I always thought I knew what people meant when they said wait for the agent who is the right fit for you, the one that gushes over your manuscript, and has the right vision for your work and your career. It seemed like a simple enough concept and yet for just over 5 years (5 years and 1 day to be exact) I wondered why I hadn’t found that right fit yet, why finding an agent was so difficult. Something about this idea of the prefect agent match didn’t fully click until I recently signed with my agent.
Getting an offer from an agent can be tough. It comes with a lot of rejection, A LOT. I had around 150 rejections over two manuscripts. It also comes with a lot of work. Writing, then editing, then having critique partners weigh in, followed by more editing. And once you start querying you may pull back, revise your submission package or your manuscript as feedback comes in. And through all that you wonder if that yes will ever come, the yes I want to see more, and even better that yes I want to represent you.
But even while you’re querying, there’s things you can do to prepare yourself for that moment when an agent says they want to offer you representation.
Figuring Out Your Priorities
What do you want in an agent? No really. We all want someone that can represent our work, and sell it to publishers, but what do you really want from your agent?
Are you looking for a hands on agent that is editorial, or would you prefer to take care of that on your own?
What kind of communication style are you looking for? Do you prefer to talk on the phone or via email? How frequently do you want to communicate with your agent?
What kind of publishers are you ultimately trying to attract? Does the agent’s submission strategy and industry connections match your writing career goals?
Those are just a few short examples, but the list goes on and on. Figure out what your strengths are, and what things are nonnegotiable when finding your perfect agent match. Then start assembling a list of questions to ask. I had been compiling questions I saw on twitter and blog posts for literally years. When it came time to have THE CALL, having all those resources plus reaching out to other writers for thoughts definitely made it easier to prepare and a lot less frantic.
The Importance of THE CALL
Going into the call I knew what I wanted. I wanted an editorial agent who would work with me to hone my craft. I wanted an agent with wide submission strategy that included bigger and smaller houses. I wanted someone that kept me in the loop throughout the process because I hate surprises and ultimately hate just waiting forever. I want to know the instant there’s something to tell. I also prefer virtual communication but see the value in getting on the phone from time to time when necessary. And lastly I want someone who would represent my career not just this book, someone that liked the other things I was working on.
Based off what I wanted I was able to pick and choose what questions would help me best understand the agent and how they would approach my work and career.
What I ended up with was two very different conversations. Both were good, but it quickly became clear that one agent would be better for my career than the other. Not that either were bad agents, just that one was a better fit for my needs and what I was looking for in an agent.
Here’s a quick rundown
Agent 1 I had met at a conference. We got along well, and her ears perked up when I mentioned the logline for my manuscript. When I talked to her on the phone she mentioned that she wasn’t overly editorial but was happy to look at changes or bring in outside help if necessary, but in the case of my manuscript felt it was pretty clean and ready to go. She also mentioned she liked to get involved in the marketing side of things and assist her authors with promotions and blog tours. We got along great and have a lot in common. She mentioned she was open to communication via phone and email but preferred email.
Agent 2 had requested an R&R and had already sparked some great ideas and pushed me in ways I didn’t think possible. When I talked to her on the phone, she mentioned she preferred email but was happy to talk on the phone as well. She expressed that she was very editorial and explained what she liked about my story and what she thought needed work. Her submission strategy included sending to small groups of editors and spreadsheets to update with what material was out there and current progress and responses.
By the end of the conversation Agent 1 felt like she would be a really good friend, and Agent 2 felt like she was someone who would push me outside my comfort zone and help me continue to grow and develop my writing career.
So can you guess which agent I picked?
If you guessed Agent 2 you would be correct. I really loved Agent 1 and will continue to reach out to them and be their friend, but at the end of the day, I wanted someone who would work with me to improve my craft and my stories. And if I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted ahead of time, in the heat of the moment I may have made a decision that wouldn’t have taken my writing career in the direction I wanted. It's important to note that I didn't pick the person who would be my friend, I picked the person that was best for my writing career. And because I had spent so much time considering what was important to me, the decision that was best for me became clear pretty quickly.
So for all of you hopeful writers out there looking for their perfect agent match, keep working, keep pushing, and keeping thinking about what you want in an agent. And when the time comes you’ll be ready!