OK, I may be painting a target on my ass, but here goes...

Every agent's blog or website or article that I come across seems to be geared toward knocking the wind out of a writer's sails. I find myself thinking dark thoughts about agents, and am interested in hearing peoples' experiences with them.


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My connection to Liz is through the little universe of Provincetown, which sometimes seems like the publishing world through the wrong end of the telescope. She is marvelous, indeed.
I'm with Karen. Best thing is to find an agent. Try anyway before you go self-published or submit to small presses. I'd still be whining and complaining if I didn't meet my agent through a friend. I'm still way down there in the minor leagues, but at least people are reading my work and -- with my agent's help -- we have a shot at getting a major NY house to pick up my series.

Be careful with these small presses. My experience has been bad. Check them out very carefully, as getting into print is one thing, getting the books in bookstores where readers can find them is another story. Many small presses -- even plenty you've heard of -- have very lousy distribution.
Hi, Minerva,
I admit, I have a sense of what you're getting at, based on my own research and readings on-line. Please don't be discouraged. I've read through some of the other comments on this discussion, and even though there are vastly differing opinions, there is some truth in everything being said.

I'd like to add that I've been reading your notes/posts/and miscellaneous comments for awhile now, and it's obvious to me that you are a talented and dedicated writer. Does that guarantee you will land an agent any time in the near future? Nope. But it does mean you should keep trying. And if you do decide to self-publish after trying other avenues, then take pride in your work and do your best to promote it.

I've seen a lot of the 'crap' out there, and I have no doubt that the agents, while they mean well, can easily fall into a condescending tone if they are not careful. After all, they are being inundated with it all the time. I suspect they become almost like Simon Cowell -- unless true talent hits them over the head, they default naturally to a negative stance. I don't blame them for that, and yes, I agree with the fellow who said that as writers we have to be tough enough to get past that and not let it scare us.

Anyway, don't worry about the "ass-target" -- a lot of people have been thinking the same thing. Keep researching the agents blogs, even if they scare you somewhat. I've learned a lot from them about the business-end of our beloved art!
Aw, thanks, Donna! Nice to know someone thinks well of me, even if we've never met.
Well, we've 'virtually' met, and I always enjoy running into your 'virtual' thoughts! ;=)
Yikes. That could get ugly. Entertaining, but ugly.
I got the "someone else's submission rejection" too. Since the letter stated that despite all of the public statements to the contrary, this agent wasn't taking on any new clients ever, I got the hint.
Who are these hungry young new agents? I've had two agents in the past. Both for 'literature' Now I have a crime novel finished and am about to start looking for a new agent. Is there some way to find out who has just joined an agency? Or is actively looking? My past agents have come from queries. I imagine it is much the same with crime writing.




As for agent blogs... don't get me started on agent blogs...
One of the best resources for keeping track of agents (who's at which agency; who's selling what) is a subscription to Publishers Marketplace. It costs $20/month, but you subscribe month-by-month, and can discontinue whenever you want. By using their search feature, you can get a LOT of current, useful information even in just one month.

The Daily Lunch newsletter has a section titled "people," that includes announcements of new agents joining established agencies, and also announcements of agents who've recently gone out on their own, which is another good time to snag them.

If you're a subscriber, you can also search Publishers Marketplace's deals by agency, then look over the list of deasl that pop up and see if there's a new agent's name shows up. Not every agent lists every deal they make, but new agents do, because they're just getting started. So if you were to search on Folio Literary Agency, for example (my agency), you'll see there's one deal for an agent named Steve Trophas, who I happen to know just joined the agency a few months ago (when I was in NYC for ThrillerFest, I had dinner with my agent, and he was excited because Steve was in the middle of making his first deal). Then of course once you know who they are, you can go to the agency's website to see what the new agent's project interests are and if they might be a good fit.

You can also search PM for debut authors, to see which agents are selling first-timers, or you can search by genre, or other terms. Anyone who's seriously looking for an agent can get a ton of current information from a sub to PM.

The other good resource is www.agentquery.com - a searchable database of agents. It doesn't include recent deal information, but it does make an attempt to supply current information on only reputable agents.

Or you could check out the list of agents who are coming to the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in November. :) With the exception of Scott Hoffman (who says on his website he's not currently accepting queries, but who also says in Writer's Digest that he's open to talking to authors he meets at conferences), they're all looking. Some of these agents have written to me, asking to be on the program "because I'm building my list" and they've heard good things about our Backspace events. www.backspacewritersconference.com

And finally, Poets and Writers Magazine had a fabulous article a few months ago that I think should be required reading for everyone looking for an agent: A Conversation with Four Young Agents. It really gives a great deal of insight into the industry and what an agent does.

Hope that helps, and good luck!
Great post, Karen. Really helpful stuff for anyone who's agent-shopping.
Thanks, Jon. I'm in a bit of a unique position when it comes to literary agents because of running Backspace for the past five years. Every month when I compile the Backspace newsletter, there are always two or three announcements of members who've signed with agents, and every month, the newsletter lists between 5 and 10 new publishing deals. All told, over the years, I've watched literally hundreds of authors get published. You can't take in all that without learning a thing or two! Plus, I've listened in on dozens of agent panels at our Backspace conferences, and because I'm the organizer, I know about 60 agents personally.

Backspace's mission statement is "writers helping writers," and so when someone I don't know writes to Backspace offering to be on the conference faculty, after I check them out at PM, I run their names past a couple of my agent friends to find out what their reputations are within the industry. I know there are a lot of marginal agents out there - folks claiming to be agents, but who aren't making sales - and for Backspace, we want only the best.

In fact, there's been a lot of discussion about agents lately, both here, and on a couple of the mystery lists I subscribe too, and frankly, I've been shocked at how many people have either had bad experiences with agents, or say they've tried for years to get an agent and have been unsuccessful. Thinking of working up an article on the subject . . .


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