Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Can a new agent do the best job for me?

I just finished reading your answer to 'So many manuscripts, so few agents' - about the shortage of agents in Australia. I recently had the good fortune to sign with an agent. Her agency is new, so I was just wondering what effect that has to whether publishers will take work recommended by her, or will they be less inclined as she is yet to establish a reputation as an agent? I was hoping the fact that she was new would work in my favour, as she would be hungry to succeed.

Having a new agent isn't necessarily a concern (after all, we were all new agents once). It depends on the background of the agent in question. If she's been working in publishing for a while, then she should have the necessary contacts to do the best job for you, because a large part of being an agent is having the relationships with publishers that make the agent better able to place books. This is the major hurdle to succeeding as an agent - if you don't have the relationships, you have to make them from scratch, and that can take a considerable amount of time. If the agent has never worked in publishing before, it may be almost impossible to succeed as he or she will probably not understand the cultural quirks that make the book industry so different to other types of publishing. But I'm going to presume that your agent has worked in the industry, so none of this may apply.

As for being 'hungry to succeed' - this comes back to the aforementioned cultural quirks. Australian publishing is quite genteel - aggression is not welcome. In fact, it's not even welcome in the US. Everything takes time with books, and patience tends to pay off. People who push (whether it's prospective authors calling me to check on their submissions, or me pushing a publisher to make a decision) tend to find themselves on the end of a 'no'. So while I'm sure your agent will do her very best for you, give her some time to do it. By all means ask questions about the process and what's happening, but don't be surprised if it takes a while for her to answer - we spend most of our day doing stuff to place manuscripts, and it takes more time than most people think.

No comments: