If you want to catch a fish, you have to think like a fish. If you want to get an agent, you have to think like an agent. That is, think like moi. (Even better, think like Janet Reid.)

Move me.

Like editors and publishers and readers, I’m looking for wonderful stories about characters I can fall in love with. Stories and characters that move me. These are the stories we need, the stories that I want to help get out there in the world.

Remember ROI.

ROI stands for Return On Investment.

I don’t make a dime until I sell your work. Which means I’m investing a lot of time and energy and resources before that investment pays off. So, I’m not looking just for great stories, I’m looking for great stories I believe I can sell.

Bigger is better.

Everyone’s looking for the Next Big Thing. Since no one really knows what that is, many depend on trends. If you’re not a trendy writer, then focus on a Big Idea. High-concept stories can break through, even when they’re not “on trend.”

A great pitch is half the battle.

Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way since I’ve become an agent: If I can’t pitch your story in 50 words or less, I can’t sell it. As an agent, my job is to get your work read—and a great pitch persuades editors to read your work.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

Publishing is a business of relationships, like any other. Being an agent is like being a matchmaker, pairing up writers and publishers. It takes knowing the community, and being part of that community. That goes for you, too. Writers who are already part of that community—belonging to genre associations, attending book signings and conferences, befriending fellow writers—make this pairing up much easier.

Professionalism counts.

Sometimes writers fall back on “artistic temperament” to rationalize unprofessional behavior. Agents—and editors and publishers and booksellers—want to work with writers who are dependable and presentable, as well as creative and imaginative.

Chemistry counts.

The agent/author relationship has often been compared to a marriage. In fact, many such partnerships last far longer than many marriages. It’s important that the relationship be a good fit, for author and agent alike. I want to work with writers I like and admire and respect—and you should, too.

I’m in this for the long haul.

We’ve talked about ROI. I want to work with writers who write and keep on writing. Writers who are also in it for the long haul, who are committed to the writer’s path, regardless of the bumps in the road. And there will be bumps.

Timing is everything.

Timing is everything, in publishing as in life. Sometimes lightning strikes. Often it doesn’t. Success takes hard work, persistence, and a little luck. A good agent understands this, and so does a good writer. When the timing works for us, great. When it works against us, stay honest. No blaming anyone but fate.

Because the next time, the planets may just align in our favor.

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