I spent yesterday afternoon at an agent panel. I’ve been to many agent panels at AWP and other conferences, and there was the fabulous panel during my Yale workshop this summer, but I went to this one specifically because there were 2 agents I’d researched and hoped to meet in person. Local San Francisco-based agents. One woman. One man.
I pretty much wrote-off the woman the minute she arrived. She breezed in late; she smelled like smoke when she passed; she looked bothered; she was reluctant to take the microphone; she hesitated to give an opinion. She chewed gum. She chewed gum the entire time. And in the end — in opposition to what her website stated about the books she’s looking for — she was not the least bit interested in narrative nonfiction, memoir.
Then there was the man. Happy to be there, steadfast in his opinions about writing and publishing and marketing, a focus on nonfiction, ready to grab the mic, a sense of humor (imagine!), clear about how he works with his writers, happy to explain in detail what really happens when he works with editors and publishers. He talked about how he’s dedicated to spend the time it takes to work with his writers to edit the work, to make sure it’s as perfect as it can be before trying to sell it. His job, he said, is to work not only on this one project, but to work with the writer on their career. And as if that wasn’t enough to charm the workhorse in me, he later told me exactly, without equivocation, what turned him off about my book.
I’m getting close to the query process. I’ve been writing this book for 4 years and finally, finally, I’m this close. Over these 4 years, I’ve also been researching the industry, following the blogs, making contacts, becoming clear about who I’m looking for. I’ve made my short list (and a long list, too, because that’s the realistic me) of the agents I’ll be querying.
What can I say. I’m clear. I’m organized. I’m the woman who has already ordered, and received, this year’s Christmas cards.
What are you looking for in an agent? What’s on your wish list?