New vs. Established Agents
August 13, 2009

Many of you know that I’m still relatively new to this whole agenting thing. In fact, last month I hit my one-year anniversary of being in the business (although I’d received an MA in Writing and been involved in the SCBWI before that), and next month I’ll hit one year since my first sale. After that, the milestones get a lot more boring: one year since my first conference, one year since that time I fell asleep and missed my stop on the subway, one year since writing this post about one-year anniversaries…But I digress. A question that used to come up a lot when I would offer representation was, “Why should I go with a young and unproven agent?” Even though I’m not as green as I once was, the unproven vs. established agent question is one that writers should consider very carefully when sending out their precious babies. Established agents have many distinct advantages over new agents—they have more connections, often have proven track records, and just have more experience in general. Their clients likely won’t have questions that they’ve never had to answer before. If they’ve been at it for ten or more years, chances are there’s a reason for their success and why they have lots and lots of sales.Newer agents, on the other hand, are a bit more of a wildcard. Maybe they don’t have the right connections. Maybe they’re not savvy about what books can sell, or how to get your book to the next level. So why would anyone ever want to sign with one, anyway?Well, the one distinct advantage a new agent usually has over a seasoned vet is time. It just stands to reason that with fewer clients to work with, a new agent will be able to focus more of his or her time on YOU and YOUR book. If they offer representation, it’s because they’re really excited about your work. Chances are, they’ll fight really hard to see it published. That’s not to say an established agent won’t, but, as with families who have one or two children vs. those crazy houses (my apologies if you’re from one of them) with 14 kids running around, the focus tends to be more spread out. The parent of a single child has eyes only for little Ricky or Cory. In the same way, a newer agent may be able to invest more time in shaping a manuscript into something that can sell.While this is certainly not always the case, a lot of times newer agents are more plugged into technology like Twitter, Facebook, or even blogs. They’re out there for writers, because in many cases they have to be in order to make themselves known. Newer agents are also more likely to form relationships with newer editors, who are just as hungry to discover great projects and spend time shaping them.Of course, a new agent could burn out in eight months and never be heard from again. He could finally score that record deal he’s been working toward, or maybe that line of clothing he’s been developing just got picked up by Calvin Klein. With an established agent, you usually have the confidence that they’re going to stick around for a while, even if you’re not always on the top of their to-do list.So what says you? What is or was more important to you in your own agent search?