Culling Your Agent List

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 26 2017

I loved the feedback I got in my “what do you want in an agent” blog post. Some really interesting answers on how you might choose when given the choice.

As I sometimes do, I’m taking one of the questions from those comments and giving it a wider audience.

Actually, Jessica, I was curious: when looking for an agent, should we look for agents who represent age categories and genres we’d liked to be published in outside our current MS? (Did I confuse you? Lol.)

Here’s an example: I removed an agent from my list who fit my current project, but who didn’t represent chapter books/early readers and I have a few sitting on my drive I’d love to clean up and see through to publication. And there are some agents I passed on who don’t want to represent any adult fiction (and I love to write adult romance, category and single-title). Should I only focus on agents who’s interest match mine entirely?

Focus on one thing at a time and find the perfect agent for the book you are currently shopping. It never does anyone any good to set limits on themselves. As I’ve built and grown BookEnds I’m frequently asked questions about how big we can get, what my plan is, and how many clients I can handle. The answer is I don’t know until I do. In other words, I can handle as many clients as I can handle and how much time I spend on them is dependent on them. If I’ve sold everyone on my list and they are contentedly writing for their publishers that’s a lot less hourly work then if I’m editing and revising with ten different clients at a time. Sure I still need to talk with publishers and execute contracts, but revisions take forever, phone calls don’t. So why would I tell myself I’m only allowed ten clients? Why set obscure limits? The same goes for finding an agent. Why limit yourself to the small number of agents who handle every genre you’ve ever thought you’d write? What if the perfect agent doesn’t?

All authors have dreams of what else they could be and other books they’d love to publish, but looking too far ahead and trying to plan for what might be is limiting. My suggestion is take one day at a time, focus on finding the perfect home for this book and, later, when it’s time to take a second look at those chapter books (if you still want to do that once you have a thriving career with your WIP) you can take a look talk with your trusted agent about your plan.

5 responses to “Culling Your Agent List”

  1. Avatar Colin Smith says:

    So I’m told (I’ve yet to experience this for myself), a frequent topic of conversation on “The Call” is: “What else do you have?” Naturally, agents want to know if the writer is a one-hit wonder, or if there are other magical manuscripts in various stages of completion on the hard drive. Given your response above, Jessica, what goes through your mind when you’re about to offer rep on the author’s Romance novel, and he’s on the phone telling you about the YA, MG, Horror, and Western stories he’s working on? Do you think, “Excellent! Such variety! I can work with this!!” or “I don’t do Westerns… hmmm, YA’s not really my thing… oh dear…!” Or, are you thinking “Hmm, I could take that one, and I could give that one to Beth, that one to Moe, Tracy can handle that, and Kim has SO got that one!”? Do you think about your own range and skills, or do you think Team BookEnds?

    • Jessica Faust Jessica Faust says:

      I worry. I worry that the author isn’t focused on building a career, but rather just on publishing books. That he never set forth a business plan or a plan for his future as a writer. It’s like someone opening a Greek restaurant, but the menu changes daily with items obviously not Greek, but at the whim of the chef. Pizza today, Indian tomorrow, Burgers and Fries on Friday.

  2. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    When you are first published, I would imagine you need to focus on that genre for a little bit to establish yourself, follow up with a second (and more?) books before you would start in on a different genre – just from a positioning/branding/marketing point of view and probably a publisher’s expectations. Would that be correct, Jessica?

    • Jessica Faust Jessica Faust says:

      That is true, but also your time and scheduling changes dramatically once you contract with a publisher. Now you have more edits, revisions, marketing, publicity, etc scheduled into your day.