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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