar trope. Query her at query(at)psliterary(dot)com.

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7 Ways To Make Yourself An Easy Author to Work With

guardianpostAfter query letter tips, the second most popular question I get asked is: “How do I make myself agreeable in an agent’s eyes?”

It’s a great question. This is a personal business that’s all about great working relationships.

Firstly, you have to write a great manuscript, but secondly, how does an agent decide to work with someone after that?

7 Ways To Make Yourself An Easy Author to Work With:

1. Open to revisions

Right away, I know if an author is going to be a fit for me based on how they react to revision ideas. Agents are looking for writers that are open to feedback and collaboration. If I gave you an R&R did you connect with my notes? Did you ask questions that take my notes from suggestions to big picture changes that make the novel better?

2. Always wants to get better

A line I like to use is “trust your future self.” What that means to me is if you can write good novel, you can write many more. Getting defensive about your novel means you are holding on to it when really you should be willing to let it go and work on the next. Agents are looking to represent authors for the long term, so what we need is the faith that you want to be the best writer, every time you write a new book. We know there will be ups and downs, but it’s that drive to succeed that will separate many writers from the ones that don’t make it.

3. Treats assistants and senior industry members alike

From time to time we get people who respond to our query letter auto-response with condescending and mean emails. It doesn’t matter who is on the other end of those emails, our principal agent or our assistant, you have to be friendly to everyone–not just the people who influence your career. Those mean emails just reinforce our decision to pass without a second thought.

4. Asks questions

I love it when authors want to know more about the process. Don’t be shy about wanting to know how the business works. Whether it’s a Twitter #askagent session or when you’re on ‘The Call’ with an agent, make sure you ask the important questions that help your understanding.

5. Trusts us

The number one way to work with an agent for a long period of time is trust. I know this isn’t built over night, but you have to trust your agent to have your best interests at heart. This is one of the most important long-term author/agent relationship requirements. Only query agents that you see yourself working with and that you already trust (whether it’s a referral, their taste or client list).

6. Communication

This is part of trust, but authors have to be up-front with agents. Did you self publish before? Have you had an agent before? Can you share your sales numbers from your previous book? It’s the little things that add up when it comes to communication. We need to know everything if we’re going to represent you well.

7. Professional on social media

As easy as it is for authors to Google agents to see if we might be a fit for you, when we fall in love with a query or manuscript the first thing we do is Google you back. What agents love to see on social media is a personality (not just link blasts). You don’t have to have a ton of followers (but points if you do!) to get our attention. It’s all about the balance between promotion and personality. We love it when authors are part of writing communities and support other authors. That means, when the time comes, those other published writers will support you too.

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 Image via The Guardian

 

Trust: Can you hand over control?

Trust. Seems like a simple concept, but so much of what we as agents do requires complete and utter trust from our authors. You might not understand all the moves we make, or why we have to be the voice of the industry sometimes, but our job is to communicate our actions as best as we can while requiring trust from our clients that we are making the best decisions for them and their career.

Our job is to advise you, with your best interests in mind, and consulting you on those decisions, but when you sign on with an agent you have to go through the check list of everything you want in an agent, and the ‘agent qualities’ they possess, and see if you can rely on them and work with this person through all the ups and downs.

Continue reading Trust: Can you hand over control?