Thursday, September 14, 2006

Essential Agent Attributes

Interesting developments may be afoot with regards to Carol of the Horse, my children's audio book, featuring the fabulous musical talents of award-winning inspirational vocalist Sharie Conard.

In July, Sharie and I attended the MEGA Book Marketing conference in Orlando, Florida. There, we were both impressed with one agent in particular. We returned home, made the tweaks to our book that we felt it needed, and published it. But neither of us are interested in becoming publishers. We'd like to find the book a home with a publisher who believes in it as much as we do.

The agent we both liked is based in Nashville -- a city where Sharie spends a significant amount of time as part of her recording career. So, after some talk and much prayer, we researched the agent's contact information and she called him yesterday to see if he would be willing to consult with her and offer some advice on the project.

Amazingly, he answered the phone! Even more amazing, he was very nice and very helpful.

He doesn't represent children's books, he told her (very few agents do, by the way -- the advances and the market for such books are paltry compared to other genres). But he knew someone who does. He recommended a specific person, and told Sharie she could use his name as a referral. (Referrals, you should know, are the "Get Out of Jail Free" cards of the Agency Game.)

Sharie immediately called the agent he'd recommended, and she agreed to do a consultation on our project. We're not begging her to represent us, you understand. We would just like an honest appraisal of the project, and some suggestions from Someone Who Knows.

Again -- the agent was pleasant, personable, and good-humored. Online queries quickly told us that she's been in business long enough to have fantastic contacts. She had authored numerous books herself. She regularly speaks at writer's conferences and workshops. In the past few years, she has sold enough titles to major publishers to make it obvious that this is her business and not a hobby.

She'll have our book by Monday.

Forget the horror stories you've heard about the cons, predators, and rogue agents in the publishing industry. Of course they exist. There are too many desperate writers out there -- and desperation attracts the lowlife agent sharks just like blood in the water brings in the oceanic ones. But the desperate writers almost never do their homework.

In my experience, the vast majority of bona-fide agents I've met and worked with are wonderful, hardworking, dedicated people. They are picky about what clients and what projects they will represent because each book they accept means -- literally -- months of hard work. Authors often have unrealistic ideas about what makes a manuscript salable. The agents are on the front lines of the publishing industry. Their income is entirely dependent upon them choosing their clients wisely, and making regular sales.

It will be interesting to see the book through the eyes of someone who's job it is to take such projects and present them to publishers. With any luck, she'll have some solid suggestions for us to put into practice. I'm already grateful to her, however, just for giving Sharie the time of day.