What Are Agents Looking For? Find out With Greyhaus Literary Agency, Agent Scott Eagan

Hello and welcome to the final day of the Southern Sizzle Romance Blog anniversary. First let me say a HUGE thank you to all the guests, commentors, and other Sizzle authors. This month we’ve had the pleasure of so many great posts and today is no different.  Today’s guests blogger is Greyhaus Literary Agency agent Scott Eagan. Thank you to him for joining us today. A few months ago I had the pleasure of sending Mr. Eagan a partial submission of my latest urban fantasy, although he ultimately passed on the work I’ve continued to follow him on twitter and his blog. I’ve read a lot of blogs over the years and Mr. Eagan’s blog is by far one of the most informative so when it was time to send invitations out for our blog guests I knew I had to invite him.

Today’s topic is What Are Agents Looking For, which is one thing we are all wanting to know!

WHAT ARE AGENTS REALLY LOOKING FOR?

 

            One of the most common questions agents (and editors) hear at conferences as we sit on panels is “so what is it you are looking for in a submission?” Of course, every time you hear that question the answer always seems to be the same response. “I’m looking for a story with a great voice, a fantastic high concept and characters that grab me.”

            Now, for most writers, this is not the answer they were looking for. In all likelihood, they were looking for something such as, “I’m looking for a paranormal romance with a ghost and a vampire taking on the forces of the angels and demons. The story should be in 3rd person and have an amazingly hot looking character like Hugh Jackman.” Sorry, but that response in not going to happen. Still, if the writers were really listening to what the agents said, they had everything they would need.

            As an agent, we have several things we are looking for. Despite what many writers tell each other, “If you have a great story it will sell,” there really is much more than that. When we read those submissions, for the most part, we are all looking for the same things:

  • High Concept
  • Voice
  • The Story
  • The Marketablity
  • The Author

Let’s look at each briefly

HIGH CONCEPT What do we want here? Not some flashy line that you have crafted in a workshop. We’re talking about the story here. Agents and editors are looking for something new and unique. Not strange, just a new twist on what is selling out there. I had an author once that was rejected by an editor for just this thought. The editor stated, “Your writing is fantastic and is equal to [insert NY Times Author] but we already have that person. Find a way to give us a new twist.

I was talking to a Harlequin editor in Orlando and her comment was the same thing. “All of the submissions we see seem to be copies of what we already have. Give us that new twist.” Agents want the same thing.

VOICE What we want with voice is something that comes across naturally off the page. We aren’t interested in your ability to use the right words, we want to see a great voice that sounds like you are talking to us. One of the last authors I signed, Stephanie Stiles,  has a book coming out next year called TAKE IT LIKE A MOM. Now, when I read her story it was the voice that sold me. It just screamed personality and the editors also loved it. We started marketing it on Jan. 11,, 2010 and had sold it to NAL by the 25th of the month.

THE STORY This is key. We aren’t just looking for two great characters with no plot. Along the same lines, we aren’t looking for a book of action with no point. The story has to be a great blend of character, plot, conflict and all tied together with a purpose. Think back to junior high and your first discussions about literature – THEME, CHARACTER, PLOT, SETTING, CONFLICT. That is what we want.

MARKETABILITY Remember, this is a business. We have to have a product we can sell. You might have a fantastic story, but if the story is not something the public will buy, then the editors will not pick it up either. This is even more the case with new authors. It is simply too big of a gamble to try to sell a new author with something completely out there. I don’t care if you have friends who want to read the book, we need to have a sense that the general public will want to buy the book.

THE AUTHOR As an agent, this is a big one. Remember that this is a team and the agent and the author have to work together. We have to have the same goal and the same focus. If you have a great book but can’t work with an agent, or listen to what they have to say, you will really struggle in this business. I have heard a lot of great stories out there, but had to pass because the personality of the author really clashed with the approach I take.

Thank you again for stopping by. For more information on Mr. Eagan please check his website out and be sure to follow him on twitter. http://www.greyhausagency.com and on twitter as  http://twitter.com/greyhausagency

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16 Responses

  1. Thank you so much to Mr. Eagan for stopping by and giving us some more great information! And thank you to SFCatty(Jillian Chantal) for posting this for me when the automatic publisher didn’t!

  2. Great post, Mr Eagan. Now that I’ve met you (in Orlando- I’m the one that asked you about your kilt at the FF&P party), I may just take a chance and send you my manuscript. I completely agree that it’s important to have a personality match in any client relationship- I’ve seen how clashes can cause major issues since I’m a lawyer. I liked the way you presented yourself in Orlando. Very approachable.

    Thanks for being our guest today. Lots of good info!

  3. Thank you, Mr. Eagan. Nice blend of concise and personable with your information! Pretty near a road map of what is necessary to make it in your world.

    Sigh. Now if we writer types could just stop being distracted by the scenery and tourist traps along the way . . .

    Your post holds very helpful advice, and is greatly appreciated by all of us! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and blogging with us!

  4. Glad I could help out on this. I love working with authors on blogs such as this.

  5. I’ll keep checking in during the day to answer any questions that might come up. If, for some reason, I don’t get to your question, make sure to swing by the blog and ask there.

    Scott

  6. Great post and okay, I cringed because I do want to hear something specific when someone asks what agents/editors want. I suppose now I’ll have to trash my Hugh Jackman wanna be hero with wings *le sigh*

    It’s been a wonderful anniversary month, ladies! I’m so glad I was along for the ride!

  7. Mr. Eagan – Thanks so much for the information! That’s the best explanation for “High Concept” I’ve ever read…now I think I understand it.

  8. Rebecca,

    Glad I could help!

    Scott

  9. Thanks for sharing some great information. Mr. Eagan.

    You’ve told us what you’re looking for, but I curious about the pet-peeves that will make you toss something aside without giving it a second thought. Anything you’d like to share?

    • I think the only pet-peeve I have is with the authors that send me projects that clearly don’t meet the guidelines I post on the website. I get memoirs, how-to books, science journals, poetry and so forth. I also get people who will use my online form and submit projects that are clearly not in the word count range (which amazes me considering it specifically states it on the form).
      I will tell you that I don’t throw it out. I do respond to the authors with a rejection. It really frustrates me when I hear editors and agents say they don’t respond at all. I want to see this as a learning opportunity.

      Scott

      • This is so great! Most editors and agents wouldn’t even bother and to new authors or more experienced sometimes we just make mistakes and to respond even after that mistake is great! Bravo Mr. Eagan for taking that time!

  10. […] What Are Agents Looking For? Find out With Greyhaus Literary Agency, Agent Scott Eagan « South… […]

  11. Great Scott! A kilt, no less. (I didn’t hear about that one, sfcatty. We need to talk.) Anyway, thank you so much for joining the Sizzlers to celebrate our first anniversary. Your info was clear and concise-a keeper, for sure. RitaVF

    • Glad I had the chance to visit. I look forward to seeing all of you out there at conferences and hearing about the great things you are doing with your writing.

      Scott

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