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Queries and Agents => Literary Agents => Topic started by: KalenO on June 03, 2011, 05:15:45 PM

Title: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: KalenO on June 03, 2011, 05:15:45 PM
We've all been told that it can be a good idea to query new agents at reputable agencies, because they have a strong support system and mentors and are usually actively building their client lists.

With that in mind, there's one new agent in particular at an agency that's very big in my genres.  She reps all my genres, I really click with what she's said in interviews and such, we seem to have very similar tastes.  Combined with her agency's reputation, I would love to rank her as really high on my query list - I mean, I'm querying her regardless. 

However, she's new enough that she doesn't have a history of sales or proven clients - and lately there've been well...not horror stories, but near enough, of a newer agent at a very big agency who has yet to report any deals in the year since she's started taking clients and has a very large number of dissatisfied clients at the moment.  But on the flip side, there've been brand new agents at big agencies that go on to make six figure deals within their very first year of signing clients. 

So my question is - is it just a gamble, or are there ways to...help predict which way a newer agent is going to lean?  Warning signs to look out for, or signs of promise from an agent just starting out?  How long is too long for a new agent to be actively signing clients without any signs of deals or having clients with work hitting shelves soon?  Given that not all deals are reported to PM anyways, are there any other ways we can research possible success this agent might have had already - short of getting an offer from her and asking directly?  She doesn't have a strong web presence, but neither does her agency in general and it does just fine regardless, so its possible she's just following her more established colleague's model.

I really respond well to everything I've seen this agent say - but I'm wary of being burned by a new agent who turns out to be too good to be true, and can't live up to the hype when it comes time to go to bat for me and my manuscripts.  I realize we can never know for sure how any agent is going to work out on our behalf, but I'd like to have eyes as wide open as possible, going in.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: B on June 03, 2011, 05:29:42 PM
I know that there is that encouragement to query new agents since they're trying to build their lists. For me, there's a heck of a lot more to consider than that, since this is my career we're talking about.

In the time since I started querying my book, five agents have left the industry that I know of. Most of them were new agents with less than one year on the job. For me, this is huge. I want someone vetted. It's okay for me to be new, not so much the person I'm entrusting with introducing me to the publishing world. And I am SO not making a statement for everyone; this is absolutely just me. If I'm even going to consider a newer agent, their pedigree has to give ample proof that this is an industry they already understand and have been committed to. Who wants to get an agent and less than a year later be right back on the merry-go-round because their agent left the business?

As you can see, I have some thoughts.  :rant:
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: KalenO on June 03, 2011, 05:35:05 PM
Very true Bethany!  And yup, that's a concern as well.  But all agents have to start somewhere, and many new agents ARE going to still be agenting ten, twenty years down the line - and be the established, super star agents of tomorrow.  I don't want to miss out on the chance to work with one of THOSE agents from the beginning, get in at the ground floor so to speak - but again, like you, I don't want to be hunting for a new agent again in two years when the one I signed with has decided this really isn't her dream job after all. 

Ugh.  Of all the times for my crystal ball to go on the fritz, it would HAVE to be the week I start querying again, wouldn't it?
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: bodwen on June 03, 2011, 05:41:35 PM
I agree with Bethany.  Keep in mind that if a novice agent fails to place your novel, you won't be able to query other agents for that manuscript without revealing that it was already on submission.  While this is not the automatic dealbreaker many would have you believe, it is a pretty awkward thing to have to explain.

I'm not saying that you should never take a chance of a new agent.  (For one thing they are less jaded, and thus more likely to represent a work that's quirky and original.)  However prior sales should be a deciding factor, if not the deciding factor when choosing between multiple agents.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: B on June 03, 2011, 05:54:06 PM
I have to add, too, that agents - particularly ones that are young in the business - can change agencies rather quickly. Again, a trend I've noticed since I began querying. Several agents whose agency offered the majority of their clout relocated and I was forced to consider whether they were really desirable without the backing of that particular agency. In a couple cases, I really didn't think so. I definitely research the agency and determine whether or not I want to be with them, but the agent has to be able to stand alone because who knows when and where they're going to move.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: KalenO on June 03, 2011, 05:58:52 PM
Also good points, both of you!  Thanks!
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 03, 2011, 06:38:03 PM
i have a friend who refuses to query agents who have been agents for less than 10 years, which i think is kind of ridiculous.
I mean, it's really a moot point unless you garner an offer of representation, so i say, query widely, at least, i do.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: evol_reed on June 03, 2011, 08:29:31 PM
If an agent has no sales, I won't query.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sandbox on June 04, 2011, 09:13:26 AM
We've all been told that it can be a good idea to query new agents at reputable agencies, because they have a strong support system and mentors and are usually actively building their client lists.

With that in mind, there's one new agent in particular at an agency that's very big in my genres.  She reps all my genres, I really click with what she's said in interviews and such, we seem to have very similar tastes.  Combined with her agency's reputation, I would love to rank her as really high on my query list - I mean, I'm querying her regardless. 

However, she's new enough that she doesn't have a history of sales or proven clients - and lately there've been well...not horror stories, but near enough, of a newer agent at a very big agency who has yet to report any deals in the year since she's started taking clients and has a very large number of dissatisfied clients at the moment.  But on the flip side, there've been brand new agents at big agencies that go on to make six figure deals within their very first year of signing clients. 

So my question is - is it just a gamble, or are there ways to...help predict which way a newer agent is going to lean?  Warning signs to look out for, or signs of promise from an agent just starting out?  How long is too long for a new agent to be actively signing clients without any signs of deals or having clients with work hitting shelves soon?  Given that not all deals are reported to PM anyways, are there any other ways we can research possible success this agent might have had already - short of getting an offer from her and asking directly?  She doesn't have a strong web presence, but neither does her agency in general and it does just fine regardless, so its possible she's just following her more established colleague's model.

I really respond well to everything I've seen this agent say - but I'm wary of being burned by a new agent who turns out to be too good to be true, and can't live up to the hype when it comes time to go to bat for me and my manuscripts.  I realize we can never know for sure how any agent is going to work out on our behalf, but I'd like to have eyes as wide open as possible, going in.

I understand the question but there really is no answer. The truth is, if you can get an agent with an established sales record, you go with them. If you can't, you might take a chance on someone new. Even if the newbie agent is with an established agency, there is no guarantee. It is always hit or miss.

Take Elisabeth Weed, for example. She was a newbie who went on to do great things and now has her own agency. Allison Winn Scotch took a chance with her and it paid off. Others have taken chances and not been so lucky.

Even if you have an agent with a sales record, you just never know. And keep in mind, you can ask all the right questions and feel you've chosen correctly, yet still find out in the process of your relationship that you've made a bad choice--that the person is really not the person they presented themselves to be. The best you can do is try to go with your gut. Take time to speak with these people and if at all possible meet them. Try to find out as much as you can from their clients.

SB
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 04, 2011, 09:17:39 AM
i have an acquaintance who was colleen lindsay's first client. She went on to sell his book. When she stopped being an agent, my acquaintance was transferred to another agent at fine print lit.
There are so many different things that can happen. For me, personally, i know we all start somewhere, and i would hate to lose my chance at building a lifelong partnership with someone who may end up being a rockstar agent purely because they don't have the experience right now, when i'm querying.
But of course, that's just me. I tend to be a pretty big optimist and assume everything will work out all right in the end.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Amaryllis on June 04, 2011, 12:49:49 PM
Some interesting and helpful thoughts here. I've been wondering the same thing, do you take a chance on a newbie? It's not like I have to worry about it at this point, but I think if they're willing to take a gamble on ME, and it's a good personality fit, why not? It's a big, wide world and who knows what's going to happen next. I sure don't.  :)
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 05, 2011, 02:06:12 PM
 :agree:  I like your attitude!
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: bodwen on June 05, 2011, 02:19:30 PM
Some interesting and helpful thoughts here. I've been wondering the same thing, do you take a chance on a newbie? It's not like I have to worry about it at this point, but I think if they're willing to take a gamble on ME, and it's a good personality fit, why not? It's a big, wide world and who knows what's going to happen next. I sure don't.  :)

The trouble is that if you're a newie and she's a newie, neither of you has any influence.  Influnce counts for a lot.  If your manuscript and a manuscript from a top grossing agent crosses a publisher's desk at the same time, which do you think the publisher is going to pick up first?  And by the time she's finished, twenty more manuscripts will have piled on the publishers desk...

This isn't personal, it's business.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 05, 2011, 03:22:25 PM
i'm making the assumption here that said newbie agent has done her time as an intern etc, and is also a new agent at a well known, well respected agency (as the topic implied). And that the querier has done their research on this agent. I have a lot of friends who were picked up by brand new agents and now have book deals at big name publishers. I also know a few people who were dropped by their big name agents after a year or so. Doesn't mean anything.
For me, my personal expirience is that new agents = an opportunity. Your personal experience may differ, doesn't mean either of us is right or wrong.
Business all comes down to a balance of risks.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Amaryllis on June 05, 2011, 06:10:37 PM
I suppose it all comes down to what you're comfortable with. I understand your point, bowden, and essentially agree. If I had a choice between an unproven newbie at a reputable agency and a top grossing agent I'd more than likely go with the big time agent (as long as it was a good personality fit). But I won't write an agent off my query list just because they're new, because everyone has to start somewhere. And I'm a cautious optimist. Or at least I used to be before I started getting all these rejections!  ;D 
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 05, 2011, 06:36:41 PM
i'm with you. I mean, of COURSE if we have a choice i'm sure almost all of us would choose the rockstar agent who's been at it for 15 years over the newb who just started. But the chances are, most of us won't have the choice so i'm not going to write off the newb without at least giving them the chance to have a conversation.
I mean, if a newb offers to represent me, i can always say no. But if i don't query them, i don't even have the chance of opening the communication between us, if that makes sense.
I look at querying as the stepping stone, not the final decision
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: B on June 06, 2011, 01:05:52 AM
Jennifer Laughran's blog sorta touched on this recently. Querying is about projecting to that final decision. What am I gaining by querying someone I wouldn't beyond a shadow of a doubt want to represent me? Yes, some more than others, but I'm not trying to rack up requests for ego's sake; I'm trying to get an agent. I don't want to waste their time or mine.

This isn't really a response to anyone here because no one is positing that, but it's 2am and I apparently ramble.  :emb2:
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: GennAlbin on June 06, 2011, 09:08:24 AM
I say query, and then cross this bridge if they offer.  You can answer a lot of these questions just by talking with the agent and hearing her plans for the book.  Do they want revisions?  What are they?  Who will they see this going out to and why?  How do they approach editors?  Will they be collaborating w/others at the agency?  If newbie says, this is ready to go with a spellcheck and I'm sending it to 25 agents next week, I'd be worried (and flattered but still worried).  The biggest issue is that if it doesn't sell and you've gone through a wide submission, that ms is toast.  No agent will touch it, so you'll have to query with a new project. 
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: bodwen on June 06, 2011, 10:59:53 AM
The danger is that many people query novice agents to test out their queries, before working their way to the more experienced agents. 

Then if they get an offer, they are stuck worrying if they should accept representation with the inexperienced agent, or decline representation and burn the only bridge they'll ever have. 

I say query agents with no sales only after you've gone through everyone else.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on June 06, 2011, 12:50:07 PM
My query list is a mix, so out of the ten queries i have out, some are newer agents some are veterans. I'm with Jenn - It's all a moot point until i garner an offer.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Amaryllis on June 06, 2011, 02:40:31 PM
Valid points all around, I just hope I can find a dang bridge to cross!  ;D
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: B on June 06, 2011, 02:44:30 PM
The danger is that many people query novice agents to test out their queries, before working their way to the more experienced agents. 

Then if they get an offer, they are stuck worrying if they should accept representation with the inexperienced agent, or decline representation and burn the only bridge they'll ever have. 

I say query agents with no sales only after you've gone through everyone else.

This is the point Jennifer Laughran was making, I think. If you're going to query a mix, actually mix it up. Don't test drive and then get stuck. And because it's a business, I don't think anything's a moot point. There should be a strategy, which I think all of us bothering with forums like this probably have.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sigrid on July 11, 2011, 07:47:21 PM
More important, I think, to this topic is whether a new agent at an established agency gets help/guidance/encouragement/hand-holding/general support from the other, well-known agents when presenting a manuscript to an editor. Any experience here? Queries to established agents often get passed onto the new agent. This has happened a couple of times to me, and a recent one may end up soon being an offer of rep. Would appreciate any insight.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: QuietWriter on July 12, 2011, 08:25:49 AM
Sigrid, I know of one junior agent at a solid agency who handles the writer and the project, but she bounces it off her senior agent before she does anything with it. So, yes, the hand-holding you mentioned can definitely happen, and it does help the junior agent and writer to have the clout of the senior agent's support.
Title: Re: Querying new agents at established agencies
Post by: Sarah Ahiers (Falen) on July 12, 2011, 05:43:38 PM
More important, I think, to this topic is whether a new agent at an established agency gets help/guidance/encouragement/hand-holding/general support from the other, well-known agents when presenting a manuscript to an editor. Any experience here? Queries to established agents often get passed onto the new agent. This has happened a couple of times to me, and a recent one may end up soon being an offer of rep. Would appreciate any insight.

It all depends on the agent and the agency. If i get an offer from a newbie agent, that's one of the first questions i'd ask her. But, if i don't query, i never get a chance to even ask her that question.
You just have to open that line of communication, and most importantly, follow your gut. Only you know what's good for you.