Q. I've been writing for three years and have finally deemed myself ready to look for an agent. Following your advice, I am using IMDBpro to look for the youngest, hungriest agents at all the guild signatory agencies. My logic flows thusly: the agent with the shortest client list is probably the youngest/hungriest. Is this reasonable?
Not necessarily. The late Patricia McQueeney had only one client: Harrison Ford. The bigger your clients, the more service they expect and need, and the fewer you need to support yourself. You have to look at who the clients are. If they have big credits, the agent may be too big for someone who's starting out. A junior agent might have a lot of clients she's trying to find breaks for; she needs a lot because she's making small commissions from each of them.
Q. And secondly: I notice that many agents rep not just writers but also directors, actors, visual effects artists, etc. Do I want an agent like this, who reps multiple kinds of talent, or should I avoid these in favor of strictly literary agents?
Many good writer agents rep directors as well. That's fine: for their directing clients they will be taking meetings with the same sort of producers and execs that you want them to be meeting for your own benefit. I got my manager because my agent was visiting LA with her top directing client; and during negotiations on a certain film I worked on, it was extremely helpful that she repped the director on the film, too. If your agent reps directors, she can give your scripts to those directors, which might help you get them set up.
A smaller agent might rep directors and actors as well; agents at bigger agencies will usually specialize. I don't think that having an agent with a big acting roster helps you as much as a purely writer/director agent; and an agent who reps a lot of below-the-line talent (visual effects artists, etc.) may not be focusing where you need her to focus.
Wow, that was fast. Thanks.
That's the nice thing about IMDBpro: you can see who each agent reps as well. I kind of figured I needed to actually look at each client's credits to find out just how successful an agent I was dealing with.
Nice blog, Alex; no wonder you're smiling. Just wanted to add my 2 cents on agents because I think they often really do end up helping writers network, especially writers who are not in L.A. or NY. So an agent who reps directors and actors, and knows producers, is a good thing. S/he is going to be looking out for her/his clients with an eye on interesting projects. So much of the work ends up being about who can get the money (now mostly from abroad)and how. My blog is about grim and humorous matters literary, but I have one film rejection letter that I've been meaning to post. www.literaryrejectionsondisplay.blogspot.com
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