Guide to Literary Agents: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published (Market) (2015)

CONTACTING AGENTS

NEW AGENT SPOTLIGHTS

Learn about new reps seeking clients.

by Chuck Sambuchino

One of the most common recurring blog items I get complimented on is my “New Agent Alerts,” a series where I spotlight new/newer literary reps who are open to queries and looking for clients right now.

This is due to the fact that newer agents are golden opportunities for aspiring authors because they are actively building their client lists. They’re hungry to sign new clients and start the ball rolling with submissions to editors and get books sold. Whereas an established agent with 40 clients may have little to no time to consider new writers’ work (let alone help them shape it), a newer agent may be willing to sign a promising writer whose work is not a guaranteed huge payday.

THE CONS AND PROS OF NEWER AGENTS

At writing conferences, a frequent question I get is “Is it OK to sign with a new agent?” The question comes about because people value experience and wonder about the skill of someone who’s new to the scene. The concern is an interesting one, so let me try to list the downsides and upsides to choosing a rep who’s in her first few years agenting.

Probable cons

·        They are less experienced in contract negotiations.

·        They know fewer editors at this point than a rep who’s been in business a while, meaning there is a less likely chance they can help you get published. This is a big, justified point—and writers’ foremost concern.

·        They are in a weaker position to demand a high advance for you.

·        New agents come and some go. This means if your agent is in business for a year or two and doesn’t find the success for which they hoped, they could bail on the biz altogether. That leaves you without a home. If you sign with an agent who’s been in business for 14 years, however, chances are they won’t quit tomorrow.

Probable pros

·        They are actively building their client lists—and that means they are anxious to sign new writers and lock in those first several sales.

·        They are willing to give your work a longer look. They may be willing to work with you on a project to get it ready for submission, whereas a more established agent has lots of clients and no time—meaning they have no spare moments to help you with shaping your novel or proposal.

·        With fewer clients under their wing, you will get more attention than you would with an established rep.

·        If they’ve found their calling and don’t seem like they’re giving up any time soon (and keep in mind, most do continue on as agents), you can have a decades-long relationship that pays off with lots of books.

·        They have little going against them. An established agent once told me that a new agent is in a unique position because they have no duds under their belt. Their slates are clean.

HOW CAN YOU DECIDE FOR YOURSELF?

1. Factor in if they’re part of a larger agency. Agents share contacts and resources. If your agent is the new girl at an agency with five people, those other four agents will help her (and you) with submissions. In other words, she’s new, but not alone.

2. Learn where the agent came from. Has she been an apprentice at the agency for two years? Was she an editor for seven years and just switched to agenting? If they already have a few years in publishing under their belt, they’re not as green as you may think. Agents don’t become agents overnight.

3. Ask where she will submit the work. This is a big one. If you fear the agent lacks proper contacts to move your work, ask straight out: “What editors do you see us submitting this book to, and have you sold to them before?” The question tests their plan for where to send the manuscript and get it in print.

4. Ask them, “Why should I sign with you?” This is another straight-up question that gets right to the point. If she’s new and has little/no sales at that point, she can’t respond with “I sell tons of books and I make it rain cash money!! Dolla dolla bills, y’all!!!” She can’t rely on her track record to entice you. So what’s her sales pitch? Weigh her enthusiasm, her plan for the book, her promises of hard work and anything else she tells you. In the publishing business, you want communication and enthusiasm from agents (and editors). Both are invaluable. What’s the point of signing with a huge agent when they don’t return your e-mails and consider your book last on their list of priorities for the day?

5. If you’re not sold, you can always say no. It’s as simple as that. Always query new/newer agents because, at the end of the day, just because they offer representation doesn’t mean you have to accept.

NEW AGENT SPOTLIGHTS

Peppered throughout this book’s large number of agency listings are sporadic “New Agent Alert” sidebars. Look them over to see if these newer reps would be a good fit for your work. Always read personal information and submission guidelines carefully. Don’t let an agent reject you because you submitted work incorrectly. Wherever possible, we have included a website address for their agency, as well as their Twitter handle for those reps that tweet.

Also please note that as of when this book went to press in 2014, all these agents were still active and looking for writers. That said, I cannot guarantee every one is still in their respective position when you read this, nor that they have kept their query inboxes open. I urge you to visit agency websites and double check before you query. (This is always a good idea in any case.) Good luck!

CHUCK SAMBUCHINO (chucksambuchino.com, @chucksambuchino) edits the Guide to Literary Agents (guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) as well as the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. His pop humor books include How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack (film rights optioned by Sony) and Red Dog / Blue Dog: When Pooches Get Political (reddog-bluedog.com). Chuck’s other writing books include Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd. Ed., and Create Your Writer Platform (fall 2012). Besides that, he is a husband, guitarist, sleep-deprived new father, dog owner, and cookie addict.