Agents know how difficult it is to break in to publishing, to keep your stride as a midlist author, and to stay on top once you’re there. We realize where you’re coming from when you send us something we say we don’t represent, thinking it’s so wonderful we might change our minds. Maybe it is that wonderful. Maybe we might change our minds.
But is that what you really want?
Let’s look at two diametrically different examples to see why you might not want representation from certain agents.
I loved reading books to both of my girls when they were growing up. I can read Fox in Sox aloud at warp speed! But I don’t actively seek to represent children’s book authors. I do represent children’s books for authors who are already my clients. But if you’re a new children’s book author, not already my client, and are trying to break in to this competitive place, realize that I have very few strong contacts in the children’s book market. Most of the ones I do have focus on Christian books. So even if I love your general market children’s picture book, what editors would I be able to pursue for you?
Note that in both the general and Christian markets, a well-known author writing for adults will often publish a children’s book. Editors know that the adults who buy books for the children in their lives will gravitate to a name they already know and like. Not only that, but celebrities with no prior publishing experience write for children, creating more competition for non-celebrity authors who only write children’s books. So these markets are hard to tap into even under the best circumstances. If you don’t already have solid contacts yourself for the agent to pursue on your behalf, then you especially don’t need an agent with only a few contacts of his representing you, no matter how much the agent loves your book.
At the other extreme, sometimes authors will submit, if not outright erotica, books with vivid and unapologetic sexual content. No one in my office will ever know if your novel is so wonderful it could change our minds because once we understand the content, we won’t read it. Period.
Look at it this way: say you know an auto mechanic specializing in restoring vintage automobiles. He should be a whiz at understanding your 2017 Lincoln Continental, right? After all, they are both cars, with four tires and an engine. They both transport people from Point A to Point B.
But the restoration mechanic doesn’t have a computer to diagnose problems because he doesn’t need one. He doesn’t have the contacts to buy new Lincoln parts through the best channels, nor does he possess the latest information about your new vehicle warranty. He may love your new baby, and he might be able to apply some of his knowledge of vintage vehicles to your car, but he simply doesn’t have the same data or resources you’ll find at the Lincoln dealership, where they both know and love your car.
Back to publishing, why would you want to trust your work to an agent who doesn’t have the right contacts, robust interest in your type of book, and resources, to maximize your success? The expression, “Any agent is better than no agent,” simply isn’t true. An agent who’s unquestionably qualified and wonderful at representing one type of book, or a certain category of books, isn’t always at her best representing a different category requiring a completely different set of contacts, data, and experience. The more time you spend finding an agent who’s a right fit for you before you submit, the less of your time you’ll waste, and the less likely you’ll find your submissions deleted with no response.
How many agents did you submit to before finding acceptance?
If you’re in the processing of deciding how and where to submit, how will you research agents?