The Right Agent for a Debut Author

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

You’ve probably heard about the importance of finding the right agent for you and your body of work, rather than just saying “yes” to the first agent who comes along. There are plenty of criteria upon which to base this decision. The agent’s track record, their level of interest in your project, the feeling of a good fit—these all come in to play.

Today I want to mention one particular thing you might want to pay attention to, if you’re a new author hoping to be launched into the marketplace:

Try to choose an agent who has experience launching debut authors.

Most agents take on a certain number of new, unpublished authors each year. But some have a client base that is mostly established authors, and it may have been years since they launched a newbie. Since publishing has changed drastically in the last ten years, you want someone who knows how to do this in the current publishing landscape.

I recently spoke with an author who had turned down my offer of representation the previous year, in favor of a larger and more well-known literary agency. The agent hadn’t sold her book, and consequently dropped the client. I questioned the writer about this, trying to figure out what went wrong because I know this writer has several more good books to offer. If I’d been the agent, I’d have learned what I could from the first round of rejections and forged ahead with book #2, making sure we didn’t make the same mistakes the second time around.

The writer got the impression that the agent, having worked mostly with established authors, didn’t have the stamina or the passion to persevere in the face of this daunting challenge. That made sense to me—I know from experience what it takes to be committed to new authors. I must believe whole-heartedly in the project and the author if I’m to have the determination to push through the inevitable roadblocks a debut author faces.

Finding the Right Agent

If you read agent blogs and Twitter feeds, you can sometimes see who has a heart for new writers. If you’re talking to an agent about representation, you may want to ask if they’ve launched new authors. I’m not saying you need an agent who has only new authors, but someone who launches at least one or two a year would be great.

Our agency is committed to bringing up new authors, even while we take care of our clients who are multi-published authors. We’ll always have at least a couple of brand new writers on our lists.

The world of books will always need fresh content, fresh voices. And we will always seek them out.

Do the agents you’re considering love launching new authors? You may want to ask them: Do you ever work with new writers? How long has it been since you launched a debut author? What would you expect to do if this book doesn’t sell?


Photo by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash

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