5 Qualities Agents Look for in Writers
Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Our agency receives at leastdo 3,000 queries every year. That’s pretty discouraging for those looking for an agent. But let’s talk about the other side of the coin. What makes me say yes?
Qualities agents look for in writers:
1. A strong sense of what the market will respond to.
Ever sit next to someone at church who is tone deaf but utterly enthusiastic about belting out the hymn or chorus? Writers can be tone deaf as well. By that I mean some writers have no sense of what readers will buy. So they come up with idea after idea that just isn’t the right tune sung in the right way.
As an agent, I’m looking for writers who can sing on key time after time. They have the ability to write about a topic in such a way that a reader is compelled to buy the book.
2. An understanding of what makes him or her unique in the marketplace.
If you’re writing romantic suspense, you are so not alone in that venture. What makes your work stand out from all the rest? As I read queries, I’m looking for what makes sense for this writer to be producing. If you have access to an investigator who specializes in gambling fraud, and you place your story at a casino run by an Indian tribe, why, you have a unique angle to write from.
3. A personality match-up.
One of the aspects of agenting that I love is that I only work with the people I want to work with. How cool is that? So when I consider representing someone, I want to not only be enthusiastic about the writing but also about the person. When I talk about a project to an editor, I don’t discuss just the project; I sell the writer more than the project. So remember that, if you present yourself in an antagonistic way to an agent, that person is not going to fall to her knees and beg you to be her client.
Nor is an agent likely to find a writer who asks fifty questions for every answer a good candidate to represent because that person will take up 80% of an agent’s time. But that writer not make 80% of an agent’s income–it just never turns out that way.
I’m looking for writers I’m sympatico with. If we weren’t relating as agent and author, we’d be friends because we’re compatible.
4. Realistic about the active role an author must play in marketing and publicity.
I remember reading a quote from an editor in the 1950s that an author should be heard and not seen. In other words, you should “hear” the author through his writing, with the author as a sort of Wizard of Oz, working the great mechanism of his manuscript but never visible.
Today publishers want authors who are heard and seen. The author needs to be prepared to make a big marketing fuss when her title is released. That’s now an inherent part of a writer’s life.
I’m looking for clients who get that and have applied themselves to building an e-mail list of readers, a plan for promoting their books, and a significant Internet presence.
5. Stellar writing.
Remember the Pillsbury slogan, “Nothing says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven”? Well, “Nothing says represent me like irresistible writing.”
Most agents are suckers for good writing. Why, we’ll take on a client because we just can’t say no to the writing. Writing trumps everything else. And that should encourage you–beyond words. All the other aspects of a writer (aside from compatibility, of course) can be worked on. Like adding icing to a cake. But that also means the cake must be out of this world.
What quality (or qualities) do you plan to concentrate your efforts on in 2017?
5 qualities agents look for in writers. Click to tweet.
What makes a lit agent say yes to you? Click to tweet.