Okay so now you are wondering how is it that writers also look for the ‘no’? Aren’t we the ones hungry for the ‘yes’? Don’t we want our manuscripts published? Don’t we want representation? Shouldn’t we say yes, yes, yes, if they offer us a contract?
Only if you’ve looked for the ‘no’ beforehand.
If you go to a conference and meet five agents, hear them speak, even have a personal conversation with each of them, are you going to submit to all of them? You better not because every agent is unique, just like every writer and each manuscript. We must discern who is the best agent for us.
Do you like how they talk? Really. This can be like typo in ms. If they use sarcasm as a way of expressing themselves, does that work for you? Some writers may love that kind of zing; others not so much.
Do they represent writers who write in more than genre? You have to ask. Some don’t and if you love your picture books and young adult genres, this will be a problem.
Do you want an editorial agent? Some people don’t. If you do, have you asked how hands on they are with manuscripts?
Do they represent more YA than middle grade? If you’re a middle grade writer, that may make a difference. They may have most of their connections with YA editors or houses that love YA. That said, they may want to expand into the middle grade market and are going to be aggressive with placing middle grade manuscripts but it’s a question to ask particularly if you have done your research.
Have you done your research? Have you looked for the ‘no’ so that the ‘yes’ can be whole-hearted? Not a ‘please take me, I just want an agent so bad’ kind of yes.
Do they talk on the phone to writers or only correspond by email? A certain amount of correspondence has to be done by email given time zones and the crazy hours writers and agents work but if you like having an editorial phone conversation and that agent doesn’t, you better know that going in.
Again, looking for the no, to look for the yes.
Why do you want to look for a no? Because I think you want to fall in love with your agent (okay, not romantically) just like they want to fall in love with your manuscript. You are going to be in a relationship (yes, it is a business relationship) and writers are sensitive creatures so that business relationship better be supportive. You want that relationship to begin with your eyes open so you must exercise those powers of discernment.
You have to look for the ‘no’ to find the ‘yes’.