How to find an literary agent by H.-J.John

With nearly one million manuscripts submitted to publishers, today’s and tomorrow’s author more than ever needs a competitive advantage on the road to success. The Berliner-by-choice, Axel Poldner, supports authors who have recognized this.

I regularly take the train from Switzerland to Germany. I enjoy the ride and the scenery and devote myself to writing and conversations with fellow travellers. I am a person who repeatedly questions things. I stand in front of the ticket machine and every time I wonder whether I should travel first or second class. This may seem pointless to some, but over time it has allowed me to get familiar with both classes and know what I am talking and writing about.
A rational person in this world fraught with choices is encouraged to weigh his options. The individual, personal consumption pattern must not be allowed to perish in everyday life. Customized offers are popular.

So I proceeded similarly when selecting my literary agent. First I sent a couple of texts to be edited. An exciting e-mail exchange resulted, until I realized that in addition to the mere service as it is usually provided in the publishing business, I received something more: Wow, there is a person who cares about me, who tries to explore my weaknesses and strengths, who encourages me in the latter and downplays the former. He sees the author in me, puts more confidence in me than my self-doubt previously permitted, and writes about success as if it’s already arrived but my eyes have not recognized it. Then I notice how much power lies in each of the emails from this person who has already helped so many others in publishing their books.

At the ticket machine I weigh my options based on the following question: Are the comfort, quiet, and quasi-guaranteed seat worth the extra money for a first class ticket, or will a five-hour trip in second class, squeezed between noisy children and weekend commuters and facing the uncertainties of every mass gathering, suffice? Weighing the options as if I were buying train tickets never entered my mind after those initial contacts with the literary agent.  Taking into account nights of writing, countless Marlboro or Camel without filters, fearing, hoping, and writing for the big hit, I make no compromises in the choice of my literary agent: definitely first class.

After reviewing the various agents in the literary market, Axel Poldner piqued my interest. Decades of experience with authors and publishers as well as film production companies and accompanying them to success – even debut authors – made the difference. Of course, initially, every foal is a great white hope. Whether it later turns into an outstanding dressage or jumping horse is uncertain. Part of it is nature and another part can be trained.
Authors are similar. Few make the breakthrough to the top of the book pyramid, even if they have the right literary agent. It depends on a variety of elements. Vinegar and oil alone do not make a Greek salad. The ingredients need the right mixture. Too much may be too little. One case of too little rarely comes alone.

Choosing the right literary agent is important and can be critical. The agent mediates between author and publisher or film production company. A dutiful literary agent tries to set his authors apart from the countless others. This is done via their work, but equally important is the significant improvement of the authors’ competitive positions, achieved through important pre-publication efforts. In short, an agent who can empathize well with the views of publishers is needed.

If a real publisher – the so-called vanity publishers will not be discussed here – has the choice between a promising author with a non-proofread book and an equally promising author with a ready-to-print book, the publisher will approach the author whose agent can provide a book that has already been proofread.

Unlike the case of the ticket machine, I did not have to debate for even a moment between first or second choice. Important decisions are easy. I am sure I have chosen well.

Just like I am, many other people are spoiled for choice. Some would not recognize good fortune or success if it knocked on their door and they saw it through the peephole. Others use reason and intuition as guides and do the right thing.

© 2011 Hans-Jürgen John