WHAT SHOULD YOU BE LOOKING FOR IN AN AGENT?
Ok, there are probably a million blog posts out there about this, but let me give you a newbie's perspective, having only talked to my agent twice, having never met her, and having only her revision notes to go by...
- A love for your GENRE and your PROJECT. My agent happens to love science fiction / fantasy and was looking for middle grade books for boys. I hit both and she wanted to see it. Many agents will list what they're looking for, but only a handful on that list really point to what they're totally into. I think it's probably the first one or two listed. Like you may see an agent looking for Romantic Fiction, blah blah blah, and oh, yeah, Young Adult. They have it listed, but chances are if you'll query them you'll get a "not for me" rejection letter. The ones who will want to read what you're selling will be those totally interested in your genre and project.
- She's AVAILABLE! Now this is tricky based on the agency you land in, but you'll hear it all the time: I landed with ICM! They're huge! They rep Danielle Steele and Dan Brown (not sure if they do, just pretend with me here). Well, congrats to you, but beware that it's a large house with a lot of clients to keep happy. Agents will focus on the moneymakers first, and THEN try to mentor you along in your career. Which means, they may not be available to you. Every time I write to my agent I get a response, and she's open the door to call her anytime she can help me revise the book. That's awesome.
- She's HONEST. She loves the project, she's friendly, she's available. But when it comes down to business, she doesn't pull any punches. She's not rude, like "oh this sucks", but she knows what'll sell and what won't. With that in mind, and with that honesty, comes TRUST. I don't argue with her too much about her recommended changes, and she doesn't try to write the book for me. I trust that she knows what she's doing and she trusts that I'll take her recommendations and implement them as a writer should. Honesty promotes trust, and trust is essential for any teamwork. And believe me, having an agent is all about TEAMWORK. You are collaborating with them. It's not like two writing partners, but it's damn close.
So with these three big things in mind, even AFTER you've landed an agent or have gotten a bite, don't be afraid to pull out if these things don't exist. It's YOUR career, YOUR mega-huge movie deal. Don't throw your life into someone else's hands hoping they'll nail it for you. Take control and find the right fit for you.
Too bad they don't have an eHarmony for writers and agents....hey...now THAT'S an idea!