Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Tips on Finding the Right Agent: A Recap of the May 4, 2016 Westside Writers Mingle

By Rebecca Light

The Westside Writers Lit Mingle had a surprise guest in April. When she heard we were planning to discuss agents, Eve Porinchak of the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency generously offered to come speak to our group. 

Here are the highlights:
  •  Do your research. Find out which agents represent your genre and which do not. More than half of all queries sent to the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency are for genres the agency does not represent. These guidelines are available on an agency’s websites. ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines.
  • Think deeply on the kind of agency you want to represent you. Do you want to be with a huge agency that does big deals but where you may be a little fish? Or will it serve you to sign with a boutique agency where you can receive more personal attention? 
  • Also consider location. Signing with a New York-based agent insures they’ll have more direct contact with editors, but signing with a local agency means you get face time with your agent, and a diligent West coast agency can have just as strong a relationship with an East coast editor if they put in the effort.
  • Once you’ve identified a list of agencies that suit you, Eve recommended talking to people who’ve worked with those agents in order to get a sense of their agenting style and reputation among clients. Use organizations like SCBWI to network as much as you can. You may even discover a colleague willing to give you a referral, which Eve says she is more likely to look at right away.
  • On the etiquette of nudging: One mingler inquired about the timing of nudging an agent after querying. Most agencies follow the guideline that if you don’t hear from them within 6 weeks the answer is a no, and therefore nudging of any kind is generally unnecessary. Some agents may not mind a nudge, others may detest it. Unless it’s explicitly stated on the agency’s guidelines it’s impossible to know for sure, so trust your instincts.
  • Never pay an agent—an agent works for you and does not get paid until you do. If an agent asks for payment up front, run the other way.

Eve made it clear that agents are as varied in their processes as writers are in theirs, but there are industry standards to rely upon when pursuing an agent. On behalf of everyone at the Westside Writers Mingle, we extend a huge thanks to Eve Porinchak for sharing her time and expertise with the group.