Your Agent’s Brand (And Why You Should Care)

I’ve been privileged to have a career as a literary agent for many years now, and early on, I developed a brand and stuck with it. No, I didn’t hire a consultant to sit down and figure out what my “brand” is. And it’s not a tag line I put on business cards, or even anything I say aloud or post on social media. But most people who study agents have an idea about me — that I’m warm (I’ve been told this many times), most of the books I represent are targeted to women and the fiction I represent is highly romantic. This brand developed because of my interests, particular talents, knowledge, and contacts.

My guess? Other agents can tell similar stories about their careers, and you can look at their client lists and get an idea of their greatest strengths from the type of clients and books they represent. It takes time for an agent to develop a career, and that agent’s success with one type of book is likely to mean success with a similar book. Over time, editors will expect to see certain types of books from their favorite agents. This doesn’t mean that an agent who usually represents romance can’t and won’t be successful with a political book or science fiction, or won’t try it. What it does mean is that if an agent has worked hard to establish contacts in one or two realms, that is where that agent’s greatest strength will lie.

Perhaps you made a connection at a conference, secured a recommendation from an agent’s client, or for some other reason, are considering an agent whose primary focus is not on what you write, but he’s still interested. Perhaps he’s looking to expand into that type of book, or has a passion for your particular topic. I recommend you ask the agent about his marketing plan for your work before signing.

As an author, it’s your job to consider your possibilities when contacting agents. I recommend not contacting a bunch of agents in hopes someone — anyone — will respond. Believe me, I realize how hard it is to secure excellent representation. This is as it should be. Just be sure that you’re doing everything you can to put your career in the hands of the agent who’s right for you.

Your turn:

What tips can you offer a writer looking for an agent?

What attracted you to the agent you are working with now?

If you’re looking for an agent, what qualities are you seeking?


Leave a Comment

Authors: Seeking Approval

Depending on my current situation or environment, I might see something entirely different than another time when I read a passage of Scripture. The Bible is a like a diamond, with light of different colors shining through various facets depending on how you turn it and look through. I am …

Read More

What Have You Outgrown?

You can hardly swing a computer keyboard around (well, okay, I don’t recommend swinging a computer keyboard around, but anyway…) without seeing a chance to take a workshop on how to utilize social media. Taking a workshop on social media is a great idea. I’m a huge advocate of using …

Read More

One Thing

Most successful authors are known for one thing, not a variety of things. Even if they publish many books, their name is identified with one thing. The one thing isn’t necessarily one book, but it might be. Catherine Marshall, author of the classic novel Christy, actually published over two-dozen books. …

Read More

The How-To of Legacy

Wonderful thoughts last week.  Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, honesty, and wisdom. Just one of the many reasons I so admire you folks. So here are my thoughts on this topic. As Connie Almony wrote, it’s not about the big things we do, it’s the small, everyday things. …

Read More

Does Genre Matter?

Earlier this month two literary heavyweights discussed the issue of “Genre” and whether or not it should exist in its current form. Read Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro’s discussion in the New Statesman. It all started because Ishiguro’s new novel Buried Giant is not presented as a Fantasy novel despite …

Read More

Setting Yourself Apart

Unfortunately, even though I’d love to represent each writer I’m fond of and enjoy hanging out with, I can’t represent everyone for a variety of reasons. That’s okay. CBA has many agents and authors, and God has a plan for all of us. But let”s say you hope your proposal rises to the top …

Read More

Why We Must Be Forthright

 I’ve heard more than one writer say, “I’m sneaking Christianity into a book for the general market!” Wanting to reach the unsaved is a wonderful mission, but in my opinion, sneaking (and I’m not kidding when I say authors actually use this verb) Christianity into books isn’t the way to …

Read More

The Great Slot Mystery

Every traditional publishing company has a personality or focus that defines them and their product. Usually that personality or focus is determined by past success. They also know how many books they can effectively publish during a year. Combining focus and capacity, you have the beginnings of a publishing strategy. …

Read More

How Many People Are Involved in Publishing Your Book?

The above photo is somewhat illustrative of the number of people involved in getting your book to market. Even if you self-publish there are still many functions that you may have not done yourself. Below is not an exhaustive list but a rambling stream of consciousness when thinking about the …

Read More