We've all heard people talking about the dream agent.
Being a querying writer is a unique form of hell (somewhere near the one for people who talk in theaters). First you're throwing yourself out there, trying to catch the attention of the rare literary agent in their natural habitat: the slush pile.
You're elbowing around with all the other people who have stars in their eyes, and you have spent your whole life working on getting published. So you research the agents you're going to query. Turns out one of them plays hockey.
You play hockey.
The agent also loves Sci Fi art.
You love sci fi art!
The agent is funny on twitter.
You LOVE funny on Twitter!
So you send to this person to whom you now feel strongly connected (hey, it's hard to find an LA Kings fan in NYC, so don't look a gift horse in the mouth). They must be your dream agent. But despite being into Sci Fi, hockey, and funny on twitter, you really have NO IDEA what kind of AGENT they are.
This is a wake up call people. Being funny on twitter doesn't mean an agent is good at being an agent, and here's the problem I see with people talking about their dream agents: until you've worked with (or at least talked to) that agent, there is no way to tell if they are a good agent. Yes you can look them up on predators and editors, and Of Course you looked them up on absolute write and AgentQueryConnect, but that's all second hand information.
It's the difference between seeing something and hearing something.
Your eyes believe what they see.
Your ears believe what someone else says.
Until you've worked with that person, you have no idea how the two of you will work together.
So I'm sure you're all wondering, do I have a dream agent? Well, if you mean an agent I fantasize about having fall in love with my manuscript, well, yes, I have more than one dream agent. For me, my dream agent is the one who loves my books and wants to help me in my bid to take over the world (with great stories).
Helpful qualifications*: an excellent editorial eye, straight talking, professional connections, an abundance of humor (preferably black like my heart), the ability to play halo a plus but not a deal breaker. But truthfully, I don't know enough about publishing to know what I should want in an agent (other than previous sales in my genre). I suspect that most of us unagented writers are sitting in the same boat.
But Rena, some of those qualifications perfectly match my one and true dream agent. How can you say there's no such thing until I meet them over the phone and then work with them? What about my psychic powers of intuition?
Ah, my sweetlings, let me tell you about that intuition.
For some people it is very right. For others it is very, very wrong. And now it's story time.
There was this actor. I won't say his name because I'm sure the experience was a complete fluke, but let's just say he played a popular character on a popular television show.
It would be silly to say that he changed my life with his role, but he did. I based many of my dreams off of things I saw him do on TV (wow, where was my guidance counselor in all of this?? ). I spent thousands of dollars chasing a dream life molded by the character he played. I had spent so much time thinking about him and the character that he had played that it was hard to separate the two.
And then I got to meet him.
I was so nervous standing in line to meet the guy who had literally changed the shape of my life.
He was a robot. An autograph signing machine. I think he wrote something like Peace on the picture. He misspelled my name--well, maybe, it's illegible.
My whole life I thought I would have some deep connection with this person whose life choices (to act and be an activist) had changed my life so profoundly. But there was nothing. I was just another fan in a long line of fans, paying my money for an autograph. I got the same I-can't-believe-you-people-are-still-here-the-show-ended-years-ago-get-on-with-your-life-so-I-can-get-on-with-mine smile that he gave the lady in front of me.
I won't say that it broke my heart. I'd experienced something similar with Stephen Hawking (I don't think he's mean on purpose, I think he's mean because life is a lot harder for him than for able bodied people) (and oh yeah, it's hard for me to really hate people so I often make up excuses for them to be hateful).
My point is, the person in my head was much bigger than the one signing autographs, probably desperate for a break (can you imagine how his hand must have hurt, and the barrage of people "I'm your biggest fan!!!!"). Don't do this to yourself with an agent.
When you get an agent, you have to become partners in the whole publishing gig (and you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy--okay, it's nicer than that, but it's not shooting womp rats back home). Partnerships don't work out if you start on uneven ground. So don't go all moon-eyed in the query trenches. It's a dangerous place.
Also, you might want to go see Fizzy about oversharing. Zang, you don't want that problem.
*helpful qualifications may change without notice as writer gains experience