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New vs experienced agents

Posted: July 31st, 2012, 3:37 pm
by Sanderling
In the query trenches as I am at the moment, this question's been on my mind a bit lately. There are so many agents out there, some of then quite experienced and with bestselling authors among their clientele and some just starting out, and some in between.

So while obviously the connection the agent has to your MS and with you is most important, how valuable is it for an agent to have that experience/credentials? Is there a benefit to the author to go with someone older versus newer? Will they get you a larger advance, or have a broader network of editor contacts, or more sway with editors, or...? Or is the value of the agent mostly independent of their experience and it'll be the manuscript that is most influential on where and how it gets placed? (Or the agent's skill as a negotiator, which isn't necessarily tied to experience.)

I often see the comment that newer agents who are just building their lists might be more open to taking chances and may be taking new clients on more frequently than established agents, so if there was little difference, it might seem to the author's advantage to focus on newer agents over established ones (especially in agencies where their policy is querying-one-is-querying-all).

Re: New vs experienced agents

Posted: August 3rd, 2012, 7:05 pm
by Karen Duvall
This is a really good question. I think you need to consider what's most important to you as a writer. Though new inexperienced agents are eager and may have a fire in their belly, do they know enough about their role to get the job done? Some pitfalls may be a lack of editorial contacts in the industry. Or they may have trouble negotiating an offer that challenges their confidence. I think you need to have a list of questions to ask should a new agent make an offer of representation.

As for the more experienced agent who's been around the block a few times, what are their expectations? Are they career builders or one-book negotiators? Do they have a full list of clients and limited time to offer a new and unproven author?

Ask lots of questions of any agent who offers to represent you. I would have had no qualms about going with a new agent who's starting to build her or his list, but the agent I have has several years of agenting under her belt so she knows all the ropes and that's a benefit. I think you want to base your decision on the individual. Good luck!

Re: New vs experienced agents

Posted: August 4th, 2012, 6:53 am
by writersink
I would do whatever seems right to you :) For me, while new agents may not have all the contacts and things, they'll be wanting to build their career alongside yours. I would say that I'm a new writer. I have no reader base or anything like that. They're a new agent. They might not have a contact list. We're in the same boat, so that wouldn't really be a factor for me.
As for the more experienced agent [...] do they have a full list of clients and limited time to offer a new and unproven author?
That's a factor to consider.

It depends on the individual. I have a couple of dream agents. One represented an author who wrote the first book I ever bought, as opposed to someone else buying it for me. That is one of my favourites. Another is completely new, but from her interviews she sounds like my type of person.

Re: New vs experienced agents

Posted: August 5th, 2012, 3:03 pm
by Shipple
I recently about a new author's query process (sorry, I forget who it was), but she said she had an A and B list of agents to query from.

The A list were the agents she really, really wanted. The B list were the agents, she liked and thought she'd like to work with who were maybe a little more likely to take her on (like a new agent).

When she sent out queries, she sent to a few people from both lists so that way if her letter and ms had a fatal flaw, she could take time to correct it without having burned through all of her A list agents.

And, then, when you've gotten to the point that you are actually getting offers in, you let both your A and B list agents from your most recent round of querying know you've had a bite, which, I would think, would make them more likely to look seriously at your submission.

And then you talk to any agents who are interested, and, you never know, you might find you click better with and are far more impressed than you'd expected with an agent from your B list!

Re: New vs experienced agents

Posted: August 5th, 2012, 11:51 pm
by Sanderling
Thanks for your thoughts and input, Karen. I'm definitely hoping to build a career and that's been something I've been thinking about as I choose who to query, too. I want to end up with someone who's got similar plans in mind for our working relationship and future, so perhaps the key is to figure out what's most important to me and that'll help with deciding who to query. You're right, too, that hopefully it would be possible to get a sense of the agent's strengths and weaknesses and goals for your career and theirs during the phone call, if and when it comes.

That's a really good point, writersink. I've definitely been shying away from agents who have been in the business a while since I expect they'll be retiring soon (or sooner than many agents who're much younger) and I'd ideally like to stick with the same agent for a while (assuming we do work well together, which hopefully we would have an idea of by the time of signing a contract).

I've heard that, too, Shipple, and I've been doing that a bit. I've got queries out to established agents and new ones, high-profile and relatively-unknown, top-choices and B-listers. It gets tough, though, when there're two or more agents at an agency who rep my genre and I have to decide which one to send the query to.