Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Question Emporium: All of meee!

I recognize that authors should find an agent who is a good match from a career perspective, rather than jump at the first who shows interest. But what if I find an agent who seems like a good fit -- we get along -- but...

Here's a scenario I'm facing. (I thought I'd ask before I start the ball rolling.) Right now, ONE of the works I'm pitching is a historical fiction piece. I found an agency which (per their website) specializes in historical. (Plus some non-fiction.) What if he likes the book, and wants to represent me. But when we talk about my other books -- such as my YA thriller, he says, "I don't do those."

I suppose the crux of the question is, would signing on with the first agent hurt my chances at landing another agent for that book? Would another agent be likely to think, "I want you all, or not at all."

I'm always surprised when authors think agents are like underpants: change up as often as hygiene requires.

When you sign with me, I expect to represent all your work, and hopefully for the rest of your career.  Does that always happen? No.

Before you sign with anyone though, I would expect to talk about your future plans. If you're signing with me, and you mention you also write YA, we'll have a discussion about how to handle that.

I have clients who write in categories I don't represent.  Fortunately my estimable colleague Brooks Sherman does, so I just make him do the work while I reap the glory.

I've also spent a good deal of time learning categories that I don't normally work on because clients need books sold. This is why you see deals for me in YA and urban fantasy. I joke that I sold those by mistake but it's really because I have clients writing that who came to me for something else.

This is something you MUST talk about before you sign with an agent.  Thinking you can just find another agent for part of your work, or change agents if the first one doesn't handle a category is not a good idea.


Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

So far I've only really written in one genre, but this seems like the kind of question that would be important to ask a potential agent in any case. Even if the subject is completely hypothetical at this point, there's a chance that, down the line, I MIGHT write something entirely different. It would be good to know how an agent planned to deal with that situation up front, rather than be told they can't or won't represent your new project after the fact.

He he he! You said underpants! :D

Anonymous said...

Ms. Janet, you do have a way with words...have you thought about writing a book??

The books my agent sells most of are the cozy mysteries, thrillers, and non-fiction. Yet, he signed me based on my first book, a coming of age novel. After that, I wrote a historic fiction book which hasn't been on submission - yet. We talked a few months ago...and, I had an idea for a third book - yet another genre - literary suspense. That's what I'm currently working on and we both hope this one sells. He's great, very supportive and I'm glad to be working with him.

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks Janet, for the sound advice.

In my journey through query land, I had a really wonderful exchange with an agent who told me that she loved my pages but she already had a few projects in that genre that she was still shopping. THEN, she asked if I had anything in another genre.

So, even though I was thrilled but sad at the extremely nice no to what I'd sent, I was encouraged by her being honest about not taking on my project and then making us both frustrated by not being able to place it. Additionally, she liked my writing enough to ask for something else, so not quite the bludgeoning that usually comes with a no :) Will I keep this agent on my list? Yes, I will.

So, I appreciate candid agents like our dear Shark, and the other agent, who tell it like it is.

Stephanie Faris said...

I agree...the author should take a long, hard look at where he/she wants to be long-term. If YA is something this author wants to write in addition to historical fiction, I think it's important to find an agent that will represent both. I don't know about the dual-agent idea. I have a feeling what would happen is the second agent would want to represent all of that author's work, and the author would have to fire the first agent.

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

You took the part, that once was my heart, so why not, take all of meee!

This explains that huge jar of hearts you keep on the shelf next to the booze, Janet.

j.a. kazimer said...

Hi Janet,

Does your answer mean, an author shouldn't ever have two different agents at the same time?

Janet Reid said...

J.A. they shouldn't plan on doing so. It's the exception--a RARE exception, not the norm.

Michael Seese said...

Janet, as always, thanks for the advice. I would PREFER one agent. But since I've read (from you) words to the effect of "I don't represent X, because it's not my forte," I had fears that some agents simply don't go beyond their comfort zone.

Plus, as you mentioned, you have a colleague who can handle other genres. This agency's site said they specialize in historical fiction.

french sojourn said...

I have been researching multi-genre'd authors recently. I have four WIP's in the fire right now...

one I started a while ago S.F. (Jules Verne / H.G. Wells),

another Non-fiction(Tuscan sun-ish)

another Fiction (action romance)

and recently I jumped head first into another S.F. (F. Herbert / P.K. Dick)

This post helped me feel less of a socially challenged leper writer.