Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
Are agents only looking for books that personally interest them? And if you have an agent, is it important that your agent loves every book you write?
These are some things I’ve heard authors discussing, so I’ll give my perspective.
It’s certainly ideal if your agent enjoys reading your manuscript, because they’re going to read it once, twice, or multiple times. That’s awfully hard if they merely tolerate your work rather than enjoying it.
But it’s not a necessity. As an author you should be more concerned that your agent believes in you and your work. There may be times your agent has to push hard, fight through obstacles, get creative about selling your book to a publisher or negotiating disagreements with a publisher. That’s much easier to do if the agent is totally sold out on you and your project.
Don’t forget that an agent’s criteria for “liking” a manuscript may be different from yours. When we’re looking for projects in a professional capacity, our “Do I like it?” filter is different from the one we use when looking for books for our personal reading. We might love a manuscript, totally believe in it, and want to represent it, even though it’s totally different from what we typically choose for our leisure reading.
For an agent, a far more crucial question than “Do I like it?” is “Do I think I can sell it?” Answering that question involves our knowledge of the current publishing market; the likelihood of a publisher buying it; whether we have the right contacts for this particular book; and of course, whether we think the author has the right platform and/or credentials to be successful with their proposed project.
In the end, I choose projects to represent based on a combination of what I like, what I believe will sell, what fits into the current market, and what I’d be proud to align my name with. Not sure there’s any other way to do this job!
What do you think? Does your agent have to love your book?
Image copyright: sarunyufoto2010 / 123RF Stock Photo
Ah, love! thou cunning and
fickle overseer, whose bright
embraces are changed, banned
by the rush to another; this flight
banished when friendship’s hand
is offered, and in the fell night
and when the day promis’d fair
comes, friend, thou shalt be there.
* In other words, love is mercurial; like is forever, and I’ll take it.
Mary Kay Moody
As usual, spot on, Andrew. And delightfully creative in the saying.
I’ve never thought of it this way. It’s a different perspective for sure.I think I agree. When I read a book I’ve agreed to review on my blog. I’ve read well-written books that weren’t what I would choose for my personal reading, but I try to focus on the audience. I represent the author in a much smaller capacity and only for the duration of the review, but I can see similarities.
Methinks that an agent can dislike a genre and yet recognize when a book in that genre is salable. But if the agent generally likes my genre but is unmoved by my book–that’s a deal-breaker.
Your criteria for agreeing to represent a person’s book make a lot of sense. As a reader, I’ve read recommended books that were outside of my normal reading areas, and found that I really enjoyed them. Even thought about them long after I’d read the final words.
*It makes sense that, as an agent, you want to like the manuscript you’re going to represent as well as see it as salable.
*And, it’s helpful if you feel good about working with the writer before agreeing to represent him/her. It’s a long-term relationship, and I imagine you want it to be one that will be inclined toward a good rapport between you and your prospective client.
It would be nice to have anyone representing me love my book, but I’d be more interested in whether they could represent it effectively and maximize its potential to earn me money than whether they liked it. It is, after all, a business relationship, not a book club.
*My scitech managers weren’t always enthralled with the project I was working on, but that didn’t matter to me as long as they supported it financially and represented it effectively to those with power to influence its success. That was all I really needed from them.
I don’t think the agent always has to love the book. I can only relate to how I feel about some of my favorite authors. I don’t love each of their books the same. I love some; I like some … but I believe in the author and will support them. And opinions and moods vary so … one work that I think is wonderful, someone else might think it’s only good. And just the opposite. But the person is consistent, earning my devotion.
I have wondered about this. Thank you for sharing your take on it, Rachelle.
It seems it would be difficult for one person to love every book an author writes, whether it’s their agent or not. I have some favorite authors, but there are a couple of their books I didn’t love like I did the rest of them. I have fans that love all my books, but there was one they didn’t like as well. So it does seem logical that your agent wouldn’t love every book.
Thanks for giving us some food for thought!
I think they may not be have to be passionate about a specific book; but they have to ( like an eventual editor) be passionate about a sellable voice and the malleability of that voice to suit needs where there is room in a crowded market.
There are so many stories of an agent playing connect the dots with an author to a project posited by a publishing company that needs a last-minute fill-in. To add, when editors mention gaps in their list, an agent should have a good handle on what voice from their client roster might best suit the need hopefully leading to eventual sale.
For me, I am happy to have a brainstorming agent, who signed me for my writing voice beyond a specific book. With that, we have been able to work together to put that voice to projects that may not have been my original independent intent but have seeded market needs. As an author who always figured that her first agent- querying book might not be the one that got her into the traditional publishing sphere, having an agent that understood I could colour beyond the lines of the book that I pitched and signed with has been helpful as we launched my career.
Rachelle, we’re all looking for approval, in our writing and in other aspects of our lives. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say the agent doesn’t have to “like” the book, although that might help, but their decision rests on whether the book can be “sold” to a commercial publisher. We may write for all the right reasons (and I hope we do), but publication by a conventional publisher depends more on whether it can be sold than the agent’s personal opinion about our book.
Mary Kay Moody
I so appreciate your perspective, Rachelle. Of course most of us would be happy if our agent loved our book. But ~ that warm fuzzy wouldn’t take either agent or author far in the pub world. Good reminder for us to get the ‘love’ from readers, and be grateful for an agent who believes in the author and the book.
Thank you for your post. It is helpful to hear how an agent works for you.
Indeed, now it is easier to publish your book, albeit a small and small edition. And this makes small and novice writers more confident in the future.