Friday, October 09, 2015

How many agents can you have?

  Do people ever have more than one agent, if they are writing in different genres? What if they are only a little different like the difference between pictures books and middle grade?

Generally you get one agent per writer.
Some writers have two, but only if the categories are quite dissimilar. The most frequent example is fiction and non-fiction, followed  by adult and kids.

It's not likely you'd have two agents for middle grade and picture books.

It's hard enough to get one agent.
Try not to worry about whether you need two until you have one.


LynnRodz said...

Hmm, should I wear my bubble gum pink jumpsuit today or the canary yellow? Wait a minute, I don't own a jumpsuit. Well, then, no need to worry my head about which one to choose. I'll stay with my basic black.

LynnRodz said...
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LynnRodz said...

Whaat? I'm the first without even trying! OP, most agents who do MG, do PB and vice versa. I wouldn't worry.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I certainly qualify for more than one agent.
One for my great American novel.
My agent for entertainment, I always wanted to be an actress.
My real estate agent, yup, house still is for sale.
My secret-agent, sort of like an imaginary friend but different.
And then there's my cleaning-agent. Buy one, get one, shakes out white, turns blue and contains bleach.

E.M. Goldsmith said...
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E.M. Goldsmith said...
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E.M. Goldsmith said...

Does the OP already have one agent? Until there is one agent, it seems silly to worry about a second. Wrangle that first agent, and if that agent won't rep your alternative genre, then look into the second agent.

I am going out of my mind trying to get that first agent. I am seriously considering switching from querying to using a net, a bottle of Scotch, and a kale rhubarb salad. If I can ever get free of Carkoon (Colin abandoned me and is now swimming happily among many fine agents), perhaps, my search for an agent will yield better fruit.

b-Nye said...

Agents are apparently a tough subject. Does anyone really want more than one. I can't keep track of one pair of glasses, still- I can't function without the right pair.

b-Nye said...

Everyone must be at B-con. Lol.

Lisa Bodenheim said...


Oh the things we furry woodland creatures set our minds to worry about.

My worries? Being stymied by the character soup happening in my drafty WiP. I WISH it was time for me to worry about polishing a query letter, let alone trying to snag 1 agent.

It's an extended family. I need all those characters! Ha.

Hope y'all at BCon are enjoying yourselves. And partaking of wonderful drinks and conversations morning, noon, and night. Enjoying it for the rest of us poor leftbehinds who are doing the butt-in-chair bit.

nightsmusic said...

I would be oh, so happy, with only one! I would love him, and pet him, and squeeze him and call him George...

AJ Blythe said...

It's stressful enough trying to get one agent! But I have to confess I have pondered this question myself from a different perspective.

QOTKU, any chance you can expand on your answer to include the following?

What if you are in a different country? So (hypothetically *wink*) if I had a book that was specifically aimed at the Aussie market, but then had another book aimed at the US market (in a genre not really found in Australia) would I need an Aussie agent for the first book and a US agent for the second? Or would a US agent be able to sell the first book in Australia and therefore handle both?

Unknown said...

I'm laughing out loud at all the witty comments today!

S.P. Bowers said...

One would be enough for me. I'm getting closer, circling, getting ready to chomp, I mean, be snatched up.

Karen McCoy said...

I know an author who used to have two, and she ended up dropping one and sticking with the other. 2Ns is right. One agent for each purpose seems simplest. And they all could be named George.

CED said...

I subscribe to the Pokemon theory of agents. Gotta get em all.

Elissa M said...

I understand the OP's concern. The whole world of agents and publishing can be very disconcerting when one first peeps out of the woodland den and looks around.

As Janet said, the good news is you only need to worry about getting the one agent. After that (and possibly a few sales), you discuss the direction of your career and whether or not your agent can (or wishes to) represent a different category than that with which you started.

Anonymous said...

I purposely look for agents who handle both fantasy and historicals. That's difficult enough. Stretching it to include ones who handle children's books probably isn't going to happen. Should I decide to go down that path again, I'll worry about it when the sheepdog harries me down the lane.

I had a Collie when I was a kid named Trixie. Trixie loved to herd cows. She knew milking time was at 4:00 a.m and 5:00 p.m. come rain or shine and had a very good internal clock. We'd leave the cows in at night so all we had to do is put them back in the milking barn in the morning, feed, wash, and milk them. After morning milking, they went back out to the pasture.

In the afternoon, she'd head out in the pasture to gather the herd and bring them in. Usually by the time she got them gathered, someone would have the gate open to the lot and barns. If someone wasn't standing at the gate, she hauled tail to the house, barking madly like an episode of Lassie. "What is it Trixie? Did the herd fall in the well?"

Sometimes, not often as Grandpa and Aunt Rose were fiends about the cows being taken care of and milked on time, but sometimes things came up and they were late to the gate. They'd finally send me to worry the gate open. This was not an easy gate to open, especially for a little girl. If someone didn't go, though, Trixie would run in circles, barking wildly, whining, jumping at the door, trying to look in windows to see if everyone had been massacred, bouncing like a Chihuahua on speed. It was send someone to the gate or risk losing a Collie who was about to worry herself to death.

Sometimes I get these visions of authors jumping up at the windows of the great agent house.

"OMG, it's been two weeks past the time they said they'd respond, are they dead? Is someone holding them hostage? Are they having an affair with another author's work when they should be reading my work?"

"OMG, they said they don't like commas. Did I use too many commas? Does that mean Oxford commas too? Doesn't everyone like Oxford commas? What about commas before 'too' at the end of the sentence? I better search everything they've written about commas back to when they were in high school. Oh, wait. They don't like characters in comas."

My stars we like to worry. Now I'm thinking we need agent of the week. Remember those panties that used to have the days of the week embroidered on them? I used to love them. I wonder if you can still find them. Sorry, Janet, can't talk to you today, you're my Thursday agent. I have it embroidered right here on my panties.

Panda in Chief said...

And Julie, are your Thursday panties your lucky panties? Just wondering.

I have heard tell that sometimes if an agent works in an agency that is not a single agent house, that they will get another agent on board within the agency, if they don't rep genre for another book you've written. But yeah, I'm just worrying about the first agent, myself.

BJ Muntain said...

I know I've seen people comment that they only query the agents that will rep both their genres/categories, but I've never understood that.

Once you have an agent, if you decide to write something outside of that agent's bailywick, I figure they'll either find help so they can sell it, or they'll help you find another agent - possibly in their own agency - who will rep it for you.

I can understand OP's question, though. I have seen some agents who say they rep MG who don't want picture books. Despite the ages and interests being similar, the publishing of the two types of books can be much different.

Picture books are something like 30% writing and 70% illustrations. They require precise layouts, and precise word placement. Because of the way picture books are laid out and printed, there are precise numbers of pages needed (always in multiples of 8; 32 is the most common length, though 4 usually become the pages stuck to the book cover). And not only would a picture book agent need to worry about their author client, but they would also need to work with an illustrator - whether it's another client, the author's partner, or another illustrator they know of.

(That is, of course, assuming that the MG/picture book difference is the true problem, and not just an example the OP gave)

I'm not saying the OP should worry, though. I'm wondering if OP is thinking about querying both types of books. If so, I would suggest writing a completely separate query letter for each type. Send picture book queries to agents who rep picture books and MG queries to agents who rep MG. If the agent reps both MG and picture books, make sure you've only got one query to them. If they pass on that, then you can send them the other one.

Do this continually until you land an agent for one of the projects. During the preliminary call or calls, mention that you've also been querying the other category and ask what the agent would suggest to do with your books of that category. I think you'll find the agent willing to help you find a home for the other category, as well.

Anyway, that's my 9 am advice for OP. Maybe by this evening, my advice will change. Because my brain often works in several different categories at once, too.

AJ: Many (most? all?) agencies will have some sort of partners in other countries. For instance, Curtis Brown has an affiliate in Australia, and their website says, "We still maintain close links to Curtis Brown’s London office and affiliated agencies in New York, enabling us to offer our clients opportunities for the sale of English-language and translation rights worldwide." Check out the agents listed at the Australian Literary Agents' Association.

Of course, there are American agencies with links to other international markets. Check them out, too.

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I guess I knew your agent is your agent for life, but the questioner does raise an interesting point. Suppose I get my agent with that one Franzenesque literary novel I've got in me. And she absolutely doesn't represent genre, but my next novel is an outer space romp. Does the agent do her best to sell it or do we just have a long hard conversation about how I have to write LF from now on? I mean, obviously if you grow to become completely incompatible you at some point should part ways. But it must be a terrible precedent to hop from agent to agent for each project. Jessica Faust wrote last week about expanding her horizons slightly for her clients, but I imagine that's not ideal or even expected.

Anonymous said...


I didn't say I only query agents who rep both fantasy and historical, but I do give weight to that. I've already been down the road with the agent interested in one thing, but not the other. It's a genuine pain and a journey I'd prefer not to repeat.

In the ideal world, yes, your agent would make an exception and rep whatever you write because they love you, or they would help you find another agent. It's seldom an ideal world and I'm not getting any younger. I'll make things easier on myself where I can.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julie- OMG! Now I am the sheep dog. Maybe there was a slaughter or kidnapping of agents? I feel like I have been waiting forever on responses to my partials. Maybe they all heard about that wayward comma on page 323? Or I mentioned weather at some point and one agent tweeted that he dislikes weather in fiction. Oh dear!

If I could just catch that one agent- he or she doesn't even have to be called George. I am going to call my own special agent Bernie. But trying to find an agent that can represent my fantasy, evil librarian tales, and negotiate my release from Carkoon seems an insurmountable task. Sigh. Maybe I will just get a pet Scotsman and be done with it.

Craig F said...

Soon I'll tell all of the well-meaning helpers of Satan where to go and go ahead and cast out a query.

You need a hook but you have to start at the first of the book or the agent will push that big red button. It has some neat stuff but it sounds like you lifted it from your manuscript.

Currently the second paragraph starts with "The stench of blood and death nearly knocked him over but he saw his kidnapped employee on a cot across the room."

I thought a query was to entice an agent and accentuate your writing chops.

Oh well, after I get noticed I will go from thriller to speculative thriller to science fiction. Maybe a thriller agent will follow along. If not I will need a new agent when I get to the sci-fi.

Anonymous said...


Thursday's child has far to go according to the old rhyme. Some days I think, "Oh, thank you, Lord, I'm lucky remembered to put panties on."

BJ Muntain said...

I'm sorry, Julie. I'd written that before I read your comment. (Then I went researching Australian agents, so missed your comment until after I posted mine.) Others have said that, though, in comments gone by. And yes, it's easier to narrow that way earlier in the process than later.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Fleming's relationship with Peter Janson Smith comes to mind, who I believe he appointed to handle translation rights but that was into a market his US agent, either wasn't interested in or couldn't handle, it was also over the same properties. Janson Smith also pulled Fleming out of a bind with serial rights that Fleming had mismanaged himself. Janson Smith chiefly represented non-fiction authors and while that illustrates a certain specialisation, he managed to shift Fleming's genre fiction pretty effectively. So I suppose you can assume it's down to personal limitations, some people specialise exclusively and while other might be more comfortable in a particular market, they can still turn their hand to anything. The trick being, recognising those limitations and being honest about them. The problem arises when a grabby agent, who can't handle a particular market or genre, has got you in an arm-lock. I suppose that's something you need to consider when signing on the dotted line, unfortunately most new authors aren't going to be in the position where they can exercise that sort of discrimination easily.

Julie said...

On agents.
I got a request for a full last night. I scared the pants out of my family when I threw myself out of my chair, screeched "YES!!!!," and continued with the same, jumping up and down and dancing and hooting until it was quite clear to me that they thought I was out of my head. :D

I neither need nor want two - though I did make certain to query / pitch (with one particular exception who might remain nameless except what's the point?) agents who could conceivably rep both genres I write.

I may not get even one.


That first nod from the first agent sure helps. :)


Theresa said...

What fabulous news, Julia! You must be over the moon. Congratulations! Yes, that first nod is a big step.

BJ Muntain said...

Julia: Yay for the full request! (hoots and hollers with you)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Julia. I was just going to ask on here if anyone know why you'd been missing. I knew you popped up recently, but you went dark for a long time.

Hope all is well.

Unknown said...

Julia, that's wonderful! Congratulations!

Panda in Chief said...

Julie, congrats of your request for a full manuscript read! huzzah! It is obvious you had your lucky panties on today, or maybe they are now your lucky panties forever more.

Oddly enough, I am a Thursday's child, and ai moved across the country some 35 years ago.

Here's hoping the agent who was wise enough to request your manuscript is a fast reader, and polite enough not to reject you by the dreaded no response. We will be waiting to cheer your good news.

Anonymous said...

Hooray for Julia! Well done!

As for all the rest of you, I've been reading your comments and snickering over my cuppa tea; so thanks for that :D

Anonymous said...

(Oh, and Lynn? Definitely the canary yellow)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Julia, congrats and I'll bet she had her panties on.

Anonymous said...

Julia, that is fantastic news! Fingers crossed that this agent turns out to be a good fit for both of you. Even if it's not, you're clearly doing something right. WOOT!

nightsmusic, I thought of that cartoon when the British royals had their first baby and named him, among other things, George. Could not stop laughing. Highly inappropriate of me, I'm sure, but what else is new.

Some of you might notice that I'm not even making an attempt to be on topic. It's Friday night and I am not mingling and partying with the gobs of talented writers who are right now in my city, so I think I get a pass on emergency deployment of diversionary tactics.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julia: woohoo. That's great news.

And like WR Gingell, I've been gigging over some of these comments.

nightsmusic said...


Might have been highly inappropriate (HAH!) but great minds, because I did the same thing. That's what brought the cartoon to mind to start with. I laughed myself silly over that one.

I'm not in your city so couldn't mingle if I wanted, but I'll raise a virtual glass with you and party on! :)

Colin Smith said...

Just popping in to say hi! Awesome Bouchercon day today. A chat with Andrew Grant, hanging out with Loretta Sue Ross, an evening with Janet, Barbara Poelle, Patrick Lee, Loretta, and our own Donnaeve... and then the panels and and and and... *deep breaths*

On subject: haven't we talked about multiple agents recently? I suppose there might be newcomers to the blog who haven't read the archive. But yes--what Janet said. :)

LynnRodz said...

Congrats, Julia!

W.R., oh no, not the canary yellow! At least the bubblegum pink gives me a rosy glow.

Anonymous said...


Oh, well, if you're all for the rosy glow instead of the bilious yellow...

JEN Garrett said...

When looking for an agent, try to find one that will be a good fit for you throughout your career. If you write picture books and middle grade, plus women's fiction, then look for an agent that will do both kidlit and women's fic. Things may turn out differently in the long run, but why set yourself up for hardship?

Julie said...