Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley, California Office
Weather: Back in the nineties
One of the most uncomfortable moments on an agent panel at a writer’s conference comes when someone raises a hand to ask, “What is the most exciting project (or client) you’ve worked with this year?” Watch the eyes of each agent as he nervously scans the audience for clients.
Chances are most will wimp out with something like, “All the projects (clients) I’ve worked with have been satisfying. I don’t think I can pick just one.” Yeah, right. It’s like your mom dodging the question, “Who do you love more, Mom, me or Jimmy?”
Our clients know we represent more than one author—that’s no surprise. But I’m going to come clean and tell you whom we love the most. Brace yourself. . .
We love the bestselling author. Having bestsellers in the client mix is good for everyone. A bestseller with the kind of numbers that guarantee success makes our life easy. We don’t have to work to get the sale, although we may have to work a lot harder to manage the complexities of multiple offers. But being in the same agency with bestsellers is good for the other authors as well. It’s a subtle thing, but your agent will leverage her “strongest assets” to get lesser known authors noticed as well. ‘Nuff said.
We love the up-and-comers. Nothing is more fun than working with someone whose career is on an upward trajectory. You keep watching this client like a mother hen eyes its plucky little chick—and you pray that the sky’s the limit. These authors are proof positive that our gut instinct is spot on.
We love the mid-listers. These are the writers who don’t seem to be going up fast, but they sell well enough to keep obtaining contracts. Sometimes these are the writers who write with extraordinary literary skill—we are so proud of their work. We look forward to when they turn in a manuscript because we know we’re going to fall in love all over again.
We love those in career crisis. Just because the contracts aren’t coming and the career seems stalled, don’t assume a writer is the agent’s step-child. Had your agent not believed in your writing skills, he never would have offered representation. This writer represents a challenge, and there’s not an agent around who doesn’t love a challenge. Like when somebody told Grandma Moses that, at 80, she was too old to paint. Or when Albert Einstein flunked algebra. We love those in crisis because we still believe we can make a difference for them.
We love those newcomers. Writers obsess over the Catch 22 of writing—you can’t sell a book without an agent/you can’t get an agent if you’re unpublished. I’ve already exploded that myth as pure poppycock, but let me go one step further. Nothing swells the chest of an agent more than a stunning debut book. If our business is to have a vital future, we need to keep infusing our client mix with fresh talent. And nothing is more gratifying than to discover new talent.
So that brings me full circle. An agent handpicks his list and does it with real care and deliberation. Who does she love? Each client for reasons that are unique to him/her. With my own list, I’m not only crazy about each individual author, but I’m also proud of the mix.
If you were an agent, which kind of client would most appeal to you?