My agent is truly amazing. She’s more than I ever thought I would get in an agent and I count myself extremely lucky to get to work with her/them. We’ve been working together for less than a year, but we’re already heading into our third project together as the first one’s out on submission. To say it’s been a whirlwind and a dream come true is an understatement, even without a book deal in my hands yet.
And while I had luck in gaining a lot of attention during DVpit, I had some requirements for my future agent even before that. It was a huge list and I felt picky, but I knew there were specifics things I needed from my future agent.
A new agent ended up making me an offer following my participation in DVpit. Since we share the same ethnicity, which plays a significant role in my projects, I submitted to her. Within an hour, she requested the full, and a week later, we scheduled a call. Soon, I had an offer! Despite receiving another offer, I had to go with her because she checked off all my requirements. There was also the bonus of understanding my cultural background and how being an immigrant existed in my story in addition to the tropes and characters and all the other important details I wanted my prospective agent to appreciate.
A primary concern to me was an agent who was POC or, in the very least, understands the challenges faced by POC, especially those who are also queer. Like myself. I didn’t want to be seen as the token diverse creator. I didn’t want to be seen as a niche or a piece for an agent to use to say they support diverse writers. I wanted someone who could champion me but could also understand my concerns about the publishing industry as a whole. Consequently, I mostly queried agents who are POC. It was a small way to ensure that understanding.
My social anxiety demanded that I didn’t have an agent who could just sell my book though. I needed someone who I could talk to about my story ideas, about my dreams and my goals, and who could be more than a business partner. My agent and I don’t get touchy-feely, but I do tell people that I see her as an older sibling or another kind of family member who’s looking out for me. I like being able to talk to them about a variety of things, including my mental health and what’s going on in my life, not just book-related things. Most of our conversations are book-related though. It’s a sensitive line between friend and business partner and I’ve enjoyed and appreciate how we’ve been able to navigate that.
Adding on my social anxiety, it plays into how I want to communicate. I like having a variety of ways to communicate with my agent. We have emails and phone calls, which are strictly professional. But we also have fun interactions on Twitter and in group chats where we’re able to speak without our agent/client relationship being involved. I needed someone who’s able to get back to me in a timely matter and found an agent who responds as quickly as possible, sometimes within minutes, and always within the hour. It’s easy on my mental health, reducing my stress and ensuring that I know my agent is here for me when I need them.
As someone who asks a lot of questions and needs a lot of support, I have an agent who’s there to answer everything I’m worried about and can calm me down. It’s not something I realized I would need, before I queried, but now I realize it’s something that I could have considered. My agent tailors my experience with them and I’ve appreciated it so much, especially since I’ve learned that I’m someone who takes an active role in what’s happening with their book! That includes sub lists, choosing projects, learning about how the process works, etc. I like knowing as much as can, like what’s happening and why and how things work. I need a lot of hand-holding sometimes and I need an agent who understands that and can provide it.
On a more business side, I needed someone who could delve deep into my books with me. Someone who can tear it apart at the structural level and sentence-by-sentence. I get editorial feedback that involves knowledge of how editors pick at books based on her experience as an editor themselves. I have friends with book deals who are picking at things in revisions with their editor that I’ve already addressed with my agent in my manuscript pre-book deal. I do have beta readers and critique partners, but it helps to have an agent who can look at my manuscripts and strategically tear them apart to get them publication-ready.
Another thing I considered is my goal of being published in a variety of genres and age categories. Though I mostly write YA, I want to branch out into other things. I’ve ventured into contemporaries, into sci-fi/space operas, and romance. I’ll tread into adult fiction and middle grade. I want to publish a lot, not just one book in my career or one a year. I want several. I’m ambitious. I needed an agent who appreciated that and encouraged it, and thankfully, I found one.
I have friends who want their agent to be business-only though. I didn’t want that. I want someone who fights with me and for me, but can connect with me more deeply than business. It’s amazing to have this kind of agent since this isn’t what I’d hoped for. It’s better than I dreamed and I’m so thankful we’ve found each other and this harmonious relationship we’ve cultivated. I thought any agent would do. I was wrong. I needed the kind of agent I found and I’m grateful and incredibly lucky to have found them.
I can honestly go on about my agent for hours because of how much I appreciate them. I’ve learned that it’s not only about what I want, but what I can handle and what I need from this partnership. The dynamic is extremely important.
I fully recommend doing tons of research before sending out queries. QueryTracker is a great way to see which agents are open to submissions, as well as what genres they represent, their typical response times, and what a form letter of theirs looks like. AbsoluteWrite is another great resource for finding out concerns about specific agents and/or agencies, especially as a QPOC who may have concerns about histories of abuse or racism. Always follow submission guidelines and check out #MSWL/Manuscript Wishlist. And don’t be afraid of newer agents. Look at their publishing background. Lastly, networking is valuable to your growth as a writer and being able to navigate the industry. Having friends who have your back and will support you through the journey makes it a lot easier to endure.
It’s a long waiting game, so don’t try to rush through things. Let yourself be pleasantly surprised. Dream big! But don’t forget to consider your own personal goals/dreams, not what other people want or have.