Not Abusing Your Personal Contacts For Professional Agendas

This post is a little hard to write, but because it’s happened to me several times in the past few months as well as for many of my agented friends, I’d like to throw this out into the universe. When a writer signs with an agent and/or sells their first book they may sometimes find themselves a little more popular with the aspiring authors they knew way-back-when. I’m a firm believer in paying it forward, but passing along a referral simply isn’t enough to land someone an agent these days – blood must spill and it shouldn’t come from the writer who’s bled already.

Writers must bring their A++++ game because even if you’re friends with [insert #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning, Beauty King/Queen author here] doesn’t mean you’ll get away with submitting a half-baked query and/or manuscript. What I’ve learned the past few years is that while agents and editors will appreciate a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and/or conference memberships, they’re all looking to work with a storyteller who not only did they best they could, but pushed themselves to do even better than their best.

Referrals don’t equal automatic representation. They simply have the power to accelerate a “yes” or “no” from a potential agent, and even that’s not a guarantee. This business is too subjective to assume the agent who represents your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate will be the best fit for your book.

Before asking your friends to connect you with their agent, make sure you’ve exhausted your resources researching agents who might be the best fit for your book. Your YA time-travel book about dinosaur gladiators battling against a cyborg cyclops might not click with the agent looking for a quiet literary novel, and that’s okay. (But really, any agent would have to be craaaazy to not sign up that book.) I feel it really is in every writer’s best interest to carve their own path to publication, and not only so they can feel that validating high from reaching Point A to Point B on their own, but also in the interest in preserving their friendships.


4 Responses to Not Abusing Your Personal Contacts For Professional Agendas

  1. Jessie Humphries Mar 21 2014 at 4:17 pm #

    To true. Referrals can only get you so far, and I would venture to say that in this biz, not very far at all unless you’ve done all the work it would take to get an agent otherwise.

  2. Susan Dennard Mar 21 2014 at 4:45 pm #

    Great post, Adam! Requests for referrals are always so very awkward because I would never ever recommend a book to my agent that I haven’t read–and I don’t have time to offer to read for everyone. The worst, though, is when someone uses your name without asking–it only hurts that person in the end! Agents always check up on that stuff (“Did you refer so-and-so?”).

  3. caitlin Mar 23 2014 at 9:54 am #

    When I got an agent, I told my in person writers group and online CPs that I’d be happy to refer them (because I am)! Only one person has taken me up on it and, while in the end it wasn’t a good fit, I’m still happy I was able to get my CP just a little more notice. Yes, it’s always going to ultimately be about the book, but agents get SO many queries, anything that can set you apart is helpful. On that note, isn’t it helpful to agents when you point out something you think they might like? Sure, you don’t want to over do it (and the endorsement needs to be genuine), but I’m guessing at least some agents appreciate it.

    All that said, perhaps I wouldn’t be so positive about referrals if a lot of writers were asking me for them out of the blue….

  4. sbo Jul 28 2014 at 12:38 am #

    I agree about it and very interested.

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