STATUS: TGIF! Here in Denver, it can decide whether it wants to be sunshiney or snow. I’m being serious…
What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? SAILING by Christopher Cross
When I first started my agency, feels like eons ago now, I remember how hard it was to land clients in those initial 2-3 years. After all, I was just some new agent and out in Denver to boot. Now there are so many good agents outside of New York, folks don’t really blink an eye but then, it was a bit of hurdle. I certainly wasn’t high on anyone’s radar. In fact, the previous agency I worked for did nothing but nonfiction.
I was on my own when it came to signing up fiction clients.
So in thinking back, I remember what I did to build my list.
1. I read queries and sample pages in record time. Seriously, I could turn around anything in like two weeks. I figured if I got there first, I might have a chance to convince an author to sign with my newbie but growing agency. I actually aspire to get back to that model—some day. When I catch up. Grin.
2. I did fiction and nonfiction in those early days. Huge mistake. I have no innate ability for good nonfiction (excluding the memoir which I love but is hard to find). Prescriptive nonfiction is definitely not my bailiwick!
3. I took on authors with a voice—even if they needed a ton of editing work. Other agents weren’t fighting for those projects (or not as much). I got those novels into shape and ready to shop. These days, I’m not sure I’d have the time to put in that amount of editorial work. Just to be clear, I still do intense editing if needed but we turn it around in one draft rather than three or four. But the three, four, or fifth draft wasn’t unusual back in the early days. Should I return to that model? I don’t think I’d have enough time to really manage my current client list if I did that and they come first. But this might be one reason to look for a newer, hungrier agent—like Sara Megibow. She’s definitely putting in a little elbow grease and it’s paying off.
On this blog, I’ve also previously mentioned agents like Holly Root and Barbara Poelle who are actively building lists. I just recently met Joanna Stampfel-Volpe and Suzie Townsend at the Missouri Writers Guild Conference. If they aren’t on your radar, they should be. They are going to be my stiff competition in the near future—if they aren’t there already. Grin.
4. I lost any number of possible clients to more established agents. I was always gracious and encouraging when that happened. Good Karma and all. I’ve gotten writer recommends from some of those folks that didn’t sign with me but remembered that. It did pay off but not in the way I had originally imagined.
5. I started my blog Pubrants back in 2006 as a way to maybe get a leg up over the competition. Writers would know me from my blog. This, by far, has had the biggest impact on my success. I owe the blog to getting such wonderful clients as Sherry Thomas, Sarah Rees Brennan, Jamie Ford, and Courtney Milan (and probably others but I can’t think of them right now….)
ps. Lala is shutting down so sadly, I can no longer embed songs onto my blogs until I find a new medium. Any suggestions? I’m bummed.