Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Question: When are you too new?

 At what point does a new agent with no sales raise red flags? When they have been agenting for two months? Six months? A year? I know that not all beginning agents make sales quickly, but when does not having any sales become a huge red flag to someone considering them for representation?

This is a question with multiple answers.  There are multiple answers because "new agent" can be applied to people in wildly differing situations.

Someone who hung out her shingle in Left Of Nowhere, Nova Dakota last year cause she loves authors and wants to help them is a far different cry from someone who worked at BigAssAndDonchewFergitIt House as an editor for twenty years and is now turning to the Dark Side.

New agents come in all levels of expertise and experience.

The more expertise and experience, the sooner they can make sales (generally speaking.)

If someone who's worked in publishing for 20 years isn't making sales within a year, I'd wonder.

If someone who's never worked in publishing and is agenting part time to "help writers" EVER makes a sale, I'd be astonished.

Here's the real rule: I don't want to be first on a new venture.

If a publisher is just starting out,  or someone has a great idea for new idea about movies you can watch on your phone, I want to be their third project, not the first. I want them to make all those inevitable mistakes with some other guy, not me.

This applies generally to agents as well.  I'm not always well received when I say "anyone can sell a book" but it's very close to true.  Selling isn't the hard part of agenting. The hard part is keeping writers well-published.  To do that you need years of experience.

Of course, when I was first starting out I had a very different pitch on what you wanted in an agent, and experience was not on the list I can assure you.

To answer your question: anyone who is agenting should have made a sale in a year. Anything less  than that and they're not full-time, or not well-connected, or not getting good projects.  All of those things are Not. Good.


Liz said...

nice post. thanks...I'm on the leading edge of the Great Agent Search after a few years of pretty successful indie pubbing, platform building and whatnot.
Seeking any and all advice I can get.

Mark Koopmans said...

Yeah, thanks.

It's nice to hear an experienced voice regarding agents, so cheers :)

Cheyenne said...

Very helpful information - thanks! In researching agents I've come across a few who have a page full of clients, but no sales on Publishers Marketplace, and have been really curious about this...

Liz Blocker said...

The question and answers you post are always, always helpful. Thank you!

Janet Reid said...

Cheyenne, not all agents post deals to Pub Mkt. I was pretty lax about posting for awhile myself but got nagged into improving by the apprentice sharks.

Lance said...

Very timely information. I am compiling a list of agents to send queries to. Very helpful. As always, great post.

Aisha said...

Could you elaborate further perhaps on "keeping the author well published" versus just making a sale, how would an agent be pivotal in that regard? Thanks.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Ditto on what Aisha asked. Getting published is one thing. Sales and backlist and next books are another.

Violet said...

I wonder how "sales" to small press fits in to the equsation. I've seen some new agents get small press sales (some with advances, some without), but even after a year, no sales to larger houses.

Curious what your thoughts are on that.