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?

8 Replies to “Deb Sarah on Why Agent-Hunting Is Sort of Like Shoe-Shopping”

  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.


  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.



  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!


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