Does Your Agent Have to Love Your Book?
Lately I’ve gotten some remarks from people, both in blog comments and in response to pass letters, complaining that “agents are only looking for what they’re personally interested in.” And some have called into question whether that’s a legitimate way to do business.
So is it true? Are we just looking for what we like? Well… yes and no.
Yes, it’s best if I enjoy reading your manuscript, because I’m going to read it once, twice, or multiple times especially if we’re doing one or more editorial passes. That’s awfully hard if I merely tolerate your work rather than enjoying it.
More importantly, as an author you probably want an agent who completely believes in you and your work. There may be times your agent has to really push hard, fight through obstacles, get really creative about selling your book to a publisher. That’s much easier to do if I’m totally sold out on your project.
Don’t forget that my criteria for “liking” a manuscript may be different from yours. When I’m looking for projects in a professional capacity, my “Do I like it?” filter is different from the one I use when I’m looking for books for my personal reading. It’s common for me to love a manuscript, totally believe in it, and want to represent it, even though it might be different from what I typically choose for my leisure reading.
But a far more crucial question than “Do I like it?” is “Do I think I can sell it?” This is, after all, a job, and no matter how much I love what I do, I have to make a profit or I have to quit. (Jessica at Bookends wrote a great post about Making Money.)
In the end, I choose projects to represent based on a combination of what I like, what I believe will sell, what fits into the current market, and what I’d be proud to align my name with.
Not sure there’s any other way to do this job.
Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent