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.