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View Full Version : Is there a hierarchy of agents or will anyone do?



hearosvoice
12-22-2014, 12:55 AM
So I'm finishing up a memoir I've been working on for the past few years (I'm in my late 20's). I'm not famous but it covers a hot-button medical issue (among many other things) so I hope it has a good chance at getting published!

I've been doing some research, looking up the names of agents of other memoirists, etc.

I'm realistic, but I do have a "shoot for Mars and maybe you'll land on the moon" attitude. So I'd like to try for the "best" agents/agencies possible first as I take next steps with querying and submitting.

How do I identify the best people to approach first?

Is there a rankings list I can see and just go down the pecking order? lol j/k

Maryn
12-22-2014, 01:34 AM
If only it were that easy, huh?

You have lots and lots of homework to do. You need to identify memoirs which are something like yours and which have sold in the last two or three years, maximum. The agents who brokered those deals are probably your A-list. Research each one and see if they're still accepting clients, still seeking memoirs, etc. Check the current client list; they won't rep you if they already rep your direct competition.

Maryn, unagented

Aggy B.
12-22-2014, 01:39 AM
I queried pretty widely (in a search for an agent who repped fiction and specifically Science Fiction and Fantasy) but there were agents who were at the top of my list. As I researched, I looked at who else they represented. Then I considered feedback on response times, interaction with clients, etc. The factors that matter to you may be different than those that mattered to me. But interviews with agents can help you find folks you'd like to work with.

Ferret
12-22-2014, 02:03 AM
The deal announcements in Publishers Weekly are helpful. I queried my current agent after I saw an announcement for a book that he'd sold that was in the same genre as mine.

I wouldn't say that any agent would do. You want one who has good sales and who doesn't charge fees. It also depends on your personal style. Do you want an editorial agent? Do you want an agent who will give you frequent updates?

Old Hack
12-22-2014, 02:49 AM
The best agents are those who routinely make good deals for their clients, at home and for foreign editions, and who make frequent subsidiary rights sales, and who persist in submitting their clients' works.

A good agent is very difficult to find. There's a lot to learn before you start submitting.

hearosvoice
12-22-2014, 05:14 AM
Thanks, guys!!! Definitely have a lot to research but these are great tips. Hmm, I'm not sure if I want an editorial agent, I'm not really familiar with the difference (more research to do!). I planned hiring a freelance editor before querying to agents. Figured the agent would give me some feedback if he/she saw potential. Then figured the next major editing would be from the publisher? And I imagine everyone would like frequent updates, so I'll have to a little background checking on that.

Thanks again!

Aggy B.
12-22-2014, 07:58 AM
Thanks, guys!!! Definitely have a lot to research but these are great tips. Hmm, I'm not sure if I want an editorial agent, I'm not really familiar with the difference (more research to do!). I planned hiring a freelance editor before querying to agents. Figured the agent would give me some feedback if he/she saw potential. Then figured the next major editing would be from the publisher? And I imagine everyone would like frequent updates, so I'll have to a little background checking on that.

Thanks again!

I would recommend learning to edit your own work as much as possible. Paying for an editor is expensive and can be counter-productive unless you are self-publishing. (They may recommend changes an agent will disagree with, polish a manuscript that will then need to be revised based on agent feedback and thus need to be polished again.)

Editorial agents are agents who work with authors to polish the manuscript before it goes on submission. Non-editorial agents will basically take on a manuscript they like and try and sell it as-is. (I have an editorial agent. He reads the finished manuscript, then recommends developmental edits that I implement before it goes out.)

Once a manuscript is sold it will typically go through further edits under the direction of the editor who acquired it.

Putputt
12-22-2014, 08:04 AM
Instead of sending out queries to all of the top agents on your list, I would suggest staggering it. For example, if you're querying in batches of 10, maybe have 3 priority agents in each batch. That way, if you get an offer, you can nudge the priority agents. If you find a fatal mistake in your query or you get helpful feedback, then you still have top agents on your list who you can still query after you make the revisions.

Filigree
12-22-2014, 11:34 AM
Staggering queries will definitely help you fine-tune your query.

I'll give another vote for learning to revise and edit as much as possible on your own. I have a strongly editorial agent who is very good at spotting problems in my work. Then she makes me fix them. I'm lucky I have good, patient beta readers!

We're currently taking what was a 17K novella in December 2013, and turning it into a 85K novel. The story will support the expansion easily, but it's an immense amount of work. If another editor was doing it all, I shudder to think of the cost. Even just a quick evaluation of the 17K version, by a well-known freelance editor willing to give me a price break, was going to cost around $500. And that's reasonable.

We're aiming for subs to Big Five SSF houses in 2015. You're right, they have their own editors. But the less they have to do, the easier that sale is going to be.

Old Hack
12-22-2014, 11:59 AM
You won't necessarily know if an agent works with her clients on their manuscripts prior to submission, as it's not always something they advertise. But it is something you should talk about with any agents if they make you an offer.

As others have said, it's not often advisable to hire your own editor prior to submission. You'd be far better off learning how to revise your own work: agents and editors want to see what your work is like, not what your work is like after it's been edited by someone.

A good publisher will edit your work but it does have to be as fully-revised as you can get it before you send it off anywhere.

Whimsigirl
12-22-2014, 06:02 PM
I wouldn't say there's a hierarchy per se, but there are definitely better agents than others -- better often meaning more well-suited to sell your manuscript or more dedicated to your developing your career as a writer than looking for a quick sale.

Definitely do your homework and like others said, stagger your queries. Querytracker is a great tool for organizing this. Good luck!

Laer Carroll
12-27-2014, 12:27 PM
You must first find agents who rep the type of books you write. Then carefully research each agent. You want one who is right FOR YOU. They might be absolutely terrific for someone else, but a poor match for you.

Look not only at their submission guidelines but also more ancillary stuff. If an agent has hobbies or interests that you share, for instance, they might be a better match. For those enthusiasms will likely show up subtly or otherwise in your books.

Think of it like looking for a spouse. If everything goes right, you will be with this person for a very long time.