There are many of my friends looking for an agent right now -- some for their first, and some for their second. It's really making me think about what I'm looking for...and how will I know when I've found it?
It's hard when you start the search -- at least it was for me. I had definite ideas about what it would be like to find an agent...ideas which changed as the time stretched on and on. I officially began my search a little over a year ago. I sent out probably fifteen queries and received one request for a partial, which then became a full. She said no, ultimately, even after looking at a revision (which she liked, but still didn't think it fit).
That's when I began to learn something about this whole agent/writer relationship. yes, I want someone who loves my writing -- of course I do! But I also want someone who gets it one hundred percent. Because I write quickly, I have more experience than some writers with trying different books on the same agents. So far I've had two different agencies request multiple books from me -- only for all of us to realize that my style/voice/story choices don't completely fit with those agents. That's frustrating, of course, but it's also liberating. Two agencies are now removed from the list.
I started out thinking of Agent A as my top choice. I met her at a conference, I read her blog...she seemed absolutely ideal -- except for the tiny problem that she didn't really like my writing. At all. I did manage to eke out one partial request, but every other query has resulted in a flat no. And I've sent a ton (probably six or seven -- one per book).
AFter all these months, I've narrowed my agent list to a very small number -- probably less than ten. If neither of the two considering my work right now offer, it'll be more than a little daunting to find an alternative from among the few remaining agents. I might just work on editors, in that case.
Of the two who seem seriously interested, one stands out. She's not as flashy as the other one, she doesn't quite have the reputation for 'uber' agent...but I've liked every single thing she's said and done so far. She gets back to me quickly; she's encouraging; she works toward furthering your career, not just on a book-by-book basis; her goal is to play matchmaker between you and your editor; she smooths over rough spots...and every one of her clients (who have websites -- which is 90% of them) have published multiple books. She's in this for the long haul, and that's what I want.
It's taken me most of this past year to learn what I wanted, however. If an agent had offered last spring, I would've signed without realizing what it was I really needed/hoped for. It's very much like marriage that way -- I know people who were married very young and it still worked out...but most of my friends (like me) waited until they were almost thirty or over thirty. We all knew exactly what we wanted (and didn't want) in a marriage -- and we chose wisely (I think). Perhaps having to seek an agent for longer than most is a blessing in disguise...I'll let you know :)
What do you want in an agent? I love to hear other thoughts!