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Thread: Qualifying An Agent

  1. #1

    Qualifying An Agent

    If there is no information available on a particular agent, can it be assumed that they have not been very successful in getting books sold?

    For instance, I can't find any information on the Lynda Tolls Literary Agency when I search the Internet. Don't successful agents usually have information available saying what they've done?
    Last edited by ExposingCorruption; 01-21-2008 at 09:52 PM.

  2. #2
    Tired and Disillusioned Momento Mori's Avatar
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    Hi, ExposingCorruption and welcome to AW.

    There's already a thread on the Lynda Tolls Literary Agency http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=18647, although it hasn't been updated since 2005. As Caopaux says there, you should ask for a list of sales from the agency if they're offering representation.

    The general rule of thumb is that there's no such thing as a "stealth agent" and many deals do get listed on Publisher's Marketplace or on the agent's own website (although there are always exceptions to the rule). But when if in doubt, an agent will have no problem in giving you a list of recent sales if you ask.

    MM

  3. #3
    Thanks MM. I had already seen the thread on the Lynda Tolls Literary Agency. My question wasn't actually about that agency, although I guess I could have just added to that thread.

    I was specifically asking about no information being available on an agent. I was just using the Lynda Tolls Literary Agency as an example. I'm sending out queries and if I run across an agency on which there is no information, I'm wondering if I should skip them.

  4. #4
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    I'd skip an agent if there wasn't any reason to query them.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    I'd skip an agent if there wasn't any reason to query them.
    Are you saying that an agent should be queried only if there has been positive feedback about them, or if they have sold books?

  6. #6
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExposingCorruption View Post
    Are you saying that an agent should be queried only if there has been positive feedback about them, or if they have sold books?
    Yes. What's the point, otherwise? Why not start by querying the people who are most likely to help you?

    I find that a lot of people seem to be approaching the agent search with the question, "Whom should I rule out?" To me, that seems backwards--I would start by asking whom I should rule in.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by IceCreamEmpress View Post
    Yes. What's the point, otherwise? Why not start by querying the people who are most likely to help you?

    I find that a lot of people seem to be approaching the agent search with the question, "Whom should I rule out?" To me, that seems backwards--I would start by asking whom I should rule in.
    It would be nice to simply get an optimal list of agents that I should query, but that's a bit difficult. The WritersMarket website has filters so that one can only get agents interested in certain types of books, but there are plenty of agents not listed with WritersMarket.

    My method is to go through agent listings and then find out about them so that I can categorize them as someone that I should rule out or someone that I should query.

  8. #8
    Lost in the Fog rugcat's Avatar
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    It's not just a question of has this agent sold books? For example, an agent who has spent years on the editorial side of publishing may some day decide to join or open an agency. Clearly, they will have no sales, and might be a great choice because they are going to be actively looking for viable clients.

    But such an agent will still have some sort of presence on the web. Was this agent an editor or a book publicist? There'll be a footprint somewhere. If there's absolutely no sign of them on the web, what would their qualifications be to enable them to sell your manuscript?
    Urban Fantasy rules:Play Dead My Website

  9. #9
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rugcat View Post
    It's not just a question of has this agent sold books? For example, an agent who has spent years on the editorial side of publishing may some day decide to join or open an agency. Clearly, they will have no sales, and might be a great choice because they are going to be actively looking for viable clients.

    But such an agent will still have some sort of presence on the web. Was this agent an editor or a book publicist? There'll be a footprint somewhere. If there's absolutely no sign of them on the web, what would their qualifications be to enable them to sell your manuscript?
    This is a really good point. Betsy Lerner, for instance, was a respected writer and editor before she became an agent, first with the Gernert Company and now with Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner. Obviously her first clients as an agent weren't "guinea pigs" because, as rugcat says, they had the benefit of long-established connections.

  10. #10
    Super Browser triceretops's Avatar
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    Good agents rarely fail to list their sales and accomplishments on a well-organized website, unless they are first starting out, gathering their clients and setting things in order. There can be exceptions, Im sure, which are perfectly explainable. I'm reminded of my sub-agent Rob Cohen, who has tons of experience, years in the business, and came from Richard Curtis. She began her own agency some time ago and took a boatload of top-gun SF writers with her. I cannot find her anywhere on the net. Only a physical mailing address. Yet, I know she is more than competent and not hiding anything. Perhaps one day, she will announce her presence and open up her gate.

    Tri

  11. #11
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    I have visited some websites of pretty well-known agencies while researching agents that don't list clients or don't bother with a full list. After all, they're not out their soliciting clients so it's not so much a matter of being secretive, I suspect, as just not needing to bother. I don't depend on them to give me that information though. There are other places to find it.

    Even when they do, frequently it's for the agency rather than individual agents and that can make a big difference. There are other places to get the information about who represents whom. Querytracker.net lists clients for quite a few agents and researching them in Publishers Marketplace can turn up a lot of info.

    If I'm going to submit to an agent, I must admit I want to know who they represent and what kind of novels they've sold. I won't waste their time or mine unless it looks like a good fit.

    That doesn't cover agents who have been editors and have recently switched, but they're exceptions and not a large percentage. Sometimes you can find that by reading Publishers Weekly and so forth. And then you may not know (unless they're say coming from Baen, Tor, or some other specialty house) what they're likely to be looking for, or I wouldn't anyway.

  12. #12
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    The internet isn't the first place I'd go if I were looking for an agent. The first place I'd go is a bookstore, to see what books were similar to mine. Then I'd find out who represented those books.

  13. #13
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    I already know which ones are similar to mine. I don't need to go to a bookstore. Surely most people read the genre they write.

    Edit: Not that I MIND going to the bookstore. I just don't need to for this purpose.
    Last edited by Dragon-lady; 01-22-2008 at 11:01 AM.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    The internet isn't the first place I'd go if I were looking for an agent. The first place I'd go is a bookstore, to see what books were similar to mine. Then I'd find out who represented those books.
    That raises a question. Would the agent or publisher want a book that is going to compete with one that they already have out there?

    I believe that I've read that if a publisher has recently put out a certain type of book, they don't want to publish another one that will compete with it. Doesn't the same hold true for agents?

    A competing book would be bad for business if the agent and publisher want a certain book to do well and make it to the best-seller list. Am I wrong about this altogether?
    Last edited by ExposingCorruption; 01-22-2008 at 12:14 PM.

  15. #15
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    Certain agents, to refer to the subgenre I write, don't handle high fantasy even though they handle other types of fantasy. Others do. It's a waste of time to send a query to the ones who don't. I rather assume it's the same in other genre such as cozy mysteries as opposed to police procedures. Some research will show who handles the type of writing you do. Of course, you don't want your book to be a clone but you do want them to be something they would at least be willing to consider.

    And I do indeed have a list of just about every agent who handles high fantasy. And in personalizing my queries I can refer to what book they sold in the genre that might be somewhat similar to mine.
    Last edited by Dragon-lady; 01-22-2008 at 11:07 AM.

  16. #16
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by James D. Macdonald View Post
    The internet isn't the first place I'd go if I were looking for an agent. The first place I'd go is a bookstore, to see what books were similar to mine. Then I'd find out who represented those books.
    Right on.

    Last time I checked, a lot of top agencies didn't have websites. They aren't interested in attracting you.

    Yes, there is probably a web 'footprint' out there for any successful agent. But the size of the footprint doesn't indicate much. Some major agencies (Ralph Vicinanza, or Donadio & Olsen) are relatively invisible on the web (though they are becoming easier to find; AgentQuery.com has changed things).

    But, no matter how much things have changed, the web is not where I'd start.

    From Macmillan New Writing, September 7, 2007. (Pan mass-market paperback in September, 2008). In the UK at Goldsboro Books, Borders, Waterstones, and other fine bookstores. Overseas, Amazon.co.uk and most other online retailers.

    Drop through Tomorrowville and say hello...

  17. #17
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    Well, you obviously have to know the genre you're writing which I think was Mr. MacDonald's point but I might be misunderstanding what he was getting at. If my books are similar in nature to say Elizabeth Moon's (I could hope lol) I should know that. Her agent might be a good choice. But I don't think a trip to the bookstore is the answer to that. That comes from extensive reading in my own genre.

    Beyond that, really I believe that the internet is the best source of information and it is where I start. I find Publishers Marketplace essential. I also use querytracker.net and agentquery.com. Those three sources give pretty extensive information on almost any agent you want to know about. I've found trying to depend on google searches and agent websites to largely be an exercise in futility.

    Edit: Ralph Vicinanza is David Eddings, Robert Sawyer's and Robin Hobb's agent.
    Last edited by Dragon-lady; 01-23-2008 at 04:22 AM.

  18. #18
    Hapless Virago IceCreamEmpress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExposingCorruption View Post
    I believe that I've read that if a publisher has recently put out a certain type of book, they don't want to publish another one that will compete with it. Doesn't the same hold true for agents?
    No. Agents sell books to lots of different publishers. Also, your book isn't going to compete with the other books by their clients that are in stores now--your book is going to compete with the other books by their clients that will be in stores next year, or the year after that. Any agent who takes the short view isn't going to be a good agent.

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