Oh felicitous rapture—a literary agent has offered representation. A long journey has come to a happy ending.
Or has it? Take a deep breath. Before you accept, ask for a fortnight to think it over.
Obviously, you have some relaxing to do because you just used the word fortnight. Okay, maybe that was me.
Anyway, aside from nudging outstanding queries and talking with existing clients, what should you be thinking about while you wait?
Some agents have a questionable character. These should be avoided like the plague. There are also business aspects to consider. These are also important. Unfortunately, too many authors rush into an agent relationship thinking, Any agent will lead to a happy and prosperous career, right?
No. Just no. An agent is an important business partner for (hopefully) years to come. When things aren’t going well—when the first (or fourth) manuscript doesn’t sell—this is a person with whom you still need to feel comfortable.
Agent break-ups happen. They aren’t the end of the world, but they suck time and energy from your career. In this already slow business, an agent who isn’t a great fit can cost you years (and a bad contract could follow you for your entire career). A few agents have listed things that they think make for a good client fit. From a client’s perspective, here are a few things I think help make for a G.R.E.A.T. agent fit.
The agent should…
Get you. If you want an agent to represent your career (rather than just a project), the agent should understand your core values as a writer/artist. You need to be on the same page about what “best work” means.
Respect you and your time. Are agents busy people? You betcha! But when you have a pressing need, can you count on your agent to be there? Talk to existing clients. How responsive is she?
Edits your work (or not) in style that suits you. Some agents are editorial. Some are not. The agent’s editing philosophy should match yours.
Always follows through. This is another area to ask existing clients about. Does the agent manage time well? Does she stick to her own deadlines? Is she a tough negotiator? In this very unpredictable business, is the agent dependable about the things inside her control?
is someone you Trust. This is the most important characteristic of the healthy agent/client relationship. An agent steers your creative career. Don’t let the pressure of wanting an agent, convince you to take on a partner you don’t feel good about—just to see how it works out. Trust your gut.
No agent is better than the wrong agent!
Also, don’t stress out about asking EVERY QUESTION listed on every blog (including here). Ask the ones that are important to you and be reasonable. Remember you are building a business relationship.
Finally, all of these agent characteristics are also great client characteristics! Hopefully, you “get” your agent’s methods, “respect” her time, respond well to suggested “edits”, “always” follow through with your commitments, and are “trustworthy,” too.
May your querying be successful and all your endings be happy.
Hannah Holt is a picture book author. Her debut picture book Diamond Man is forthcoming from Balzer+ Bray. Her agent, Laura Biagi of the Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, is a G.R.E.A.T fit. You can find Hannah chatting on Twitter and occasionally posting on her ill kept blog.