From Books & Such Literary Management:
What kind of things do I look for in a new client? Things like being knowledgeable and invested. And writing books that have commercial appeal. And offering fresh ideas and a fresh voice.
I also look for a writer who is realistic and prepared for the career view. When I get a query that insists I look at the “next bestseller,” I toss it in the round file. Yes, there are a number of debut books that became overnight successes. Just like there are lottery winners who recently won hundreds of millions of dollars. But does that mean if you buy a lottery ticket you’ll win millions?
We can’t plan a career around hoping for a miracle. Many fine, fine published books go virtually unnoticed every year. Reaching bestseller status is a convoluted combination of hard work, writing skill, word-of-mouth and that unpredictable combination of events that take an author to the tipping point.
I’m looking for writers who are realistic– knowing that they are going to have to pay their dues, possibly with very little return in terms of attention and money for the first few years.
. . . .
So I’m looking for writers who are prepared financially for the long haul. When we have clients who are desperate to make money we have a problem. This industry is not like a job. The money is sporadic and never guaranteed. A writer needs to be able to support himself while he builds his career. Or else you need a “patron of the arts,” as one writer describes her spouse.
. . . .
I also look for writers who have enough years to build a career. As agents, we pour ourselves into our clients. The first several years we may see precious little return on our investment. That’s okay, that’s our part of the financial long haul. If we believe in a writer we’ll work like crazy with absolutely no return in the early years if necessary. But if a debut writer who is seventy-five years old comes to me, I need to be positively bowled over by her book because, even if she writes for ten years, it’s barely enough time to really get a career launched. Of course that’s not to say I wouldn’t take her on if I loved that one book. I’ve done it more than once.
I look for settled writers. If a writer tells me he’s going to be moving to Sri Lanka for a period of five years I have to wonder how we can build a career with an inaccessible author. Writers who take “writing breaks” to raise children, to care for parents, or to “find themselves” usually find themselves with a stalled career.
Link to the rest at Books & Such Literary Management and thanks to Dave for the tip.