PDA

View Full Version : How important is prestige of agency client list when choosing an agent?



papercuts
08-19-2013, 06:34 PM
Dear AW community,

I am new here (never posted but read others’ posts quite a lot) and would very much appreciate your input. I am in the fortunate position of having to choose between two agents who have offered representation. One is a new agent who is just starting to build her list, but she works at a legendary agency that has a star-studded cast of award-winning literary writers, a few of whom are personal writer “heroes” of mine. The new agent does not represent these writers (her boss and founder of the agency does). She herself has no sales and only a couple of years of experience working as an assistant at literary agencies. But the agency is very small and the main agent will assist her on deals, from what I understand. The majority of the writers represented by this agency are prize winners and/or literary fiction bestsellers. The agency has many contacts in the literary fiction genre, though my work tends to cross genres.

The other agent is very experienced and works at a highly regarded agency. Most of the bestselling/award-winning novelists at this agency are represented by another agent, but the offering agent also has at least one high profile, well-respected client in the literary world who is not a “hero” of mine but whose work I generally admire. Though I can’t be certain, it looks like this particular agent mostly represents midlist writers, not bestsellers, and very few of them have won any literary prizes.

All other things being equal (enthusiasm about work, etc.), how important is overall literary agency reputation when making the decision about which agent to sign with? Is it important to respect and admire the work of your agent’s other clients (or the clients associated with the agency as a whole)? Is it ever to the writer’s benefit to be associated with prize-winning writers through their agency connection alone? Does this increase the chances of becoming an award-winning author yourself?

This is a tough decision for me because one agent is new/untested (but associated with an amazing agency that represents writers I revere) and I'm worried that going with her might be a risk due to her newness, and the other agent is experienced and enthusiastic about my work but her client list generally doesn't excite me.

Thanks in advance for your insight and advice.

thothguard51
08-19-2013, 07:01 PM
Tough decision, indeed...

A new agent at well respected agency is not in and of itself a bad thing. The new agent may be a little hungrier for sales. But she may also not have the life long contacts with editors to know which one would love the manuscript as much as she. If, she is guided by the senior agent though, then he/she could point her in the right direction...if.

My suggestion, arrange a phone call and talk to both agents. Feel them out, ask questions that are important to you and your career. You want to make sure you and the agent are a good fit and have faith in each other.

Old Hack
08-19-2013, 07:35 PM
Both agents sound good to me. I echo thoth's advice: talk with or meet with them both, and get to know them a bit before you make a decision. One of them might have a better vision for your book, or a better plan for submitting it.

CAWriter
08-19-2013, 08:36 PM
The direct answer to your question is--my esteem for my agency's other clients doesn't matter at all in my choice of agent.

When I first started out, I was in a similar situation as you describe with the small but successful agency. I was one of the first clients to be assigned to the newer agent (first on staff after the owner). They did work closely together and I had no doubt that I got all the benefit of the experience of the senior agent. They were (and are) the most prestigious agency in my little corner of the publishing world. The agency continued to grow and added MANY celebrity authors. My agent got deals on my projects and even brought me a couple of work for hire opportunities with publishers. But my kind of books were not in my agent's sweet spot. We also didn't have the best communication (you know those relationships where you just seem to miss what each other is really saying? Neither person is really at fault, you just don't "get" each other.) Eventually I felt like a small fish in a big pond. They were happy to keep me (I never got one of those, "This just isn't working out" calls, even though I felt it was warranted), but eventually I felt like I wasn't going to get anywhere because it really wasn't working out.

Currently, I couldn't even tell you 90% of the other authors on my agent's list. It really doesn't matter to me. We work well together and there are offers on my projects. I would far rather be with someone who works well with and for me than someone who is great at working with people I admire. Those agents are out there; there are a couple agents whose list I look at and yes, I'd love to be included in such 'illustrious' company. But at the end of the day it isn't worth having my name on their website while I sit at home avoiding calling my agent because we don't have a good working dynamic.

If I were in your position, I would base my decision on the relationship. Which agent is most excited about your work and your potential. Which one do you have better communication with? Which one will make the work side of being an author the most enjoyable for you?

(And no, I don't think being on the list with other award-winning authors increases your chances of becoming an award-winning author. The awards are given for the work; that's up to you.)

Tromboli
08-19-2013, 09:10 PM
The direct answer to your question is--my esteem for my agency's other clients doesn't matter at all in my choice of agent.

When I first started out, I was in a similar situation as you describe with the small but successful agency. I was one of the first clients to be assigned to the newer agent (first on staff after the owner). They did work closely together and I had no doubt that I got all the benefit of the experience of the senior agent. They were (and are) the most prestigious agency in my little corner of the publishing world. The agency continued to grow and added MANY celebrity authors. My agent got deals on my projects and even brought me a couple of work for hire opportunities with publishers. But my kind of books were not in my agent's sweet spot. We also didn't have the best communication (you know those relationships where you just seem to miss what each other is really saying? Neither person is really at fault, you just don't "get" each other.) Eventually I felt like a small fish in a big pond. They were happy to keep me (I never got one of those, "This just isn't working out" calls, even though I felt it was warranted), but eventually I felt like I wasn't going to get anywhere because it really wasn't working out.

Currently, I couldn't even tell you 90% of the other authors on my agent's list. It really doesn't matter to me. We work well together and there are offers on my projects. I would far rather be with someone who works well with and for me than someone who is great at working with people I admire. Those agents are out there; there are a couple agents whose list I look at and yes, I'd love to be included in such 'illustrious' company. But at the end of the day it isn't worth having my name on their website while I sit at home avoiding calling my agent because we don't have a good working dynamic.

If I were in your position, I would base my decision on the relationship. Which agent is most excited about your work and your potential. Which one do you have better communication with? Which one will make the work side of being an author the most enjoyable for you?

(And no, I don't think being on the list with other award-winning authors increases your chances of becoming an award-winning author. The awards are given for the work; that's up to you.)


Well, I think that's gonna be the best answer you'll get.

I'd personally love the idea of being with a new agent at a rock star agency, hoping you'll get the best of both worlds (excitment and enthusiasm/ reputation and experience) but it really comes down to relationship. Go with your gut and don't be distracted by the shiny things. Good luck.

Jamesaritchie
08-19-2013, 09:19 PM
An agent with big name clients has the eyes, ears, nose mouth, and full attention of every acquisition editor out there. This is important. Seriously important. Editors can and do give such an agent the benefit of the doubt.

Having said this, and it IS important, another crucial factor is how your personalities mesh. Having an agent is part business, part personal relationship. If you can't get along, it won't work. If you can, spend some time talking to both agents. It won't be long before one or the other rubs you the wrong way.

papercuts
08-19-2013, 09:55 PM
Thank you for your responses! I guess I was looking at this decision from the "prestige" angle because both agents are equally awesome and excited about my work.

I do understand that the work is what gets you an award (and I should clarify that I don't write to try and win awards, but I would be lying if I said the idea didn't appeal to me). But I'm wondering if connections are what will get you noticed for an award if your work is good enough. Will being associated with the rock star agency increase the likelihood that I will be noticed? I mean, let's face it. A lot of great books are published every year that barely anyone knows about. Where does the publicity begin (after the author, of course)? With the agency or with the publisher?

Also, if you're a client of a rock star agency, would that increase the likelihood that a rock star author will contribute a "blurb" for your book (or maybe just talk about your book, helping to create some kind of buzz), thus increasing the likelihood that fans of the rock star author will read your book?