Tuesday, April 02, 2013

"Rock Star" agents, and more about Schmagents

The phrase "rock star agent" gets thrown around a lot. Sometimes even regarding me. That's fine, I know people mean it as a fun compliment, and I am definitely not dissing anyone who uses that phrase. But the thing is... Agent TO rock stars is slightly different than "rock star" agent!

I want MY AUTHORS to be in the spotlight.

Good agenting is not a popularity contest, and in my opinion, a good agent should not be seeking fame for themselves above their authors. YES, it's fine for an agent to be plugged in to social media and whatnot (hey, I am!) -- but just because an agent has a cool blog or website, or is funny on twitter... doesn't mean you necessarily want them handling your business. This should not be the main criteria for choosing an agent.

I adore my social media friends. I've been blogging and tweeting and whatnot for a long time, and it is definitely part of my identity. But I cringe when I see people talk online about their "dream agents" and realize that most or all of them are actually just "agents who have popular blogs" or "agents who are big on Twitter." Some of the very best agents in the world have ZERO social media outlets. That doesn't make them ineffective or behind the times.

There are also schmagents out there who have web presence, but nothing to back it up. I know it might sound silly or obvious, but even if you read about an agency in a book or magazine, or see them online, that doesn't mean they are good.

Of course, even a great agent at a totally legit agency might not be a great fit for YOU and your work. The agent relationship is unique from author to author. But at least do your due diligence.

Make sure the agencies you query have plenty of sales to legitimate publishers, and books in the bookstore. A new agent with few or no sales can be fine... but their agency should have a solid track record of sales and clear experience in the publishing industry. A new agency with no sales, made up of agents with no sales and little to nothing in the way of publishing industry experience? Or where the agents don't seem to want you to find info about their authors or books? Or the sales are only to publishers you've never heard of and can't find in the bookstore? Well... I'd be WARY.

There are no special classes to take or tests to pass to become an agent (unfortunately) -- ANYONE can call themselves an agent and call it a day. Which is why even smart writers can be taken in. So don't be a sucker. A good agent won't just have a cool website -- they'll have either a proven track record of sales or the backing of a strong agency. They'll never, ever ask you to pay them fees. They'll communicate with you, be straightforward and honest. And of course, they will connect with your work and know how to sell it.

When you get an agent, you are putting your career in somebody else's hands. Be sure they are steady ones.