It’s query season. Yeah, as part of the care and feeding of my writing career, I’m beginning another round of an agent hunt. These rounds always coincide with the completion of a new novel manuscript length project. I’ve finished my third novel now. The first two haven’t sold, but I can see my progress as a writer from novel to novel (to the point where I recently went back to re-work my first one as it was filled with “first time writer” stuff).
One of the benefits of having a network of friends is that you can not only draw on their experience, but also their inside knowledge about agents. Okay, sometimes they’ll try and hook you up with their agents. I do have some other things that I am looking for in an agent, you know, the whole competency at their job thing. Thus, I have come up with a few criteria for my future possible agent.
1. Don’t do crack. I keep thinking of the “Randy Moss lesson”:
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. ?? An agent for Randy Moss was charged with possession of crack cocaine after police were called to a hotel to investigate a disturbance, authorities said…
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching athletes and agents, it’s that my name will be the one in the papers when my agent has issues. You’d think I’d aim a little higher in the “things to look for” department, but I thought this was worth putting near the top. In my experience, limited though it may be to episodes of The Corner, drug use doesn’t indicate the best money management abilities. Additionally, a crackhead probably wouldn’t make for the best ambassador for me.
2. Don’t be a part of my social circle. I’m all about community, however, business is business. My agent will not my childhood buddy, will not a distant relative, and will not some friend of my mom’s. For example, I have a best friend (yes, I’m part 12 year old girl). He won’t be my agent. On the other hand, he has already put his hat in the ring for being a part of my posse.
3. Do not have a psychotic break. Especially online. The occasional breakdown I can live with. We all have them. Try not to have them too publicly and we’re good. You’d think one wouldn’t have to say that, but you’d also think that you wouldn’t have to remind folks that the internet is forever. While I’m on this topic, blogs should be professional. Yours AND your prospective agents. I don’t want to know about my agents pets, arguments with neighbors, shouting matches with writers (wait, strike that, yeah I do. I’m a gossip whore), or anything related to their sex life. I’m sure prospective agents think similarly when they check out your blog after they get your query letter. And allow me to assure you that your blog, your MySpace, whatever presence you have online are all checked out soon after that query is opened.
4. Why don’t you NOT have publishing ventures on the side. I don’t want my agent dabbling in being a publisher or even a writer, truth be told. The words conflict of interest tend to pop up.
The way I see it, an agent is someone else to fight certain battles for me. They tend to the business side of the craft and I don’t have to exhaust myself trying to learn a second job in the field of publishing. While it’s important to educate yourself as much as possible about the business and develop a strong set of contacts, I’m not presumptuous enough to think I can do an agents job as well as an agent. It’s a different skill set.
Plus, in general, I’m a nice, easy-going guy. Prone to let folks walk on me. So I need someone else to be the professional a-hole and look out for my/their interests. I suppose I ought to, you know, be eventually useful in this post. And by way of token effort, I’ll direct you to some interesting reading:
Lucy A. Snyder wrote a great blog on how she got her agent. One of the things she touches on is the importance of an agent as she compares and contrasts her book deal via an agent vs. her husband’s who went the majority of the time sans agent.
Also recommended reading, John Scalzi’s blog on why you need an agent: foreign markets edition. What he knows about foreign markets “could fill a thimble”, but he has an agent who is fascinated by those markets. Which means basically free money for him.