This is the kind of question I get.
"So when are we going to hear from you?
I'd love to hear how recommendations trump the slush a million times over."
Because obviously, I have nothing else to do but read slush. It's not like selling 100 books a year takes any time.
How do recommendations trump slush? Let me count the ways.
Well, when Dean Koontz sent me a starving horror writer and asked me to see if I could get him enough money in a contract so his family could eat meat more often, that writer definitely jumped to the top of the slush.
When one of my N.Y. Times best-selling authors says "I've read this guy's stuff and he reminds me of myself when I was young," that jumps slush.
When I go to ComicCon and one of my authors who also writes comics introduces me to a famous comicbook writer who now wants to write novels, that trumps slush.
When the boyfriend of a celebrity client who appears on TV regularly wants to explore writing his autobiography, that jumps slush.
And often, one of my clients calls me and says, "you know so-and-so. S/he's too shy (or head-strong) to call you, but s/he needs your help. Will you look at what s/he's working on and see if you can rescue him/her?" That always jumps to the top of the slush pile.
I hope you're getting the picture.
And on top of that, there's always an old client who started to write again after a 10 year hiatus, or someone whose work I've always loved (and probably told them so at some convention over the past 20 years) who is now looking to resurrect his career and remembered my kind words of praise. They always jump to the top of the slush.
Are you beginning to get the picture?
But the thing that it seems that many of you fail to understand is that an established agent does not want an entire clientele of new writers. My list is varied. I take on and sell at least one first novel and first nonfiction book a year, but my first year as an agent I sold 14 first novels (and probably as many first nonfiction books). I was actively building a list. That's really who new writers should be targeting themselves to - a new agent, but someone who is affiliated with an established agency.