Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Agent Wand

In the world of traditional publishing we know that an agent is one of the keys to your success. (I'm taking for granted you are a writer, or at least attempting to be involved in the publishing/writing world)
To be traditionally published you face several tremendous challenges.
First and foremost - you have to write a brilliant, unique, well-crafted story.
Second, in the world of Traditional publishing you need an advocate. A stranger who will read over your work, make editorial suggestions, assist you in honing your talent, sell your work, and protect you during negotiations with your publisher. You need an Agent.

I've posted a few things about my Agent Quest before, but one thing I haven't mentioned is my process for finding an agent.

You might think it's pretty straightforward, and it is (more or less), but agents are just as diverse as authors.
For you fellow Harry Potter nerds I'm going to liken it to finding a wand.
"The wand chooses the wizard" as they say; I'll add: "The agent chooses the author."

I've heard it looks something like this.
You see, in J.K. Rowling's universe a wizard can do magic with any wand, BUT when a wizard has their wand - one that they've bonded with - they reach their full potential. They are capable of greater magic, and the relationship between wizard and wand affects the power and success of the wizard.
The agent chooses the author.
When the right author and agent are paired that's when the greatest magic happens.

This is what an NYT #1 Bestseller looks like.

Take to the internet and begin your search. You'll likely find my same starting point: "Literary Rambles", it has an alphabetized list of agents who represent Young Adult and Middle Grade work.
I remember freaking out the first time I found it. You'd have thought I found Atlantis.

But remember...just because it's a wand doesn't mean it's the one that will help you do your best magic...just because they are an agent doesn't mean they're the right agent for your work.

Also be aware that this person relies on you, and you rely on this person to have a career. You need one another. This is a business partnership. Would you open a clothing store with someone who doesn't have your same taste in style? Would you open a restaurant with someone who only wants to make seafood and you're allergic to shellfish?

Pictured: Hasty Agent-Author partnership
Harder question: would you open a restaurant with an eclectic menu? Maybe you enjoy pasta dishes, and this person says "sure! I love pasta, we'll also sell burgers, steaks, barbeque, and maybe a few other Italian entrees."
This restaurant may sell what you make, but how often have you found a Burger-Pasta-Steak restaurant selling the Best pasta? the Best steak? the Best burgers?
In that situation it comes down to what will satisfy you, and you need to ask yourself that question as you're agent hunting.

My query process has been very selective. There have been a few outright misses (I have a tendency to be drawn to wonderful/amazing agents who don't rep my genre), but I haven't really blanketed the universe with my query letter and sample pages.
I've only queried agents who I feel I would like as people. If I can answer "If they weren't an agent, and I weren't an author could we be friends?" with a "Yes." then I put them on my query list.  I follow them on Twitter, if they have a blog I read it. I read, re-read, and RE-READ the submission guidelines (my brain has a tendency to miss details when I'm too excited/anxious).
Be aware that when you and the right agent finally connect it's potentially a career-long partnership. As long as you're making magic they're the wand that makes it possible.

You can find "how I got my agent blogs" all over the internet. I just wrote this because I wish someone had told me certain things sooner, and made certain things clearer before I started making "rookie mistakes"...I would have liked to have known someone else's Agent Hunting Protocol before I started forming my own...

Until we meet again!

***Please Note: the likening of an agent to a wand is in no way meant to de-humanize, or infer that an agent is nothing more than a tool. Agents are people with hopes, thoughts, and dreams of their own. If you think, have thought, or have treated an agent otherwise then you are an ass.
The Agent/Wand Author/Wizard simile was meant only to be an enjoyable illustration.

No comments:

Post a Comment