Thank you for your blog post today. You specifically mention referrals by other agents. I was wondering - what's the difference between a referral by an agent & a referral by an author? If one of an agent's (currently represented) authors refer someone, is it all that big a deal? Does it get you to the top of the pile & an extra close read? Or does it happen so frequently that it's like receiving just another query?
Recently a writer on a bulletin board discussion told me in no uncertain terms that "a referral from a client that doesn't shoot to the top of the to-be-read list means something is seriously wrong with the agent."
It took the Shark Delay Team to keep my reply ("so glad you know so much about working in an agency and getting referrals") in Drafts, which was good, since this fellow didn't seem prepared to listen to someone actually doing the job he was talking about.
Here's how I prioritize referrals. By prioritize, I mean how fast I am likely to read. It's MY list, not the industry standard by any matter of means. (1 is fastest, 10 is least likely to be read at all)
1: An editor read your manuscript, wants it, but you need an agent, so editor gave you my name; or an agent read your manuscript, loved it, couldn't take it on, gave you my name. Editor/agent then emailed me independently to say "hey, I loved this, you will too;" [just so you know: THESE ARE RARE.]
2: An editor read your manuscript (or currently edits you) and suggested getting in touch with me; an agent read your manuscript, loved it, couldn't take it on and gave you several names (including mine) to contact on your own;
3: An agent or editor read some of your manuscript, and liked it, and suggested agents (including me) to contact;
4: An agent at a conference suggested I might be better suited to the manuscript;
5: One of my fabulous clients read and loved the manuscript and suggested getting in touch with me, whom he/she has called to enthuse about said manuscript;
6: One of my fabulous clients read the manuscript and thought it might be something I would want to read and contacts me to say so;
7: A querier asks one of my fabulous clients who his/her agent is, then sends manuscript to me saying client referred him/her;
8: A presenter at a conference who is not an agent or editor says I am a good person to query;
9: A form letter from an agent saying s/he is not taking on new clients but someone else at the agency might be interested;
10: A paid editor/book doctor/someone said I was cat's pjs, and author should query.
The value of a referral depends on two things:
1. has the person read your entire manuscript; and
2. how close to the buy/sell transaction process is the person making the referral.
Agents/editors are primary actors in the sales transaction. They know what gets acquired. Thus, their opinion counts MUCH more than anyone else's including clients. Clients know what's good to their eye, and many of them are close, careful readers with exquisite taste, or seriously tuned in to what's commercially viable BUT they don't have a broad sense of what's being acquired now. Their opinion is important but it's not got the impact of an editor's.
Now remember, this is MY hierarchy. Other agents may vary. Someone should email the Amazing Jessica Faust at BookEndsLLC and ask how she prioritizes referrals. (I think she only takes queries by referral now too, so her opinion actually counts more than mine on this!)