When writers begin looking for an agent, I think sometimes their focus on getting representation becomes all-consuming in ways that prevent them from most fully investigating what they need or are looking for in an agent. While an agent’s connections to a desirable list of publishers are important, I would argue that even more important is whether a particular agent understands what the writer is trying to do on the line level. I always encourage writers to really probe whether they agree with an agent’s editorial feedback and larger vision for the project before committing to altering the work in ways that might feel inorganic or forced. I also think that it is important for writers to decide early on whether they feel confident in an agent’s communication style. If communication feels strained or unpredictable early on in the writer-agent relationship, it is always worth taking a step back to decide what will be best for the long-term goal of building an audience most sustainably over time.
As a writer myself, I have come to realize that if I prioritize embracing risk through playful experimentation I am most fulfilled in my work and, as a result, less crushed by rejection when it arrives. By focusing on the process of writing over outcomes that are impossible to control, we are setting ourselves up to be more resilient in the face of obstacles. More often than not, it is this very resilience—not sudden blockbuster success—that allows a writer to keep writing over time, slowly expanding her vision in ways that maximize her chances of finding the right agent and publisher, though not necessarily in that order.
—Jaclyn Gilbert, founder of Drift(less) Literary