An Interview with an Agent... (IV)

Please understand that I didn't catch every word, so this is more the "flavor" of the answers than exact quotes. My comments are in [brackets]. Any errors are mine alone :)

Q: What do you think about the trend for agents to request shorter fiction synopses of one to three pages?

AK: I'm still old school. I want the story. For a 300-page book, it's okay to send a 15-20-page synopsis. If you can get it all in three pages, that's okay.

SB: I hate synopses. Absolutely. They're so hard to write well. You're almost wasting your time. I don't want to see them at the beginning. I don't want more than two pages. Does everyone know synopses are supposed to be written in the present tense? You do, at some point, have to write one. I don't want them with the query letter.

AK: I look at synopses as if they were the first draft. I'm not too worried about them.

SB: I think a better use of your time is the one-page query letter. The letter hsould have a paragraph that sums up your book very succinctly. I look for beautiful writing, a paragraph about 5-6 sentences that tells what the book was about.

AK: I agree. That is your pitch.

SB: We do that when pitching to editors. You're supposed to be able to pitch your book.

Q: What's selling? Should we jump on a bandwagon?

SB: I'm not a big fan of trying to follow trends. If you're spotting a trend, it's too late. I don't know how to spot trends. For example, after 9-11, everybody was writing a book. None of those books did well. You're second-guessing a commercial audience. However, there's a trend I've seen building for years. In mysteries, they're not even looking at male protagonists. It's been developing for years.

AK: Do not follow trends. If it's good, it'll get picked up.

Q: What shoudl an author look for when choosing an agent?

AK: It doesn't do any good if you look them up in the Writer's Market and it says they're not taking any new authors. Look at the genres. If you're in their category, send a query.

SB: Look at books similar to yours and see who the agent is on the acknowledgements page. When you target an agent, you can make the query letter more personal and say that your book is similar to this book you represented. It shows you did your work. You need to target agents as much as agents are targeting editors. It matters.

AK: Me, too. If you know something about me, it makes me feel good.

Q: How can writers protect themselves from scam agents?

AK: If anybody is charging money to represent you, run the other way.

Beth: If an agent says you are "almost ready" and refers you to a book doctor, run.

SB: Yes, but some of those are legitimate. Sometimes I'll do that, but I'll give a list of editors to choose from. Agents work on commission. Fees are against the practice of being a legitimate agent. Like reading fees.

Q: What's are the advantages and disadvantages of a single-agent agency versus a multi-agent agency?

SB: I've never worked in a large agency. I would think the advantage of a small agency would be the personal relationship. Big agencies would be able to develop a personal relationship, but they may have pressures to carry more clients. I answer my phone and my e-mails. But I don't know.

AK: I'm the same way. I don't know. Both types of agencies are looking at having personal relationships. That's why I'm in the business!