Agents: Picking an agent for one-on-one critique

MuffinThis fall, I’m one of the speakers at the Missouri SCBWI conference, September 25-26, 2015.  My talk is the very first one since it helps orient new conference attendees to the experience.  One of the things that I discuss with them is what to expect from their one-on-one critique sessions.

One-on-one critiques are available at many SCBWI events and give you 10-20 minutes of face time, often with an editor or agent.  To make the most of it, you have to pick the editor or agent that is right for you.  Here are five things to consider.

What books has this person represented?  Don’t just pick a name out of a hat or pick the person with the funniest session title.  Instead, take a look at the list of books that she has represented.  Don’t just read over the names.  Take the time to get ahold of them and read them.  Are they literary?  Humorous?  Quirky?  If you don’t like any of the books on her list, chances are that this is not the agent for you.

Is this what I write?  Once you know that you like her work, take a look at it in comparison to what you actually write.  I love to read mysteries but I have never written one.  Because of this, it wouldn’t make much sense to hitch myself to an agent whose specialty is the mystery novel.

Is she an editorial agent?  One of the terms that you are going to see a lot is “editorial agent.”  An editorial agent is an agent who works with their authors on the manuscripts before they go out the door.  This means that you may end up doing a rewrite for your agent and a rewrite for your editor.  That said, rewriting for your agent means that your editor will get a more polished manuscript.

Her website.  Now pop on over to her website.  If her bio doesn’t include the URL, do a google search and look for a website or a blog.  What does the layout tell you about this person.  Is it ultra-business like and conservative?  Or is it light and playful?  Either one can work but note your reaction to what you see.  This will be a close partnership.

Google revelations.  If you haven’t already googled her name, do it.  Read interviews and chatter about this person.  Finding something negative about an agent isn’t necessarily a deal breaker as long as it isn’t something big.  “This agent never sent out my work.”  “I get submission updates the first week of every month.” Two very different statements about two very different editors.

Don’t expect the agent you meet with to offer to represent you on the spot but do chose someone you are compatible with to ensure a better, more informative experience.  To find out more about what to discuss with the agent in your session, read my post for today at the Muffin.


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