R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson

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What do I want from an agent?

Right now the full ms. of Knife is on its way to two agents, and while I'm waiting on their responses, I've been thinking about what specific qualities I'd like in an agent -- aside from the obvious ones like being reputable and qualified and knowing the ins and outs of the publishing business and having a good track record of sales, and generally being a decent sort of person.

jaylake's just written a helpful post on the writer-agent relationship, and I agree with a lot of what he says, though not all. As arcaedia points out in her response, not all agent-writer relationships begin the same way, and her personal experience as an agent is different from what jaylake suggests is the norm. jaylake also believes that agents ought to live in or around New York City, and although I used to worry that might be the case, I've read enough now to feel differently. Agents Erin Murphy and Kristin Nelson, for instance, have both remarked that most business between agents and editors is done over the phone, not at the mythical business lunches, and therefore there's no particular advantage to an agent being located in NYC as far as sales go. As long as they're willing to make occasional trips to New York in the line of duty, that usually covers things just fine.

So, I'm not going to worry too much about the fact that I've only met one of the two agents I've queried in person, nor that one of them is located thousands of miles away from NYC. I don't think either one of those things is going to make a big difference in the end.

What I'd really like to find in an agent (assuming I ever get the chance to choose, of course!) are the following qualities:
  • Willing to respect my spiritual beliefs, convictions and ideals even if s/he doesn't share them. Even though I'm not writing for the "Christian" market and don't plan to, and I firmly believe that preachy fiction is bad fiction and bad preaching, it would be unnecessarily difficult, and ultimately upsetting to both parties, for me to try and work with an agent who despises and/or fears me for what they think I believe.

  • Experience of working with Canadian authors. Preferably someone who already has a Canadian or two in their client list, or at least is willing to learn about the legal and financial nuances of doing so.

  • Appreciates my particular sensibilities as a writer. Of course, I doubt they'd be willing to take me on in the first place if they didn't like the way I write. But my tone and approach is, I think, much more English in many ways than it is American, so it'd certainly be a plus to have an agent who's an anglophile.

  • Open to authors writing in more than one genre. That's not to say I plan to hop all over the place genre-wise, certainly not right off the bat -- but it would be nice to feel that if I want to write a mystery or a historical further down the line, the agent isn't going to get grumpy about it.

  • Shrewd critical judgment. Yes, I definitely do want an agent who tells me straight out what they think of my work and how it can be improved. Whether that means general comments or something closer to line-editing will no doubt vary with the agent, but I'm open to both. The more feedback I get, and the more specific and incisive it is, the better.

  • Fandom-friendliness. Not that they have to have be active in fandom themselves, but if they regard the writing of fanfic as a disgraceful, wasteful or (worse) criminal activity, we are probably going to have difficulties. I've always been open and positive about my fanfic writing, I'm not ashamed of anything I've written, and I've definitely found my fandom participation an asset in terms of promoting my original work. I'd love to find an agent who agrees with me, or at least is open to hearing what I have to say on the subject.

  • Likes May/December romances, or at least doesn't run screaming from the idea. Because you know I'm going to write at least one in the course of my career. Possibly several.

  • A good sense of humor. And one that dovetails well with my own.

I'll add to and modify this list as I think of more things. Hopefully it'll serve as a memory-jogger so that if I ever get that magical phone call from an agent interested in representing me, I won't stammer all over the place when they ask me about my expectations.

In other news, I have got my copy of First Draft in 30 Days and am eagerly perusing it. I have no idea whether the system will work for me, but I'm definitely interested in giving it a try when the New Year rolls around. Only with my schedule it's more likely to be First Draft in 60 to 90 Days, but the author of the book says that's just fine.

Also, in case there was any doubt that I am a masochist, I just sent my hook for Knife into Miss Snark's current Crapometer. I won't be showing up until #314, and she's only on about #50 at the moment, so it'll be a few days before I get her comments (and I think I can already anticipate half of them). But it's definitely worth skimming over the current Crapometer entries to see what makes a hook work and what doesn't.
Tags: agents, knife, publishing, writing
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