Deb Sarah on Why Agent-Hunting Is Sort of Like Shoe-Shopping

Shoes and agents? Really Sarah? Let me explain. Before I sold The Violets of March, I wrote another book—one I was certain would be a hit, one that I thought about endlessly, one that well … sort of stunk. Am I glad I wrote that book? Yes! It taught me so much about the kind of book I wanted to write and the sort of author I wanted to be. And, at the time, I had a great agent at a really snazzy and established literary agency. But then the book didn’t sell, and shortly after, my agent left the agency to pursue another career path, and I was left with her replacement. I felt a little like an orphan. I had no book sale to speak of and a new agent who, though nice, felt like a stranger with zero affinity for my career. Little idea of what was next (though The Violets of March was a glimmer in my mind at that point!), I knew that the first step was to find a new agent who I clicked with. So I took a deep breath, left the agency (very nervously) and decided to start over with a new agent. It was scary, but I know now how important that step was.

My criteria for a new agent: I wanted someone who was enthusiastic about my career and excited to work with me in the long term (not just on a per-project basis). I also wanted an agent who was a good communicator, who didn’t take a month to respond to emails and phone calls (plus, someone who would whip out the red pen and do serious editing on my manuscript, if need be!). I wanted a partnership, not a writer-worshiping-agent relationship.

So I went agent-shopping! Not unlike shoe-shopping, when I was on the hunt for a new agent, I thought about style—in particular, how a potential agent’s style melded with mind. Did I admire the authors she represented? When we talked on the phone, did I actually like her? Did she seem savvy, smart? Did I have the gut feeling that she’d present me to publishers in the best possible light?

After trying on a few pairs of shoes, er, talking to a few agents, I ended up being so fortunate to sign with Elisabeth Weed, of Weed Literary. An author friend of mine, Allison Winn Scotch, introduced me to Elisabeth, and I realized immediately that she was the perfect agent for me—and my experience working with her has been exactly as I had hoped it would be. (P.S. Elisabeth just started a blog—stop by and say hi!)

When I hear people talking about agent horror stories (yes, there are as many bad agents out there as good ones), I am always so grateful to have such a savvy and yes, stylish, agent on my team.

Tell me about your agent experiences!

xo, Sarah

P.S. And those shoes? I totally want them. Santa didn’t leave them under the tree for me this year. I’ve been a good girl, though, so I’m thinking about splurging. What do you think?

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Sarah Jio

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This article has 8 Comments

  1. I think a lot of writers are so desperate for an agent they picture it as a “writer-worshiping-agent” relationship, when it really ought to be, as you said, a partnership. It’s like looking for a job – interviews are as much about deciding whether you want to work with them as vice versa.

    I think the shoes are perfect – do it!

  2. I can not buy shoes whose price is more than the rent on my first apartment. Or my first car payment. Well, maybe my SECOND car payment. 🙂 We should point out, that we were very lucky to find our agents the ways in which we did – for most it’s a long long slog. I remember our good friend ManicMommy (check out her blog) having a spreadsheet with 150 rejections. She did sign with a terrific agent – and she did not give up.

    Kim

  3. So SO important to be choosy when shopping for an agent. As I shared Monday, my book agent relationship developed naturally, with the two of us working together over time. With my TV agent, I made the mistake back on my first staff job of jumping at the first agent who wanted me. It wasn’t a fit AT ALL, and I was too nervous about rocking the boat back then — and too afraid I’d never find someone else — to put a stop to the relationship. I eventually did sever the relationship, and went without an agent for YEARS until I finally found someone who was the right fit for me.

    Can you buy new shoes right now? Aren’t your feet swollen at this point in the pregnancy? I was in extra-wide sandals every day when I was that far along with my daughter.

    xo,

    E

  4. You definitely need those shoes. In fact, you should buy five pairs of them and share them with all the Debs!

    Love the agent/shoe analogy, by the way!

    Tawna

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