What Do You Love About Your Agent?
September 12, 2006 10:08 AM   Subscribe

What do you like about your literary agent?

(Besides the fact that he or she has made you money and gotten you fame and fortune, of course.)

I'm curious to hear from authors with agents what's so great about their particular agent, including business acumen, a great eye for talent, marketing ideas or even just a fabulous personality.

I was just wondering if there are many intangibles that separates agents from great agents, or if it's just who makes authors the most $$.
posted by clairezulkey to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
posted by unSane at 10:35 AM on September 12, 2006

As someone who's fired two of them, I would have to agree with unSane in that I would appreciate absolute honesty from them.

Don't blow smoke up my butt, tell me that I'm going to be the next big thing, and then not be able to deliver the appropriate (or any) contract.

Be honest, be kind, be supportive, be realistic, but most of all, be honest.
posted by willmize at 10:57 AM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think having a relationship where you feel you can be honest with them, as well. That they won't come down on you for following your gut instinct.

I think it's important that they are in touch a lot and always take your calls, or return them right away.

Also feeling like they have a stake in your career for the long-term, that they are making decisions based on what is good for you five years from now, not just what will make you a quick buck this month. Crafting your niche or reputation. The big picture. It helps create a feeling of being in a long term business relationship, not just a one-project stand.

Also the feeling, (whether or not it's actually true) that they believe in you and your work.
posted by np312 at 11:10 AM on September 12, 2006


unSane, who is your agent?
posted by krautland at 11:24 AM on September 12, 2006

I agree that honesty is probably the number one virtue of a good lit agent. I would also say it depends largely on what you want. Some agents are hand holding types while others keep a professional distance. What might be perfect for one writer might be unthinkable for another. I had an agent who was great, but far too big for me. His assistant took me on and turned out to be both an amazing advocate and a friend. I can't imagine having that kind of relationship with, say, Bob Gottlieb, though I'm sure he's a great agent for some people, just not what I'd be looking for because I like hand-holding.
posted by cal71 at 11:55 AM on September 12, 2006

I like her sharp eye, her honest assessment, her great judgment, and of course her excellent connections. (It is really nice to be one of the small fish for an agent who's got big fish other clients.) She's smart and she takes me seriously, and she's looking out for me long-term, not just for the book or proposal at hand. Also, she's someone I'd be friends with even if she weren't my agent. I've been super happy from day one, five years ago.
posted by mothershock at 1:38 PM on September 12, 2006

In doing media work as a lawyer, I developed a view all artist-representing professionals, agents included, that you want to look for the same thing in a professional as in a girlfriend: someone who is almost too good for you.

Whatever benefit you might get in priority and enthusiasm from an agent who still hasn't quite made it, is more than offset by that agent's lack of experience and contacts. An agent who is too good for you, though, is as much of a problem. He's often taking you on because he doesn't see where you really are in the market, or as a favor to a more important relationship of his, or for some other reason other than an informed belief that he can, and an avid desire to, earn his 10% off your sales.

Something that's almost as important, however, is to recognize that agenting is a very specific skill: selling your work for the best possible price to those who buy work like yours. Hire an agent for those skills, and not for any other attributes (editing, friendship, marketing, career management, etc.)
posted by MattD at 1:51 PM on September 12, 2006

My girlfriend, sat beside me, agrees that honesty is the best thing but "kicking her butt" comes a close second. An agent who can motivate you is a wonderful thing.
posted by Hogshead at 4:17 PM on September 12, 2006

unSane, who is your agent?
I don't want to name names because I don't think he personally is taking on new clients but I am with Endeavor in LA, who are fantastic.
posted by unSane at 8:27 PM on September 12, 2006

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