Remember last week there was a hot mess going on in the publishing blogosphere over whether or not authors should give bad reviews or even review at all? YA highway had a great collection of the linksies.
It all started when a blogger asked about book reviews. Agent Jill Corcoran said,
"for book review bloggers...if you diss one of my clients' books, I probably will not want to sign you. Editors feel similarly."
I completely agree.
"But Claire," you wail, "didn't you say- just yesterday- that you have to be you and say what you have to say?"
Yes, I did.
But if I don't like a book by one of Jill's clients, and agents always acquire books they LURVE, then there's a decent chance her vision and mine are different. (Before I go on, let me say I have nothing against Jill Corcoran, who happens to represent one of the bloggers I most admire.)
But let's take a minute to examine the flip side of the coin.
If I dislike/hate a book an agent represents, why on Earth would I want that agent representing me?
The law of supply and demand gives agents power over unsigned authors. We, as aspiring authors are so eager to have an agent, that we're eager for ANY agent. And in our haste, we forget two things.
1. Your Agent is Your Employee.
I'm not saying this because I think authors should be making agents jump through the hoops some bosses have their employees jump through. Definitely not. But I just wish authors would remember this before they are signed. Author produces a product. Author then pays somebody to refine and sell that product. That somebody is called an agent.
It doesn't make sense querying any and every agent. And really it's not enough to just look at the genres an agent represents to make the decision. The fact that an agent reps YA or horror or romance or literary doesn't mean they rep your niche of the market. The books an agent has repped are a part of their resumé/CV. So is their blog, and the interviews they’ve done, and anything their clients have said.
Would you hire an employee if they didn't have anything good on their resumé? Or the more likely case: would you hire someone whose qualifications were excellent, but more suited to a different position? You wouldn't want a Cessna pilot flying your Boeing 777, even if he was the best Cessna pilot in the whole world.
If you are sure you want an editorial agent, don’t query those whose clients say they’re hands-off. If you want an agent that’s 999% ALL-BUSINESS, then don’t query the one with unicorns on her blog. If an agent reps a book you despise, then you’ve got different tastes. And you probably want your tastes to gel with your agent, because
2. An Agent is a Partner
But how can an agent be both an employee and a partner?
Let's say there are two small grocery stores near your house. One is on your way to work, and one is 7 minutes drive in the wrong direction. At the one near your house, there's a horrible dude working the counter in the store. He stares at you the whole time like you're a criminal. He never opens his mouth. Unless he's saying something incredibly rude.
The guy at the out-of-the way store is the polar opposite. He greets you as soon as you walk in the store. He makes friendly chitchat while he tallies your items and tells you to have a nice day. And you find yourself driving an extra 14 minutes to go to nice guy's store.
There's a decent chance that neither Nice Guy nor Rude Guy owns the store they work at. But they are more than just employees. They are partners. Because the owner wants you to get the sort of service that keeps you coming back. But he can't be there to give it to you himself. So he hopes that the guy he lives in his place will.
Your agent is your partner. You're working together to achieve an objective. Which means you need to have the same objective. The fact that the agent repped a book you don’t like does not guarantee they will be on a different page, but it means there’s a chance. Why would you take that risk when there are so many other agents who rep books you love?
Also, like the store employee, your agent is the face/email that takes your product to others. Once again, do your research. Getting an agent is hard work. Why go through all that for someone who won’t work for you?