Deb Rachel Makes the Case for the Newbie Agent

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheConfession: When I first started looking for agents, I didn’t know what I was doing. Everything I knew I learned from the Interwebs. I followed the advice of author and agent blogs and put together a query letter, gathered agent names from friends or the acknowledgement sections of similar books, and sent out a query letter.

After a bit of flailing as I figured out the system, I signed with my first agent. I adored her. She would still be my agent today if she hadn’t decided to leave the industry and move to London. But at the time, just after I committed to her, I had second thoughts. She was a young agent at a revered agency. I loved the idea of having the clout of her company name behind me, but I was nervous about being with someone who had fewer sales under her belt. When the fate of your first book is on the line, you second guess yourself. There had been another agent who showed interest in MWF Seeking BFF, one who had many more sales but didn’t “get” the book the way my agent did. I spent a lot of time wondering: Was I right to sign with the young, hungry agent who understood me, even if she wasn’t as experienced? Or should I have put my faith in the more veteran contender?

An old college classmate of mine was an agent at the time (still is, I think). I wrote her an email and explained my dilemma. And she wrote back an email that I will always remember. It was so wise, and really got to the heart of the agenting world.

Agent friend wrote:

“As a young agent myself I can tell you that to a publisher it matters very little how many sales you’ve made. As long as the material is of a certain quality and your idea is fresh then editors will bite. Certainly having [a known company] behind her name will help [your agent] and editors will be more responsive just because it comes from that agency.

I always say that as an agent you really can’t fake enthusiasm, so if she sounded passionate I’m sure she was and she’ll be your best advocate. If you felt a connection with her, that is also so important. Also, as a new author that attention from your agent is vital, and you’d rather be a big fish than a small one…

I hope that helps, but I would rest assured that you made the right choice. ”

The truth is, sometimes there’s no bad choice and that may have been true in my situation. But it was the right choice for me: I owe so much to my first agent, and I really felt like the two of us were in it together when it came to MWF. Having someone who will act as an advocate but also a friend goes a long way for a new author.

So for those of you who think you need to sign with the most senior agent in the agency to get your words read, think again! Consider this the argument for the young hungry agent who will go to bat for you, who will grow with you as your career unfolds, and who will stick with you for the long haul.

What about you? Would you choose a senior veteran agent over a relative newbie? Do you see the plus side of going with someone more junior? 

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6 thoughts on “Deb Rachel Makes the Case for the Newbie Agent

  1. Rachel, you are so right–a veteran agent might have the experience, but a newbie can make up for that with sheer enthusiasm. The most important thing is to find someone who will work hard for you, one who really believes in your book.

    My agent (Michelle Wolfson) runs a one-woman “boutique” agency. She’s agent, assistant, and intern, all rolled into a tiny powerhouse, and she gets the job done for all her clients. Because it’s just her, she has a limited client roster. She only represents projects she really loves, and she works her tush off to make them succeed. I like that. 🙂

  2. I completely agree with Linda–the most important thing IS to find that agent who will champion your book best, and with whom you click. Every situation is different and I love that you, Rachel, took the time to lay out your thoughts on this subject today because I think it is one many writers confront on the search for representation.

  3. I agree – the agent who sold SM@L was a fairly new agent as well. But her enthusiasm and professionalism won me over. Also, knowing that she was at an established agency meant she had resources behind her if she had any questions or was unsure of any particulars. Sadly, I seem to always travel with baggage, so that’s important to me.

  4. What a great post. This is something I’ve struggled with a great deal: to target the senior or junior agent. Allison Winn Scotch had the exact same advice as you, Rachel. It’s very refreshing to hear the insider perspective of how publishers react to junior agents (as well as the street cred of the agency).

  5. Wonderful post! It’s something I wondered about considerably, but you nailed it! Someone who believes in you and your work, has to be the best champion, years of experience or no! Thank you for sharing! : )

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