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Do not despair, my savvy writer friends! New agents can be totally fabulous as long as you know what to look out for.
Some questions to ask while researching (in addition to other research questions) include:
- Where did this agent get his/her training? This is super important. Most agents intern at a literary agency (or two) before they become agent assistants, then finally begin taking on clients themselves, and quite frankly? If they don't go through that process, I would be wary. The lit agency internship/assistant position is where new agents learn tons about the business, about making connections, about everything involved in being an agent. Without this vital experience, they'll be left without connections and relationships with editors and other industry people (the importance of which really can't be overstated) as well as the training that goes into becoming an agent.
Remember: anyone can call themselves an agent and accept queries. It's up to you to do your research and make sure they're legitimately qualified to do so.
- What is the reputation of his/her agency? New agents, understandably, aren't going to have many sales. This is to be expected—after all, they're new to the business and sales take time. That being said, the agency that they're working at should have a nice resume.
The great thing about agencies is the agents can often work with each other/get tips from each other/build off of each other's expertise. This is especially helpful for new agents who could use the extra support.
This is one of the many reasons why new agents who start their own agencies are an enormous red flag. So when you're looking at new agents, make sure you take a look at the reputation of the agency they're working at.
Now you may be wondering why you should query new agents when there are so many excellent experienced agents out there. I've got some answers for you there, too.
Pros of new agents:
- Actively seeking new clients. Here's the thing with experienced agents—many of them have a full client list, which is fabulous, but it also means they're going to be MUCH pickier when looking at queries (assuming they're open to queries at all, which isn't always the case). New agents, conversely, are still building up their client list and thus are often willing to look at more and consider manuscripts that might need a little more work (though this is not an excuse to not edit your manuscript. Don't do this. Ever).
- More time per client. This is related to the last point, but there's another plus side to having an agent with less clients, namely, that they have more time available to spend with each of their clients.
Now that's not to say that agents with full client lists don't have time for their clients, but it DOES mean that you often have to be patient because, c'mon, you're one out of thirty-someodd people all vying for one person's attention. And each of them have books for polishing/submitting/contracting/selling/whathaveyou.
New agents aren't initially juggling as many clients at once, so many of them have a little extra time to devote to each of their clients. And that's pretty sweet.
Cons of new agents:
- Less experience. I mean, obviously. But as I said above, they can make up for this by learning from their fellow agents in the agency, so as long as they're part of a reputable agency, this isn't too terrible, really.
- Other cons...um...that's all I can think of, really?
Writer's Digest has really great New Agent Alerts that can be an excellent place to keep an eye out for new agents looking for clients. And also because I'm biased and I have a special love for one particular new agent, if you write Young Adult, New Adult (all genres, but mostly romance), Adult romance or picture books, you should check out Rachel Brooks' submission guidelines because she's really wonderful and actively building her client list right now. She also tweets a lot of helpful writerly tips.
Okay. I'll stop gushing now.
Go forth and query those new agents!
Have you/will you query any new agents? Why or why not?
Debating whether or not to query a new agent? @Ava_Jae shares some helpful agent researching tips. #pubtip (Click to tweet)
Should you query that new agent? Writer @Ava_Jae shares her thoughts. (Click to tweet)