Some Thoughts on Referrals

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jan 12 2015

Thank you AJ Blythe for following Janet Reid’s direction and emailing me on this subject. I actually like this back and forth blogging that Janet and I have going and would like to issue a directive. If you ever read a post either of us has done, or in my case any agent has done, that would you would like a second opinion on, please email me. I’d be happy to post my thoughts on the same subject.

For those who didn’t read Jane’t original blog post here’s the gist:

Janet received a question on how she prioritizes referrals. The author wanted to know the difference between a referral by an agent or an author and she explained her process in great and impressive detail. I’ll do my best to do the same.

For a long while I was open to submissions by referral only. Then for a while I was open to submissions for various types of mysteries and everything else by referral only. I think now I’m more or less open to everything. More or less.

Believe it or not referrals don’t happen very often. I know from experience that most of my clients are very cautious about passing someone my way. I think they feel like I’m busy and they don’t want to add to my piles and don’t want to be judged on something they might or might not have read. What if they refer something and I think it’s absolute crap for example? And I think most agents feel the same. We all have a lot on our plate and we hate to just pass things off to other people, unless of course we really feel it has potential, but needs someone who has a different or better vision for it.

Believe it or not, most frequently I get “referrals” from people I don’t even know or have even ever heard of. I’m not sure if its confusion on the author’s part or someone really trying to snow me. Those, obviously, I don’t consider real referrals.

In Janet’s original post the author implied that any agent who didn’t respond quickly to a referral from a client was problematic. I’m not so sure. For me a referral usually means that I’ll automatically request to read the material. How quickly I read the material however depends on a variety of things and who the referral is from is just one of those things, but not everything.

Remember, I’m a strong believer that an agent should never be judged on the speed she reads submissions because presumably, if she’s slow at submissions, it’s because she’s spending her time where she should be spending her time, with her clients.

So how do I prioritize? Usually by what excites me first. Sometimes I’ll just start at the bottom of the pile (those that came in first) and read up, but many times I’ll go through, evaluate the queries, and read what I want to read. It’s the same way I prioritize the reading pile next to my bed.

That being said, a referral from another agent will often peek my interest enough to move it pretty near the top of the pile. After all, what did my trusted colleague see in this project that they thought warranted a referral? I also tend to move client referrals up a bit and treat them more delicately (you might get a more detailed rejection than normal). In my mind it’s a matter of helping the client out. If she went so far to refer someone to me I want the person she referred to have real appreciation for her efforts.

In a nutshell, I would say that referrals from editors or agents probably move to the top of my pile the fastest, clients next and lastly referrals from friends, family, or the random person on the street. In the end however, it’s all about the book and whether it works for me.


3 responses to “Some Thoughts on Referrals”

  1. “Remember, I'm a strong believer that an agent should never be judged on the speed she reads submissions because presumably, if she's slow at submissions, it's because she's spending her time where she should be spending her time, with her clients.”

    When I was pregnant with my first child I sat in the doctor’s office waiting. I was on time, he was not. At first I was annoyed, and then I realized, that perhaps his patient needed more time, perhaps her issues were greater than mine at that point and perhaps, in the future, I would need those extra minutes at the expense of someone else’s time. And indeed, in the future, I did.

    So take your time and allot it with your clients, and those wishing to be, as you see fit. If you were reading something of mine I would want you to. (Maybe someday you will, wouldn’t that be nice).

  2. Avatar Jeff King says:

    I love this blog….thx, and keep it up!!

  3. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    Really appreciate the follow up, Jessica, although you may live to regret that directive *grin*.

    I once had an author referral to their agent who was closed to submissions. Not understanding what that meant I did nothing with it. Too much time had passed before I learnt the value of what I'd been offered. Very relieved to hear it wasn't the magic key to an agent I'd convinced myself it had been!

    While I might agonise every day I have something on submission (I'm worse than my kids when waiting for something), I'd happily wait for an agent who works for their client first. After all, that's what I'm after with my career.