I’ve been privileged to have a career as a literary agent for many years now, and early on, I developed a brand and stuck with it. No, I didn’t hire a consultant to sit down and figure out what my “brand” is. And it’s not a tag line I put on business cards, or even anything I say aloud or post on social media. But most people who study agents have an idea about me — that I’m warm (I’ve been told this many times), most of the books I represent are targeted to women and the fiction I represent is highly romantic. This brand developed because of my interests, particular talents, knowledge, and contacts.
My guess? Other agents can tell similar stories about their careers, and you can look at their client lists and get an idea of their greatest strengths from the type of clients and books they represent. It takes time for an agent to develop a career, and that agent’s success with one type of book is likely to mean success with a similar book. Over time, editors will expect to see certain types of books from their favorite agents. This doesn’t mean that an agent who usually represents romance can’t and won’t be successful with a political book or science fiction, or won’t try it. What it does mean is that if an agent has worked hard to establish contacts in one or two realms, that is where that agent’s greatest strength will lie.
Perhaps you made a connection at a conference, secured a recommendation from an agent’s client, or for some other reason, are considering an agent whose primary focus is not on what you write, but he’s still interested. Perhaps he’s looking to expand into that type of book, or has a passion for your particular topic. I recommend you ask the agent about his marketing plan for your work before signing.
As an author, it’s your job to consider your possibilities when contacting agents. I recommend not contacting a bunch of agents in hopes someone — anyone — will respond. Believe me, I realize how hard it is to secure excellent representation. This is as it should be. Just be sure that you’re doing everything you can to put your career in the hands of the agent who’s right for you.
What tips can you offer a writer looking for an agent?
What attracted you to the agent you are working with now?
If you’re looking for an agent, what qualities are you seeking?