Friday, October 05, 2012

Friday Night at the Question Emporium

I know literary agents take on 'projects' they love, the ones they are enthusiastic about but do you guys ever take on 'just' the writer. I'm using the word 'just' carefully because there is nothing 'just' about the whole writer.

You have often expressed how important it is to target the best agent for your genre. And, I'm thinking the agent might believe they are doing the writer a diservice by representing that which they might have difficulty selling because it falls outside their realm. But I'm wondering if the love of words and the monument of effort overrides that frailty. Or, are we all so specialized? I wouldn't want my dentist doing heart surgery but I sure as hell would want him at my side if I'm flat on my back in a gutter with chest pain.

And, if the answer is yes, agents do take on writers which blow the agent's steam-whistles, how does one approach agents with that in mind?

So, you're asking if I'd sign a writer cause I loved them but knew I wasn't the best agent for their work?

That's a skewed perspective on love there, snooks.

I not only do not do that, I will actively encourage writers with projects I do love to make sure they query other agents.  Finding the right agent isn't a matter of I love you, sign here, any more than a marriage is.

Your analogy about the dentist suggests any agent is better than a specialized one.   That's not true. A bad or incompetent agent, even one that means well and has GREAT intentions is worse than no agent at all.

And if you think that isn't true, you haven't talked to enough authors.


Michael Seese said...

If you love something, set it free...

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

...if it doesn't come back, hunt it down and kill it.

Loulymar said...

Sorry, I'm catching up on emails Saturday a.m., so I'm just now reading this.

I think you misunderstood the analogy.

Of COURSE the specialized agent (e.g. the cardiologist) is best if you are having a cardiac arrest in the ditch, but EVEN a wrongly specific agent (e.g. the dentist) is better than no agent (i.e. they at least are a warm body with SOME knowledge of what you need).

We've come a long way in learning how to give ourselves the heimlich "remover" when we are personally choking (thrust against a hard back chair), but we have not figured out a way to do chest compressions and rescue breathing on our unconscious selves.

stacy said...

The problem I have with the analogy is that finding an agent isn't a life-threatening emergency where you have to make do with what you have. In looking for an agent, you not only have time to find one, you have time to find the RIGHT agent. It's pretty shortsighted, I think, to grab the first warm body who seems to know a little more about publishing than you do just to get your book published. What happens with your next book, or the one after that? The right agent can help you play the long game.

Suppose you had the luxury of knowing about this heart attack in a ditch ahead of time and could choose the professional you'd want near you. Who would it be? The dentist? Or the cardiologist?

Yes, writers have to know a lot about publishing these days. But it seems to me you'd not only want to put yourself in the best possible hands (an expert in your genre) but also want a good fit for you personally. And since it's not an emergency ... it seems to me you'd want to take the time to do it right.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

Hopefully nobody sees their search for an agent as akin to a cardiac emergency!

I have discussed my writing with agents who do not represent my genre, and they have given great advice and feedback, which I am eternally grateful for. I think that's a closer analogy to the heart attack in a gutter scenario than actually signing with any of those agents is. They may have done CPR until the ambulance arrived to haul my MS away for further treatment, but once it was off life support, I'd want to go for followup care with the RIGHT agent, not the closest one to hand.

Elissa M said...

It is a fact that having NO agent is better than having a bad agent. A truly good agent who is wrong for your work won't offer representation, so if a "wrong" agent does sign you, that agent isn't just wrong, they are bad. "Bad" could simply mean in-over-their-head, but it could also mean incompetent.

The web abounds with stories from writers who ended up with bad agents. You really don't want to join their club.

Going back to the chest pain analogy: doing the wrong thing, or the right thing the wrong way, can kill you. A bad agent can kill your writing career before it even starts.

Loulymar said...

I agree. A friend has written three novels. She signed an agent who was successful in another genre, but was moving to her genre. He made some great suggestions that improved her first novel (the only one he read or pitched). Although he pitched it to the wrong type of publisher (her novel is "quiet" and he persisted in sending it to "bodice rippers") he received several nibbles and two unacceptable offers (one was from a bodice ripper that wanted to spice it up, and the other was strictly digital). Since she parted ways with the agent (and waited the contracted period of time), she is pitching to agents (as well as publishers) who are more in line with her quiet style of writing. Her number of requests for fulls has matched his. Now she's just waiting to get an acceptable offer. :~)

He was the wrong agent for her, but he did teach her a lot. Some of the lessons were hard. More importantly, he impartially validated what what family and friends (known to be quite partial) have been saying for years: she has talent and knows how to write a story.