What kind of books, exactly, are you looking for?I sigh. You see, I know that I am looking for children's and YA books, but the thing I am always most looking for is... something I have never seen before. So I don't know what it is yet. (But I'll know it when I see it!) And since I represent authors, hopefully for their whole career and not just one project, the better question to ask might be what kind of AUTHORS, exactly, am I looking for.
I've been watching a certain brilliant reality show of late. One whose host is a razor-sharp judge of character and fierceness. You guessed it: RuPaul's Drag Race, in which a handful of pro and semi-pro drag queens participate in a variety of challenges and stomp it out on the catwalk to determine who will be the next drag superstar. (I can hear you thinking, "Jennifer, are you suggesting that clients must wear high heels and lipsynch for their lives?" NO NO, BEAR WITH ME!)
Ru always tells the girls that she is looking for four qualities above all others in her superstars, and I think that they are really important too (in life as well as art, actually). They spell C.U.N--actually, you know what, let's not do the acronym. Ahem. Anyway:
- T is for TALENT
- U is for UNIQUENESS
- N is for NERVE
- C is for CHARISMA
UNIQUENESS: If you do what everyone else does, if you write what everyone else writes, you might be OK, but you won't break out and be truly successful. Plus, I will pluck my own eyes out if I have to read it.
NERVE: Now I realize that lots of authors are shy and maybe even a bit neurotic. They hire agents so we can be the tough guys and take care of business. But I still need my authors to have a spine, be driven and at least a bit fierce. That means speaking up for yourself, having self-confidence, putting yourself out there (even if you don't necessarily feel like it...) It also means bravery in terms of your writing. In authors: NO BABIES. In writing: NO PABLUM.
CHARISMA*: Yep, I have to like you, and I have to think that other people will too. It's important. Do you need to wear glitter and wigs? No. Do you need to be a cheerleader-type? NO! But do I want to work with somebody who is presentable, engaging, funny, thoughtful, easy to talk to? Heck yes I do. Or at least somebody who can turn those qualities on when they want to. So work it!
Authors, what qualities do you most want in an agent? (Bonus points if you can frame your answer as a reality-show metaphor...)
(*ETA: I changed this one up a bit. See comments for further discussion of the C-word...)