PDA

View Full Version : Do you have dream agents and how did you pick them?



kaitie
06-08-2010, 01:42 PM
So I've got a question for you guys, which technically I suppose I already asked. ;)

I always see people discuss how you should go through a list of agents and pick out your top choices and the ones most likely to want your stuff. Thing is, I can't figure out how on earth people figure that out. I do have a few "top choice" people for myself, but those are either people who have blogs I read regularly or just someone who has what looks like a good combination of "What I'm looking for" listed somewhere.

What gets me about the process is that I know absolutely nothing about these people. Sometimes they'll give a sentence or two saying what they want, sometimes they'll just give genres. Even when someone says, "I like humorous novels," or "I like character driven stories," or whatever, how do I know that my opinion of what that means is the same as theirs?

The only thing I could even think of would be to read books agents represent and try to pick the ones most similar to my own, but there are hundreds of agents, and I certainly don't have the time to read through books represented by all of them to see which ones are similar, and even in that case don't some agents turn down authors on the basis of, "I already have a book like that?"

I always see people talking about their top picks, or having narrowed a list down to just a few agents, though, and I really would love to know how you do it. I've been working on a list for my current WIP and I feel kind of the same way about it that I felt last time I made my list--that there's no way of knowing who might be a good fit and the best choice would just be to send to anyone doing my genre and letting them decide.

Linda Adams
06-08-2010, 02:50 PM
I don't see how people get top choices either--but, for me, it's because of how I organize. I can't relate to prioritizing "To do" lists--everything on the list is important. Same thing for the agents--everyone on the list is important.

However, I've had agents come off the list, as in, I'm not going to submit to them. That came from doing research. One, when I visited his website, had such a irritating attitude that I instantly realized we'd never get along. Another (if he repped by new genre) would have never made it on the list because of some very ill-advised blogs he posted.

BrooklynLee
06-08-2010, 03:00 PM
There's so many agents that I found I needed to narrow them down. Obviously by genre, and if they were looking for new authors. But then I also looked at how they presented themselves -- it's fairly easy with some agents to find a statement on a web site or a blog or in an interview that tells you what they are looking for and help you get a feel for them. I found a few agents floated to the top in that way. Ultimately though, I think it's impossible to rank them unless you know far, far more about the agents than most people do.

I also found that once I started dealing with actual agents there were other ways to sift them (speed of response, level of enthusiasm, things like that)

kaitie
06-08-2010, 03:06 PM
I don't see how people get top choices either--but, for me, it's because of how I organize. I can't relate to prioritizing "To do" lists--everything on the list is important. Same thing for the agents--everyone on the list is important.

However, I've had agents come off the list, as in, I'm not going to submit to them. That came from doing research. One, when I visited his website, had such a irritating attitude that I instantly realized we'd never get along. Another (if he repped by new genre) would have never made it on the list because of some very ill-advised blogs he posted.

Yup, I've taken people off for the same reason. Sometimes if I read a thread on here and see a bunch of people raving about how awesome an agent is, I'll go add them to my list if they aren't there already (and they do the genre of course), but even in those cases I'm not sure I'd call one a dream agent per se. Just someone who sounds like they'd be good to have if they'd happen to be interested in me.

Wayne K
06-08-2010, 03:16 PM
This (http://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/spring-2009/legendary-agent-reflects-publishing) is my dream agent. Forget the Pulitzers and the Nobel prize winning authors he has, listen to the audio.

He asked me for the first fifty pages, so who knows?

kaitie
06-08-2010, 03:19 PM
Wow, way to go! I think the couple of people I'd actually go so far as to say I really, really would love to have are all such long shots it would never happen in my case haha.

Julie Worth
06-08-2010, 03:26 PM
Ultimately though, I think it's impossible to rank them unless you know far, far more about the agents than most people do.

I also found that once I started dealing with actual agents there were other ways to sift them (speed of response, level of enthusiasm, things like that)

This is exactly right. Generally it's easy to say which agents you don't want while it's impossible to say which agents you do, because your dream agent is, first and foremost, the one who falls in love with your work.

shaldna
06-08-2010, 03:28 PM
My dream agent is one who shares my vision for my work and is able to sell it. I don't have a particular agent that I want, but I do chose my queries based on who agents authors who writes similar stuff to mine.

kaitie
06-08-2010, 03:37 PM
That's what I think, too, Shaldna. Even the agents I like right now I might not get along with if we were to ever meet or talk for real. I don't actually know these people, so for me it's more someone who thinks they can sell my work and is passionate about it.

So how do people narrow? I mean, if I'm looking for everyone representing say commercial fic, suspense, and/or action/adventure or whatever, that's a TON of agents. When people say pick the person who looks like the best fit, how on earth do they know that?

I do plan to go for the, "query every single possible person before giving up" route still, but I'd like to have the people I think would be best near the front.

Wayne K
06-08-2010, 03:43 PM
I put a lot of time in the selection process. I picked my last agent because he makes movies out of books and I think this book would make a good movie.

Recent sales are another thing to consider.

Maybe I'm alone in this, but I don't care if he or she doesn't love the book as long as they can sell it to someone who does.

shaldna
06-08-2010, 03:50 PM
So how do people narrow? I mean, if I'm looking for everyone representing say commercial fic, suspense, and/or action/adventure or whatever, that's a TON of agents. When people say pick the person who looks like the best fit, how on earth do they know that?


I start by taking a good hard look at what I have written. Lets say it's a sci fi. Great. That's loads of agents, right? Ok, so lets narrow it down, what sort of sci fi is it? Is it techno babble? Softcore? Real world? Space set? etc etc.

For instance, if I had written a modern day man vs machine/nature a al Jurassic Park or Westworld then I wouldn't query an agent who's primary list was filled with spaceships and laser guns.

Similarly, if I had written a YA vampire novel (gah!) then I would first look at those agents who were currently repping any of the multitude of black covered supernatural YA's out there.

Ken
06-08-2010, 03:51 PM
... dream agent$.

(The essential criteria for many who have such.)

Julie Worth
06-08-2010, 04:01 PM
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I don't care if he or she doesn't love the book as long as they can sell it to someone who does.

I can't imagine this happening for fiction, unless the writer has a track record.

Wayne K
06-08-2010, 04:05 PM
I can't either, I'm just saying as long as s/he sells it, they can hate it for all I care

Phaeal
06-08-2010, 04:21 PM
First I collected all the agents who rep my genres. This gave me a 138 page data base (4 or 5 agents per page.) Then, according to my research into preferences, authors repped, sales, reputation, AAR membership, etc., I ranked all the agents. The dream agents are 1*. The super agents are 1. The good agents are 2. Fair, 3. No way, 4. Great or good but not currently accepting unsolicited queries, 5. Oh, and because this isn't complicated enough, an agent can be 1- or 2+, and so forth. The fives get a second rating -- how they'd be rated if they WERE taking unsolicited queries. ;)

I have a fair number of provisional dream agents. I won't know if they're really dreamy until I have actual contact with them. As it is, I change my rating of an agent as I collect more information, some of it concrete (more sales), some of it subjective (like or don't like the tone of websites, blogs, interviews, rejections/requests.) I also watch the Bewares forum closely -- very interesting info there.

kaitie
06-08-2010, 04:38 PM
Here's something odd to consider. My current story is...goodness knows what it is. A superhero amusing/semi-actiony occasionally suspenseful story. My next one is potentially fantasy, even though in my mind it fits horror/suspense better. My last one was straight up suspense.

Do I guess that I can call them all suspense and get by with that, or would I really need an agent who could sell all the different genres? Isn't that something an agent would tell me, though?

My first list was easier haha. This one's complicated.

Ken
06-08-2010, 05:26 PM
Here's something odd to consider. My current story is...goodness knows what it is. A superhero amusing/semi-actiony occasionally suspenseful story. My next one is potentially fantasy, even though in my mind it fits horror/suspense better. My last one was straight up suspense.

Do I guess that I can call them all suspense and get by with that, or would I really need an agent who could sell all the different genres? Isn't that something an agent would tell me, though?

My first list was easier haha. This one's complicated.

... maybe post a brief synopsis of your next work in both the fantasy and horror forums to see if members would qualify it as containing enough elements of the according genres to be classified as one or the other or both. G'luck :-)

kaitie
06-08-2010, 05:29 PM
Well, I count suspense/horror as a spectrum category. I know I'm weird and agents don't, but I can see it being a bit horrorish and a bit suspenseful. I haven't written it yet to know which dominates. ;)

The current one I'm going to have to hear back from betas before I decide. It's weird. Or maybe it's obvious and I'm just weird. Also an option. It's a comic book with a hint of satire in novel form. How's that? ;)

Mr Flibble
06-08-2010, 05:34 PM
Dream agents = agents who rep authors I love. They love a book, I love it, better chance they'll love me.


There is a prominent agent I could query. But I've read books by several of his clients and didn't really like any of them. The chances of them liking my stuff is minimal to non existent. It doesn't matter how prominent an agent is, what their sales record is like, if they don't rep stuff I enjoy, we're probably not going to fit.

Shadow_Ferret
06-08-2010, 05:35 PM
My dream agents were simply the top agents in my genre, based on who their clients are (do they write stories similar to mine), sales, and based on their reputations among other agents and writers.

They've all rejected me. So now they've moved from "dream agents" to "jerk agents." :D

Ken
06-08-2010, 05:36 PM
It's a comic book with a hint of satire in novel form.

... sounds very cool! :-)

ChaosTitan
06-08-2010, 05:41 PM
This is exactly right. Generally it's easy to say which agents you don't want while it's impossible to say which agents you do, because your dream agent is, first and foremost, the one who falls in love with your work.

This is how I chose to sign with my agent.

When I was querying, I sent queries to agents whose clients I'd heard of or liked, of who I've read about online, or whose blogs I followed. They were making deals and they had active Urban Fantasy/paranormal authors on their lists.

I had two partials out with two of those heavy hitters, and a full out with a less-heavy but still well-known agent when I received an offer of representation from an agent I never queried. I was referred to him by an agent I had queried, so all I really knew about him is he had a boutique agency, several fiction and nonfiction clients, and one pretty new UF author (whose first deal he'd just made).

He read it over a weekend and offered on a Tuesday. After communicating with the other three agents, I accepted his offer. And even though I was only his second UF author, it was his enthusiasm for both the book and my future that really sold me. He loved the book, loves my writing, and he fights for the best deal he can get me. In less than two years, he sold six books for me.

That's the kind of agent I want. Agents are advocates for your career, not dime-a-dozen salesmen.

Southern Girl
06-08-2010, 06:39 PM
Hmm. Good question. For me, it falls into two categories. Dream agents who I think will pimp my work to the nth degree, and dream agents who I really like as individuals.

There's only one that falls in the last category, and only because we've gotten to know each other over the course of a few months. I'd love to work with her because I get her and she gets me. As far as how aggressive she'd be with my book, I'm not sure ...but I have a lot of faith in her.

The former category has about a handful of names, all agents who repped other authors in my genre and who made huge sales for them. But I don't feel like I "know" them as people, so I don't know how well I'd get along with them.

So it's hard to say. In the end, I'd like to have a combination of the two. :)

CheyElizabeth
06-08-2010, 07:03 PM
I've long since stalked YA agent's blogs and twitters, so I had a rough list of who I liked as a person to query.

Then I got a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace. I took my huge list of agents who rep YA and searched them, ranked them in order of the most deals made, then the order of most deals made with my type of YA book, then those became my super awesome top agents.

Of course, personality wins over all. I have two *dream* agents based on website/blogs/twitters they've posted that make me think my book would be awesome for them.

In all, it took about 2 years research to gather my list of about 50 agents.

Jamesaritchie
06-08-2010, 07:26 PM
Learn which books the agent has sold. Read several of these books. You don't have enough time not to read them. There is no other way to know whether the agent will like your voice, your type of story, has the same sense of humor, etc.

Investing some time up front can save time tenfold on the back side.

Kathleen42
06-08-2010, 07:35 PM
The silliest reason I had an agent on my query list was because she liked Doctor Who and was a redhead (she had a great rep, but the Doctor Who was key).

But, like Chaos said:



That's the kind of agent I want. Agents are advocates for your career, not dime-a-dozen salesmen.

CaroGirl
06-08-2010, 07:37 PM
Investing some time up front can save time tenfold on the back side.
Hee hee. James said "back side."

I've chosen my top three agents based on the following criteria. The top one is the agent of a friend and is recommended by him; she also reps books similar to mine. Number 2 I saw speak at a conference and was very impressed with her industry knowledge, and she also reps books similar to mine. Number 3 is the third top-rated agency for my genre in the country. Granted, there are very few agents here, so that makes it easier to choose which ones I want to dream about.

Miss Plum
06-08-2010, 07:40 PM
heh, kaitie, escaped from the Daily Rejection thread for a few?

Anyway, that's a good question. Here's my dream agent: an imaginative and powerful dealmaker. Major deals, significant deals listed at Publishers Marketplace, an agent who's written about in the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal. Someone who gets tons of money for foreign rights, film rights, ancillary projects. Someone who breaks the rules and makes his own. He exists. I know his name.

gothicangel
06-08-2010, 10:43 PM
I don't know about 'dream' agents, but I have top preferences.

Two of them are agents who represent my two favourite crime writers, and the third is a top London agent who asked for me to sub my next book.

Research, research, research.

blacbird
06-08-2010, 11:47 PM
It doesn't matter if none of them pick you.

caw

kaitie
06-09-2010, 03:44 AM
Learn which books the agent has sold. Read several of these books. You don't have enough time not to read them. There is no other way to know whether the agent will like your voice, your type of story, has the same sense of humor, etc.

Investing some time up front can save time tenfold on the back side.

How?

And can't a person like a variety of styles? I would hardly say that my favorite books are all written in the same voice or the same style or even the same genre.

artemis31386
06-09-2010, 04:20 AM
I prioritize by agents that handle my genre (UF) but my dream agent is one that has a passion for my books so he/she can sell them. And someone I can work with.

Miss Plum
06-09-2010, 05:31 AM
kaitie, one way to find out who's selling what is to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace for $20/month. I'm really glad I did it.

kaitie
06-09-2010, 06:49 AM
The silliest reason I had an agent on my query list was because she liked Doctor Who and was a redhead (she had a great rep, but the Doctor Who was key).


I had one on my list who said she was a huge Boston Red Sox fan. I'm actually not a fan myself, and I had a joke in the last chapter of my manuscript about "All the really rabid fans are in Boston." I had no idea if she'd be offended or laugh, but I was hoping for the latter. ;) Got rejected, of course, but still. The thought was there.


heh, kaitie, escaped from the Daily Rejection thread for a few?


Hey, to my credit I'm only down there about a minute a day. ;) The rest of my time is spent floating around everywhere else.


It doesn't matter if none of them pick you.

caw

Yeah, I know. :(

kaitie
06-09-2010, 07:00 AM
kaitie, one way to find out who's selling what is to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace for $20/month. I'm really glad I did it.

I can generally find that information elsewhere for free as well. I wondered more how it would save time.

I probably read 25 books a year. Sometimes more, sometimes less. When I'm writing it's less just because I don't have much time. The book I'm currently reading has taken me a week and a half so far and that's so darn good I can't put it down. The one before it took at least a month. And then when you add in books I'm reading in Japanese which might take me a year to finish, yeah.

I've got 280 people on my list, all researched multiple times in multiple places. I read each one's submission guidelines before I send off and I maintain a record with all kinds of info that I constantly update.

The amount of time that I've spent doing this is no doubt less than the average time it takes me to read one book. I have hundreds of options for agents, and if I were to read even several books for the top few people I wanted to send to, it would take me at least a year.

Maybe for some people it would save time, but I fail to see how.

There is also the fact that I've seen rejections people received from agents saying things like, "I already have a YA vampire romance, so I can't take on another even though I love this," or, "I already have a writer who writes in a similar style, so I can't take this on." Those are paraphrases but I know without a doubt that I've seen examples of both. The former more than once, the latter quite recently.

And who's to say that the agent who represents another book in my genre that is quite different from mine wouldn't love mine as well? Do we really think agents have such specific tastes that they would only want one voice or style? Maybe some are like that, but we have no way of knowing that unless they tell us, right?

I can see the logic behind sending to people who have represented books that I enjoy. Granted, I never think I'm good enough to actually get one of those people, especially if they pulled off a good deal, but that's another matter. I'd send to them anyway and just expect a rejection. :tongue I figure if someone is that successful, they can afford to be a lot pickier.

Miss Plum
06-09-2010, 09:29 AM
I can generally find that information elsewhere for free as well. I wondered more how it would save time.
That's the main advantage as far as I'm concerned. The info is nicely organized. I searched on Graphic Novel sales back to October 2000, major ($500k+) fiction deals in the past two years, all the deals my Ideal Agent had ever made, and similar stuff. All there at the ol' fingertips.

kaitie
06-09-2010, 11:51 AM
I can see how PM would save time (I'm just not rich enough to afford a subscription right now. I'm about to be jobless).

I'm referring more to what James said about the reading books. It's fine and dandy to find books that the agents have repped, but if I don't know the books myself I have to go read them to find out what they're like. That's the time consuming part.

There is one agent who I know has similar tastes as me because when I look at the books she reps (or books she says she likes), I end up adding half of them to my reading wish list because they sound cool. But again, that's just one agent and she was already the first on my list anyway even without that. :tongue

Miss Plum
06-09-2010, 07:27 PM
I'm about to be jobless).

Ooh! Then you'll be a real writer! I've been one for about a year now.


I'm referring more to what James said about the reading books. It's fine and dandy to find books that the agents have repped, but if I don't know the books myself I have to go read them to find out what they're like. That's the time consuming part.

Oh. I agree, and this is really bad, but you know what I do as a money-saving technique? I judge the books by their covers.

shaldna
06-10-2010, 02:01 PM
kaitie, one way to find out who's selling what is to subscribe to Publishers Marketplace for $20/month. I'm really glad I did it.


or you can read the bookseller online for free.

Miss Plum
06-10-2010, 04:52 PM
or you can read the bookseller online for free.
www.thebookseller.com? They charge for access to portions of their site. Can't search their charts without a subscription. Also, they seem to be UK-oriented. That's not a bad thing, but it's of little use to me.