Pub Rants

The Criterion For Evaluating An Agent

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STATUS: Gorgeous day! Must. Leave. Early. Chutney seconds that.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAKE MY BREATHE AWAY by Berlin

This week, Blogger decided to completely reformat their dashboard. I honestly cannot find anything or tweak the colors. Took me five minutes to find my previous postings so I could do my after-posting editing for Friday’s entry. LOL. I should never blog in a hurry but sometimes, I have to do it on the fly or it’s just not going to happen.

I want to expand a little on Friday’s post. I think the most important criterion to evaluate before querying an agent is that agent’s record of sales. Agents should be agenting and therefore selling stuff on a fairly regular basis. And they should be selling stuff that is in the genre of the work you are pursuing representation for.

If an agent is fairly new but at an established house, they should still have a track record of sales since they are using the agency’s reputation when approaching editors. Their stuff will get looked at and since they usually read in front of an established agent and have “training” so to speak; they have honed their eye and will know what will sell.

How can you find out what agents have sold and recent deals? Well, Publishers Marketplace is an excellent resource. Keep in mind, however, that not all agents list their sales there. So that’s not the end all be all. I’ve actually not been announcing a lot of stuff lately for a variety of reasons.

Still, a lot of agents will have pages on Publishers Marketplace or dedicated websites which will show covers of recent releases etc.

If an agent has been “agenting” for awhile (such as 3 years or more) but doesn’t have a lot of sales and to the major publishers, well, I’d take that as negative indicator of their agenting ability.

Also, just in general, agenting is a full-time job. I’d also be hesitant about agents who have been established for a long time but are doing a variety of other jobs on top of agenting.

8 Responses

  1. Steven J. Wangsness said:

    (a) Blogger sucks, as far as design of the tools goes.
    (b) I know this is wrong, wrong, wrong, but after my experience — which lead me to publish my novel independently as an ebook — the major criterion for an agent, as far as I’m concerned, is willingness to flog my book with some editors!

  2. Rick said:

    Great points, Kristin.

    I’d add, when I was querying: Sales in my genre that I’d heard of were important to me.

    If someone had sold a half-dozen YA titles but not a single one of them rang a bell, I’d be concerned about how good a fit that agent would be for me.

    Not because they’re not necessarily legitimate, but because our eyes are in different corners of the market.

  3. Natalie Aguirre said:

    Thanks for the tips, especially for looking at newer agents. Because for some of us unknown authors it might be a good way to get an agent. But it’s important to know how to judge whether they’re good.

    And I upgraded on Blogger a few months ago by mistake so am figuring it out except for how to post a bunch of book covers and have them line up. It drives me nuts.

  4. Khanada said:

    How many sales would “a lot” be? Or is it just the sort of thing you’ll get a feel for when you are out looking? I am still revising and have not gotten to the seriously-looking-for-agents stage.

  5. Colin Smith said:

    Agenting is *just* a full-time job? From what I read, agents rarely keep a 9-5 schedule. You guys read queries over lunch and after hours (that’s when I seem to get responses from agents), and you read entire manuscripts on your own time too. On top of this, you are constantly staying on top of industry trends, and the latest books published in your genres of expertise. I imagine you do all this because you love your work, and couldn’t *not* do it if you tried. That’s something I certainly look for in an agent. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kristin.

  6. Charlie Holmberg said:

    The “jobs outside of agenting” made me cross a few names off my query list before. Agents who are also authors always make me worry they’ll spend more effort on their book than on mine, you know?

    Thanks for the post!

  7. Anonymous said:

    You can switch back to the old blogger interface.

    Go to the top right, click that little round thing that looks like a wheel, and click something like “old interface.”

    They did it to me and I went crazy. I hated it.