Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rockstar Agents

Rejecter, my question is this: say there's a real swanky high powered agent who doesn't accept queries (Binky Urban or the like), however you've actually got something that fits with his/her interests. Say also it's backed with the endorsement of someone equally high powered from the artist's end, someone along the lines of a Cormac McCarthy. What would be the protocol of just sending a note about the situation versus a full fledged query? The easy answer, but not always applicable, might be just have the super-author gives the agent a heads up. But in reality, an author like that can't really be expected to run administrative errands for an unknown, especially if they already did you the enormous favor of reading the manuscript in question. So, what do you think: totally out of bounds, a small but potentially fruitful risk, or no big deal-go for it?

If the agent does not accent queries, do not send queries unless you have a recommendation from someone knows the agent personally (a client, a friend, another agent). Or just do it, and probably get rejected, but who knows? But generally, go with first thing I said. Also, there's no reason for extra fuss over a "swanky high powered agent." Yes, a couple agents have made names for themselves with super deals or by continually getting their clients into the New Yorker, but the agent you want is a good agent who cares about your work the most and can do the most for your manuscript. Of course, you may not get a choice on who that is if only one person takes you on, but you are looking for someone who is (a) good at their job and (a) a fan of your work. There are good agents and bad agents (and scam agents). Good agents have the right connections (for you); bad agents have few or no sales, or are out of the loop, or don't know enough editors. The best agent for you may be someone you've never heard of and isn't even listed on the first major agent listing page. So just query widely, to everyone who accepts in your genre and is either an AAR member or from an established agency but just hasn't been in business long enough to qualify for the AAR.

9 comments:

J. Mayhew said...

i really appreciated your post as i'd wondered how much value i should put on an agent's client list/reputation

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest that some so-called rockstar agents don't have time for your or your book and when you don't sell it right away for tons of cash? They end up dropping you as a a client.

Sometimes a reputation for getting a few good book deals is not on par with their "reputation" for how they treat their less than blockbuster clients.

There is no magic bullet tp publishing success. No agent, editor, or book deal. Sometimes you've just got to try and go in with your eyes wide open.

Anonymous said...

Two agents have my full, one AAR, one not. But the one who's not has a very good reputation too. You don't think I should automatically exclude her from consideration, do you, Rejecter?

Just for fun, I tried emailing Binky last night, even though she doesn't accept email queries or "unsolicited" queries. She was good enough to get back to me first thing this morning (Sunday), which was really nice of her. She said, "Not for me. Thanks." She's not AAR either.

So what's the thing with AAR, Rejecter? Does it really matter?

The Rejecter said...

The AAR is a group that you can only belong to if you sign an agreement about ethical business practices (don't charge over 15%, don't cheat your client, no hidden fees, etc). To be eligible for membership, you have to have been in the business for 5 years, have some kind of decent track record, and have people recommending you. And there's a hefty yearly fee to stay in it. So, if someone's in the AAR, chances are they are a decent agent, even if they're not the agent for you.

Some agents aren't in it because they haven't been in business long enough or because they know they do a damn fine job on their own and don't want to pay the fees. If Preditors and Editors says it's a legit agency but it's not AAR, keep them in the running.

Suzanne said...

Thank you for the insight on rockstar v. not so much....it's so tempting to only submit to the best with the reasoning that their credentials will get you more money or a better deal from a publisher. Not so?

Sasha said...

In the current climate, I would think the biggest perk for having a rock star agent is: if something horrible happens with the publishing company (ie, it folds, or your editor gets laid off, etc), the rock star agent has enough sway to get you taken care of regardless, whereas the enthusiastic and good but relatively unconnected agent won't be in a position to demand as much.

The Rejecter said...

The point I was trying to make is not that there are rockstar agents and bad agents, but that there are good agents and bad agents, and you should query everybody who's legitimate regardless of how many times you've heard their name. There are a lot of terrific agents you've never heard of, because they don't have websites and they don't have books dedicated to them and they don't report their deals. It's impossible to measure how much "sway" an agent has in the publishing industry without actually being that agent, or an editor who works with that agent.

Kelley Nyrae said...

Thank you for the valuable information!

Rob said...

I agree with the first anonymous comment. The rockstar agents are probably least likely to take on an unknown, previously unpublished author.

This economy certainly doesn't help.