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Thread: Junior agents, Agency profile, agent experience

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW
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    Junior agents, Agency profile, agent experience

    In a few places in the forums, I have seen comments like "...several of the agents on your list have no sales and/or no professional experience that would qualify them to be agents." (That latter comment is from the estimable Ms. Strauss in response to a writer's list of queries, but I have seen similar lines from various sources).

    I have seen the bios of a number of newbie agents at solid, well-known NY agencies where the agent in question does not yet have sales and does not have a background in publishing.

    I would think that this puts them in the category of "no sales and/or no professional experience," but they've been allowed to join solid agencies. Obviously extensive experience and massive sales are preferable...but how much weight (if any) should one put on the fact that they are at good agencies? Does being at a good agency outweigh a lmited/non-existent track record? Or does agency affiliation mean little?

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    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    JMO, but if they've got the chops to get hired by a solid agency, then I'm willing to give them a bye for a year or two. If they don't have sales by then, there's a problem (presuming the solid agency hasn't already fired them). That's why agents-who-used-to-be-with-solid-agency don't get an automatic nod from me, either. Did they make sales before they went out on their own? If not, is it rational to expect they can make them now?

    Yes, agents from interns grow, but they gotta bear fruit in a reasonable time or risk being culled from the orchard.
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    Writer Beware Goddess Absolute Sage victoriastrauss's Avatar
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    If someone is a junior or associate agent at an established agency, they've usually served some sort of internship or apprenticeship, or else are coming over from an assistantship or something similar on the publishing side. That's not always true, of course--sometimes they're hired right out of college, or come from an odd background. But as with a reputable corporation, a reputable agency isn't going to hire someone it doesn't think can do the job--either because of past training or what the agency considers to be transferable skills. The junior agent will have the expertise of the senior agents to call on when necessary--plus, a reputable agency's name opens doors, even if the junior agent is brand new. Agency affiliation definitely does count.

    That said, junior agents don't always manage to make a go of it. So accepting an offer from a junior agent who doesn't yet have a track record is a bit of a risk. You need to take a look at her background and ask yourself if you feel comfortable with it; you need to factor in how enthusiastic the agent seems and what her marketing plans are for your work and whether they make sense to you; and, if she hasn't yet made any sales, you need to find out how long she has been with the agency. As Cao says, if it's months and months and there's still no sign of sales, you might want to look elsewhere.

    - Victoria

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by victoriastrauss
    If someone is a junior or associate agent at an established agency, they've usually served some sort of internship or apprenticeship, or else are coming over from an assistantship or something similar on the publishing side. That's not always true, of course--sometimes they're hired right out of college, or come from an odd background. But as with a reputable corporation, a reputable agency isn't going to hire someone it doesn't think can do the job--either because of past training or what the agency considers to be transferable skills. The junior agent will have the expertise of the senior agents to call on when necessary--plus, a reputable agency's name opens doors, even if the junior agent is brand new. Agency affiliation definitely does count.
    A key issue is the role the junior agent will be playing in the agent process. In some cases, the junior will work the back offices for a while, basically involved in selecting the best stuff from the submission pile, while the seniors will still be doing the pitching to the publishers, perhaps in tandem with the junior. In other cases, it's just "sink or swim," and the agent is in an up or out situation.

    If you're considering a junior agent in a good agency, it doesn't hurt to ask him/her what kind of support the rest of the agency will furnish to the process (if necessary, asking to hear from one of the senior agents).

    On the upside, a junior agent at a good agency will probably be more inclined to "hoof it" on your project. Some senior agents won't be so motivated. You may get lots of attention for the first few weeks when they are pitching your stuff, but when it doesn't fly right away, they will be looking toward the next big thing.

  5. #5
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    Miss Snark's guest agent's take on this question:

    http://misssnark.blogspot.com/2006/0...or-agents.html

  6. #6
    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    From the above:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Salmon, Rights Unlimited
    ...[E]stablished agent networks are one of the things an interviewer will look at and consider closely when editors are applying for a new job....
    Fascinating. I hadn't fully appreciated the durability/portability of editor-agent relationships.
    ICAO
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    And now, back to Plodding! Duncan J Macdonald's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaoPaux
    From the above:

    Fascinating. I hadn't fully appreciated the durability/portability of editor-agent relationships.
    As in most things in life, bad impressions and relationships follow along like ugly ducklings too. Which likely helps explain Yog's Other Law: Having No Agent is Better than Having a Bad Agent.
    Last edited by Duncan J Macdonald; 04-07-2006 at 09:11 PM. Reason: Law of Unintended Consequences
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    Mostly Harmless SuperModerator CaoPaux's Avatar
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    New Agents Question

    ...
    06-07-2006, 08:48 AM
    ButtonTheCat
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    New Agents Question

    Okay given that there might be a few legit agents out there that are new to being an agent, I just wanted to know what the difference was.

    Say there is a midlist writer who wants to try her hand at being an agent. Would her own previous sales be considered 'sales' and thus knowledge of the industry?

    This is just an example, at what point is it that a new agent is beyond the 'amature' point and is just a new agent trying to get his or her feet wet?
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    Button The Cat
    06-07-2006, 08:59 AM
    Tilly
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    New agents who become successful have usually had experience at another agency before going out on their own, or another part of the publishing industry. This gives them their essential knowledge and contacts. They can sell books.

    I don't know about the situation you've described. I suppose it would depend on how much the writer knew about the industry outside their area, and what sort of contacts they'd developed.

    The new agents to avoid are those that lack the expertise and contacts to sell books and negotiate the best possible contract for you as a writer. Not all are scams, some are simply well meaning and hopelessly inexperienced and ignorant about agenting. But they can't sell books.
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    06-07-2006, 09:02 AM
    James D. Macdonald
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    After a sale or two to places that require an agent in the first six months, you may be looking at someone decent.

    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight...es/004772.html
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    06-07-2006, 09:44 AM
    ButtonTheCat
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    This clears it up a bit. So a couple of sales to a couple of good houses, in general, is enough to pay attention to.
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    Button The Cat
    06-07-2006, 10:14 AM
    James D. Macdonald
    Your Genial Uncle
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    Real agents make real sales to real publishers. There is no other test.
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    06-07-2006, 11:25 AM
    victoriastrauss
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    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ButtonTheCat
    Say there is a midlist writer who wants to try her hand at being an agent. Would her own previous sales be considered 'sales' and thus knowledge of the industry?
    No, because she may not have made them herself. If she did, she might have some knowledge of her own genre, but not necessarily of others. Also, writers are often dead ignorant about publishing--many writers I know can barely read their own royalty statements, and are not savvy about publishing contract terms. A writer MAY have the knowledge of publishing to make a good agent, but if so, it probably won't be because she's a writer.

    - Victoria
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