New Agents Don’t Have Cooties

by Maria Vicente (@MsMariaVicente), a literary agent intern

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately in the writing world about whether it’s a good idea to query new agents. There are some people who will throw themselves in front of a train before even considering the possibility. Other writers flock to new agents, hoping that their queries will stand out more in a not-so-flooded inbox.

New agents don’t have cooties. There’s no reason why you should avoid the whole group of them. However, you also shouldn’t send a query to each and every one. There are many things to consider before querying a new agent, and it’s a process that should take a decent amount of time.

Remember that everyone starts somewhere. Those agents with years of experience? They were once new agents too. The thing is, there should be a starting point. If an agent has recently joined an agency, his/her bio will have details outlining their publishing experience. There should be some indication that they’ve learned a little bit about this crazy publishing world. If they’re a new agent, they won’t necessarily have deals and clients to boast about – but they should have had some education or training to lead them into this side of the industry.

Your next major consideration should be the agency’s background. If a new agent is taking on clients, it is very important that there are knowledgeable people within the agency to help them out. There’s no formal training program for agents and no one is going to know everything right away. That’s why you need to make sure the agency has a good reputation and has other, experienced agents to hold the new agent’s hand for the first little bit. If the agency is brand new – and the other agents have little to no experience – then you’ll probably want to steer clear.

Always find out the agent’s interests. New agent or not, it’s important to understand what type of writing he/she is looking for. If a new agent joins a reputable agency and they’re accepting your genre, then you’re golden. A new agent does have a client list to build, so they’ll really be looking out for the queries that interest them the most. New agents will want to start their lists off right, which means they’re going to represent genres they know and love.

You should also use social networking to your advantage. If this new agent has a Twitter account and they’re approachable, then ask questions! There’s a wealth of information available for writers thanks to the immediacy and slightly creepy lack of privacy of social media. We live online for a reason. You should be able to analyze a new agent’s involvement with the publishing community and use it to your advantage.

Honestly, an agent is an agent is an agent. You should be doing just as much research about new agents as you are about agents who have been in the industry for 20+ years. An agent with a ton of experience is not necessarily the best match for you as a writer. Similarly, a new agent with limited experience (because they should have some) is not automatically wrong.

You’re asking an agent to take a chance on you. Guess what? You are (most likely) a NEW writer. If everyone does their research and good matches are made, I think taking chances on new talent is a very good idea.

4 thoughts on “New Agents Don’t Have Cooties

  1. Pingback: Links for a Lazy Sunday | Hardcovers and Heroines

  2. I think this post was well-put, though when you sum it up, it’s pretty much common sense: Do your research.

    As for the whole ‘paradigm shift’ that Carol is talking about, I’m pretty skeptical. Yes, there are writers making a living by self-publishing, and yes some of those writers are voices that all ‘traditional’ publishers had ignored or rejected. But anecdotal evidence aside, what is the percentage of self-published writers who are actually making a real living off of it? The same problem that plagues blogging (difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff; absolutely no boundaries to keep out the trash) is going to undermine the whole endeavor (if it hasn’t already).

    Plus, ‘paradigm shift’ is just another way of saying ‘new status quo.’ If self-publishing does manage to shift the balance of power, who’s to say that those with the new power won’t abuse it just as much as the old publishing houses?

    Self-publishing is praised by the same people who would abolish art criticism. In theory it’s egalitarian and democratic, but in practice it leaves the doors open for rubbish, and eventually the audience will get so cynical and sick of trudging through the garbage that they won’t even bother to show up.

  3. The way I look at it, I’m new and I want an agent to take a chance on me, I’m willing to take a chance on someone new too. Good advice on making sure they have a solid support system in place to help them learn the ropes.

  4. Querying agents in this day and age is rather pointless, is it not, especially if you are an unpublished writer? The slush pile is mammoth, first. Secondly, you can make more money and keep more money by self-publishing. Get yourselves on Blog Talk radio shows…and canvass around…there are so many groups, i.e. Goodreads who will be willing to write a review for you. Going the traditional route is going the route of the dinosaurs…the new paradigm is here. The sooner we stop bowing to agents and agencies like they are God’s gift, a lie, the better. My cousin was a published author…many books and on Charlie Rose and known in his field. He has a perennial out, “Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed,” about the holocaust. He made more money as a college professor at Weslyan than with his writing. Why? The percentages. Writers have been getting shafted for decades. Now why else would the big six be caught in colluding because of their greed and their fear of Amazon, etc. So that should tell you something. My cousin was one of thousands of writers kept under by the arrogant publishing industry and its hand maidens…the locusts and canker worms feeding off authors and making them beg for crumbs. Please, please, please, tell me this wasn’t the case and that self-publishing isn’t better. Please…I want to be convinced. However, the truth is what I have said. Of course, if you were male-Mailer, et. al (it has been a male dominated industry) then they got the money, but only if they represented a particular point of view. The publishing industry in the past has been the greatest censoring industry…in hand with the media and entertainment industry. That is changing, thank God. Titles that you would never have seen…rejection, rejection, rejection (I’m talking whistle blowing, medical whistle blowing, revelatory, political, not romance which is benign) are now being published, despite the censorship that media attempts, but is failing miserably because of the internet. So, look around. The paradigm is changing. Are you changing with it?

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