December 14, 2009

How to choose an agent

Filed under: Backstory — jenny @ 5:51 pm

Wait, you mean we get a choice?

Well, if we’re lucky, sometimes we do. And if you’ve been following these “backstory” posts, then you know that hard upon my first offer of rep, I got a second.

Just in case the green eyed monster is swimming in your eyes, not to fear. I have MORE than made up for that dose of luck once my mss went on submission. But that is for a later post.

Today I just mean to tell you how I decided to sign.

There was door number one and door number two and I chose the agent behind…

Number one.

I chose based on three factors.

1) How established the agency was (the one I chose is in fact the oldest literary agency in the United States)

2) How well known the clients of the agency were (Joyce Carol Oates, Gail Godwin, say no more)

3) How long the agent had been in the business for

Were these the right factors on which to base my decision?

I honestly don’t know.

Agent number two was new-ish to the biz at the time–I believer she’d just opened her agency–and is still in business nine years later. (Gasp, yes, I’ve finally given a number as to the time I’ve spent at this.) She has made some wonderful deals, and in the process surely made some wonderful careers, and some wonderful dreams come true.

The agent I signed with has made many deals over the years as well. Her agency continues to be just as well reputed and so does she.

She was a wonderful person to work with, dogged, strong, and encouraging. When I wrote to her recently–another post for the future–she spoke as kindly as ever. “I still consider you an extraordinarily gifted writer.” Words that an unpublished writer–maybe a published one, too–holds close to her heart.

But my agent didn’t sell my book. Not the one she signed me for (which was actually my second). And not the one I had “in the bank” (my first) after the other failed to sell. Still, I think she was and is a great agent, and that I made my choice based on the most likely outcome. The more experienced agent was probably a better bet.

Unless the green, hungry agent would’ve made something happen.

Or unless a sale has nothing to do with either experience or hunger and is in the end simply luck, your book landing on the right editor’s desk at the right time. In which case both agents were equally likely and unlikely to get me an offer.

Bottom line, I don’t regret my decision, except in the road not taken sense.

Next time I will tell you what happened once my agent started submitting.

1 Comment »

  1. It is so easy, with all kinds of choice in life, to constantly look back and say “What if?” I do it too much and vowed recently to stop doing it. It sounds like mostly you don’t do it, and are able to see that sometimes you get to Point B from Point A but sometimes there are other ways to get there. .

    Comment by Judy — December 16, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

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