“It only takes one yes.”
Chances are if you’re an author (or even know an author) in search of an agent, you’ve heard those words. And I’ll be honest, after 87 agent rejections, I’ve heard that phrase more times than I ever want to again—heck, I’ve even SAID those words to other writer friends as they’ve walked their own agent-search journeys.
Except now a few years beyond those 87 rejections, with two books pubbed and a publisher I love (Harper), and having had three agenty relationships, I’ve come to the conclusion the “it only takes one yes” stance isn’t exactly true.
I mean, technically it DOES take only one yes. But the agent from whom that yes appears is infinitely more important than the yes itself. Because it comes from a person—someone with personality, feelings, opinions, and skills—and it’s an agreement to enter a partnership with you, a person who also has feelings, personality, opinions, and skills.
You’ve probably heard it said an author/agent relationship is rather like a marriage. You hope it’s long-term, compatible, and that you’ll have each other’s backs through both the hard and awesome. And in some ways, yes, it is like that. It’s also a business and a valuable career-growing game-changer, and if I’ve learned anything at all it’s that it matters more who you walk the pub adventure with than the adventure itself.
Which is where it comes down to trusting one’s gut.
Because the conclusion I’ve come to is this: There are amazing agents out there just like there are amazing authors and business partners and friends. There are agents who rep loads of New York Times bestsellers, and agents who prefer to simply keep a list of personal clients. There are agents who let you call them in the middle of the night and there are those who keep very tight office hours. There are those building their own new careers and there are agents who’ve walked the trenches for twenty years.
And THEY’RE ALL INCREDIBLE (okay, for the most part. Just like authors and random nice people are also truly wonderful for the most part). They’re passionate and focused and they know more about the pub world than half of us could ever hope to.
But that doesn’t mean they’re the right fit for you. Or for me.
When I needed to find a new agent for the third time (my first was AMAZING but sadly passed away, the second didn’t rep YA), I’ll be honest with you—I was a bit overwhelmed. Until I sat down and made a list. Not a “what an agent needs to offer me” type list, but a list about me. My quirks, my preferences, and particularly my weaknesses. It quickly became clear the type of agent I needed (and the types of agents I’d probably drive batty because I am like the chatty BFF of the pub world who’d adore nothing more than to host publisher sleepovers and pedicure parties if I could).
It also became obvious what strengths I bring to the table (hey, free pedicures, people).
With those notes in mind, and my published debut in hand, I began asking about other author’s agents (and yes I was terrified—what if I got the wrong fit?!). Just like my first go-around, it wasn’t a fast process. It took months until the conversations naturally led where I needed them to go and for my gut to be the one saying yes rather than just my flattered heart.
At that point, I chose to go with a darling, deal-maker of a lady—someone who was just as interested in building a relationship of trust and business and friendship together over the long haul as I was. Someone who saw writing as bigger than just a business on both our parts. And someone whose strengths seriously covered my weaknesses. (Also, it doesn’t hurt that she’s all about the pedicure idea too, ahem.)
And now, sitting here typing this and reflecting back over that season?
I can truly say I could not be happier with my gut decision. Or with her “yes.”
MARY WEBER is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her space time, she feeds unicorns, sings ‘80s songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine., They live in California, which is perfect for stalking LA bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean.
Visit her website at: MaryWeber.com