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Understanding an Agent’s Vision for Your Work

A shared vision is one of the most important aspects of an author-agent relationship. Lack of a shared vision is probably the number one reason an author parts ways with an agent. For that reason alone, vision should be a serious consideration when handing an offer of representation.

Vision can mean a number of things. It’s how you see your book–edits and the market. Do you see it as women’s fiction, but the agent sees it as romance? Do the agent’s editorial suggestions align with yours?

Vision is also how you see your career. Does your agent want you to stay the course, while you want to switch genres? Are you thinking of transitioning to something completely different? Do you still want a career?

The longer you work with an agent the more the two of you will begin to understand each other and create a vision for your career together. When first signing with an agent however, this conversation is just as important.

Understanding Vision

When first interviewing agents it’s hard to really see how your career will go or have a full understanding of what your vision is. Sure you might have dreams of publishing in every genre possible, and to every age group, but planning for that at these early stages might not be possible.

Instead I recommend focusing on the more immediate. Take a look at what your vision is for the ideal literary agent, what you want this business partner to do for you and your career and your vision for the book.

When I signed author Melissa Payne I had a very different vision for Secrets of Lost Stones than the book she pitched. In my first offer call, we spent an hour on the phone and I told her straight out that what I was seeing was a different book from what she submitted. She had sent a mystery, I wanted straight upmarket fiction. What I saw was going to entail a massive rewrite of the book and, in the end, create a different book. Luckily that was her original vision for the book and we’ve been a great team ever since.

The same was true for nonfiction author Nir Bashan. The original The Creator Mindset manuscript was 60,000 words from soup to nuts. He covered every aspect of the subject for every person. When we talked, I told him I wanted the first 1/3 of the book to be 60,000 words. The rest could wait for another time. I also told him that what I was asking was a lot and I fully understood if he wanted to opt for another agent. Luckily for me, he didn’t.

These are two extreme examples of how visions can be different and need to align. In most cases it’s much simpler.

Understanding an Agent’s Vision

When interviewing agents for the job as your agent it’s just as important to get a sense for their vision as it is to understand how they handle contracts.

An agent with huge editorial suggestions is not necessarily better or worse than an agent with few. It’s how comfortable you are with what they are saying.

The same holds true for an agent’s submission plan. Every agent works differently. Some might see only submitting to a few editors at a time, others might send it to everyone at once. What are you comfortable with? Which vision resonates with you?

When it comes to vision there is no right answer. There’s only the right answer for you, but understanding what your vision is of an agent and her role in your career is key.

Category: Blog



  1. Thank you so much for this information. It really helps to understand what an agent wants and for me as a writer. I truly believe in self reflection and asking the hard questions. I always enjoy and learn so much from your blogs.

  2. It’s not the work involved, but the vision that matters to me.

    Jessica, would it be impolite when offered representation to ask the agent if they would be willing to represent you if you branched into a second genre? Or is that something to worry about after you’ve established with your initial genre?

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