Recently a client e-mailed to say that a writer friend wanted to know how we do what we do - more particularly how I do it, if I do not read clients’ mss - which I certainly cannot afford to do at the rate we charge for a Customized Fingerprint (that’s mentoring and it’s a whole n’other story available in a very limited edition).
Okay, here’s what I said, with all the names changed to protect the innocent. Except mine, of course.
Hi X, to answer your friend’s question: When we get back the answers to her questionnaire we put that info together with Bill’s three thousand strong database of agents. And remember that he’s been collecting this data since 1980. Whittling down that large universe to those who are in the right country (i.e. the US, UK, or Canada), are primary rights agents rather than specialists in other kinds of rights (author’s need primary rights agent; the others sell for different aspects of the market - other agents, publishers, etc.), and have a track record of selling material that’s not a million miles away immediately reduces the pool of possible agents. At that point my experience in the business (send her to beverlyswerling.com) and what I know of the writer and her/his project kicks in. So it’s part research and part gut-instinct, honed by a good many years and books. In moments of megalomania I might call it art. But bear in mind that the key to your friend’s success, indeed that of any client, is the quality of the ms and how well it slots into whatever genre it is meant for. Whether it’s porn - and yes there are some agents who do that better than others - or a candidate for literary prizes, that’s the essential element. And it has to be provided by the author. If I knew how to bottle it, I’d have retired with my millions years ago.