Monday, September 13, 2010

Prithee, Inform Me: Your Dream Agency

Finding an agent is arduous work, mes auteurs, complicated not only by the difficulty of writing something good, editing it to make it phenomenal, and casting it out into the electronic ether like a message in a bottle, but by the je ne sais quoi known as "fit": will any given agent feel like (s)he is the best advocate for your work?

Because of this, it may not be as meaningful a question to ask about dream agencies rather than dream agents. Regardless: what person, persons, or companies are at the top of your wish list?

To the comments!


  1. I am very fortunate to have a children's book out on submission with Brenda Bowen at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. Brenda has been outstanding with her editorial advice, and knowing SJGA's clients range from Kafka to Dan Brown makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I hope I never have to find another agent / agency...

  2. I can't speak to "fit" but Kristin Nelson seems super sharp. I like her approach to business and the way her brain works when reading legalese. I also like the books she reps...I've found more than one that I go back to before pulling a new one off the TBR pile.

    I would absolutely love to knock back drinks and make fun of people with Janet Reid.

    Adore The Rejectionist, though a mere assistant and anonymous to boot, but I'm afraid my dainty musings would not meet her high standards of social consciousness.

    But the thing is, there are a ton of good agents out there who don't blog. Ginger Clark from Curtis Brown pops up as a guest blogger/commenter from time to time and she seems a sensible sort.

    So, really, anyone who has good business sense and doesn't mind nudging a MS in a better direction sounds pretty awesome to me, no matter the agency.

  3. A serendipitous topic. I just blogged about this yesterday. Dan Krokos tells me the discussion is a bad idea, but did not tell me why.

    If I had my pick of any agency, I'd go with Nelson Literary Agency. They believe publishing is going where I believe publishing is going and are positioning themselves to represent their authors successfully in publishing's new paradigm.

  4. @Laurel: Some agents may not blog (like Ginger) but still keep active Twitter accounts (like Ginger).

  5. I cannot recall the specific agency that she works for, but Becca Stumpf is at the top of my list followed by Sarah Crowe. Becca's "what she's looking for" list had a direct quote from her that fit exactly the type of genre I am writing in to the sub-genre.

  6. Becca Stumpf is with Prospect Agency. They have the best question to go along with your query: "What's your favorite line from the ms you're submitting."

  7. Kristin Nelson, Donald Maass, Irene Goodman, Harvey Klinger. Dream. dream. dream.

  8. I kind of have an agent crush on Mary Kole (eek! I hope she's not reading this...). Her blog,, is an amazing resource. And Mary is such a helpful, kind person to boot. Anyone would be lucky to be represented by her. In fact, all of the ladies at Andrea Brown are absolutely fantastic.

  9. This feels like when I was in high school and asked which girl I most wanted to date. I am as likely to get my wish in agents as I did in high school girlfriends.

    Stacia Decker at Donald Maass and Janet Reid. Both seem to do very well selling books in the genre of my current work in progress. Janet Reid's blog continues to help me learn as a writer, so I think it is only fair she has a chance to benefit financially from all her advice.

  10. I'm biased, as a client, but FinePrint is so incredibly supportive. You sign with one agent, and you immediately have the whole team behind you. It's incredible.

  11. Chalk me up as a Nelson Agency fangirl.

    Sara Megibow requested a full from me that she and Kristin both read. While I've had revision letters from a couple of other agents, Sara "got" my book. And though she was attracted to more character-driven sf, she told me she didn't think my plot-driven story needed to be changed.

    They're smart business folk and I'd give anything -- even 15% of my earnings :o) -- to work with either Sara or Kristin.

    (Or with any of the other three lovely, lovely agents who have my full now!)

  12. First, my dream is to beat my depression and ADHA to finish my book. Unfortunately, sometimes it's incredibly hard for me to sit down and just write. What God gave me creativity, it also gave me trouble, but I am also very persistent and stubborn. LOL

    Secondly, my dream is to see my book published in America. For me - I'm Brazilian - the difficulties are even greater, because in addition to finishing my book and make numerous normal revisions, still have to translate it and review it again until it is good enough for a market that does't know. I already have a list with several agents, but don't know of any work in particular. I intend to do that when everything is really ready.

    The day I received an email from a good literary agent, approving my book, I'll be really happy and know that my dream is coming true. Until then, I have much work ahead.

    Sorry for the rant. I'm in a difficult week.

    And sorry for the poor English.

  13. I'd pretty much have to agree with Piedmont Writer but I would add Jesica Faust from Book Ends.

  14. If we're basing our dream agents on the books that we read, I've discovered a lot of the books on my shelves were repped by either Dan Lazar or Simon Lipskar--both of the Writer's House.

    And then there's Nathan Bransford and Kristin Nelson who are both clearly on top of the publishing game, and that says a lot!

  15. Selby,

    It's a bad idea because you're basically saying Tom is your favorite brother, then asking your other brother, Jim, to help you build a deck.

    Your post was condescending. Stop talking about what agencies you want and in what order, and how an agent appeals to you because they're young, but you queried them last. They aren't going to read that and be excited to work with you.

  16. Kristin Nelson was a favorite along with Nathan, but both already rejected me after partials. I want a really communicative, friendly agent who is hands-on with helping to make my book the best it can be.

  17. I'd love to answer that but since I have partials and fulls out right now I don't think it would be a good idea to show favoritism. But a few of my dream agents/agencies have read or are reading one of my novels, and it's quite awesome just to be able to say that. :)

  18. Too scared to write an agents name for fear my words (not them) will bite me in the butt one day.

  19. I'm with Folio Literary and really happy with their career approach with their authors. I also advise people to remember that what works for one author may not be a good fit for another. Find the right agent for you- not the most "popular" agent.

  20. Someone who will fall in love with my work...

  21. I don't understand why some people are so scared. How can writing a name in a comment at a blog "bite you in the butt?" Why do you have to be so serious and be afraid to participate? My own butt must be chopped liver because of all my internet shenanigans.

    I read Dan's reply and my first reaction was, "Why so serious? This could be fun." I am sure many writers have a "dream" agent. In many cases it is all just fantasy and harmless talk because I do not think most of the writers that commented have any representation. Oh, so now they won't? Sigh.

    1. A writer without representation should be able to fantasize in some harmless fun without consequences.
    2. A writer with representation should be able to name a "dream agent" and have fun without hurting his own agent's feelings. And I think his own agent should laugh at the silliness of this.
    3. I strongly doubt that if an agent receives a query and wants to rep the work he would reject that work because the writer named another "dream agent." The agent would shoot himself in the foot because another agent was named as a favorite at a blog by his potential client? That is so babyish.

    My answer is Andrew Wylie, because I think naming him will bring a laugh and perspective to all of this. Maybe Mort Janklow. And they say I need to lighten up?

    Why is there such firm protocol in place for writers... and yet agents can post anything they want in cyberspace? Maybe people need to realize that all the visible nonsense and snark that goes on between agents in cyberspace has resulted in setting the "behavior" bar lower, so writers feel they can engage in activity and interaction that years ago would have immediately been recognized by most as a "let's not go there" place.

    P.S. It looks like J. Selby removed his blog post after Dan called it "condescending" and appeared to almost order him what to not post about at his own blog. That's sad to me that he could have felt pressure and been influenced in that way.

    Not me. I am going to blog about this for days.... and days and days and days. New topic? Whee. Maybe even a cartoon...

  22. Please ready my piece about this:

  23. A reputable hard working one compelled to say yes.

  24. Mr. Krokos,

    Sorry dude, but you're completely wrong here. No offense, but dreaming about what agent you want and setting up whatever criteria you want is totally up to the dreamer.

    Anyone who says different is ego bound and controlling. It dictates more about who you are and who you're trying to be (a person agents love because your nose is brown) then who you really are on the inside.

    Let it go. Be free and dream anyway you want to. Even you Mr. Krokos, dream anyway you want and don't let people tell you how to.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. I think it's important to mention that yes a lot of writers have "a list." And there is nothing wrong with that. No one, certainly not Dan Krokos, is saying don't have a list.

    Dan makes a good point that I don't want to lose sight of - it's not whether you have a list - but rather that a list is going to be more beneficial if it's kept off the blogosphere.

    Honestly, I don't know any agent who is going to request a manuscript because they were on "a list." At best they're going to feel flattered and proud of their hard work. But the request will still come down to the writing. And, at worst a list might seem off putting for a number of reasons.

    As an agent, I'm not about to publish my submission lists on a blog, and I wouldn't want to worry about a writer of mine doing that thing either.

    Plus, and this is a great point made in the comments of Janet Reid's post on this subject. Tawna Fenske mentioned there is a "huge difference there is between admiring an agent from his/her blog posts, tweets, and conference appearances and ACTUALLY WORKING WITH THAT AGENT."

  27. Lighten up. What's the big deal with creating and posting a dream list of agents on the blogosphere? What's so incriminating for the writers who participate? What's so off putting? You are giving this list more serious importance than.... The List of Adrian Messenger.

    So what if you admire an agent from afar and it does not parallel what actually working with that agent would be? Big deal. The list is just a fantasy game, not some deep analysis of who would be your best match. It should reflect nothing more than a wish list based on anything in your own mind.

    "My dream agent is Rachelle Gardner because she has pretty hair." "My dream agent is Jennifer Laughran because the 'laugh' in her last name tells me she has a great sense of humor." Whatever. You are analyzing these implications more than the Warren Commission analyzed who shot JFK.

    Some perspective, please. Why get so carried away with all the minutiae? My dream list of boyfriends included Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Think it mattered that they might have not measured up? The agents shouldn't even be reading this so it can impact any decisions they make for representation and if the writer gets his dream agent and is disappointed... that's how it goes baby. Stay or move on.

    The implications of the list are being examined too closely. You think a list like this would bother Andrew Wylie? I think Judith Regan would not even bat one eyelash. Would Swifty Lazar have been overly invested in what a writer posted at his personal blog and even take a break from his martini at the Polo Lounge to check his laptop to see if he was or wasn't on it. And if he wasn't and was presented with some great work to rep, think he would pass because he wasn't on that agent's list?

    Time would be better spent examining the much bigger issue to understand why it's all such an "anything goes" situation. The nonsense of agents at Twitter has impacted the integrity of the whole profession and the standing ovations that SPH receives for his "hilarious comedy" posts have brought the profession to this. It's a joke. You get respect when you are dignified. Understand the road that brought posts to this place and that's it.

    It's too late to expect writers to meet protocol because the snark has gone too far and jumped the shark and there is no decorum. It is one huge mess.

  28. You and Janet both work at Fine Print. Dan is repped by Janet.

    Check your old office mate's (Colleen Lindsay) comments on the current blog post on this site.

  29. My dream agent is the one who understands my work and gets it enough to want to be my advocate. My dream agent will read my book cover to cover and see it the way I see it. How can I name an agent if I don't really know if they would truly appreciate my work? That's what matters anyway. There are lot's of great agents who seem very cool, but at the end of the day my dream agent needs to feel as strongly about my work as I do. If they do, then they are a dream to me. If they do, then there is a very high likelyhood that books will be sold and money will be made by all.

  30. Laurie McLean has my full right now, and I feel honored that she even asked for it in the first place. She's my top pick. She's approachable. She's witty in person. She's part of the Larsen/Pomada team, and on the west coast, they're the creme de la creme and thoroughly businesslike. Most of all, I've enjoyed reading novels Ms. McLean has already sold, and I've witnessed her making contacts with publishers in the Writers' Cafe at the PNWA conference. That woman knows how to sell a book!

    The agent who scares the hell out of me is Janet Reid. I follow her blog faithfully though. Why? She knows publishing like a cab driver knows the street of NY. If she called me up and offered representation, I think I'd wet myself. I would be a fool to turn her down because she's so damned savvy, but I'm a small-town girl with polite tendencies and a country upbringing. I'd be terrified of the ride. Picture Laura Ingalls in the back of a New York cab with Vin Diesel at the wheel. Lord help me.

    Oh well. I write YA. Last time I checked, Ms. Reid wasn't taking any YA stuff. Thank God and Father Christmas for that. Because she's top notch, but this Little Girl on the Prairie doesn't have the balls to ask Janet Reid to get behind the wheel anyway.

  31. Next door to impossible to state with certainty but, at this point, Chelsea Gilmore-- Maria Carvainis-- or Danielle Chiotti-- Upstart Crow.

    Ms. Gilmore because she is communicative, articulate and doesn't Twitter about what she just drank three seconds ago and Ms. Chiotti because she gave me the most insightful feedback in a four-month period of querying. I'm looking for a solid, mentally-acute personality who will prove not only a good match for the books but a stimulating individual with whom to build a career.

    Because the current query system is so heavily stacked against the author finding a 'match,' writers often forget that it's equally important to have a grasp of what we're looking for. As I constantly tell my colleagues, they need us as much as we need them.

    Thanks for posing an interesting question. Love the typeface in your blog title. Actual content of said title could use a bit more dignity.

    Keep it real,