Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What to Look for In an Agent

Agents are people and as such, they vary from micro-managers to the other end of the spectrum. One thing to help you decided what you to look for in an agent is to look at yourself and how you work. 

·         Do you need hand holding?

·        Do you hope for a movie-esque relationship where they call you up at night with a great idea?

·         Do you see an agent as a sort of mentor or teacher?

·         Do you want them to help you with your manuscript because it needs an overhaul?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you don’t need an agent. You need more time.

You see, agents take you on spec. That is, they don’t make any money unless they sell your book. So when looking for an agent, make sure that YOU’RE what THEY’RE looking for in a client.

Once you feel you’re ready to query, there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you separate the honest, reputable agents from the scoundrels.

·         Agents do not charge you money. Period. Not for a reading fee or a submission fee or anything else.

·         They do not say they will take you if you use their editorial services. Reputable agents with connections to an editing service let you know about that relationship up front. And whether or not you use their service should not affect your submission with them.

·         You can check their track record on Publisher’s Marketplace or similar sites. If they are successful and have been in the business a while, then it will show. 

·         If their commission is outrageous, more than 10-15% domestic, or they penalize you for being new by charging a higher commission then walk away.

Where do you find a great agent? 

One of the best places is to meet them face-to-face at a conference. My own agent has said that he finds 80% of his clients during sessions at conferences. This is a wonderful way to dialogue with an agent about what to expect, how they handle client questions, and what level of interaction you are looking for.

Websites like Query Tracker, a free database of literary agents and publishers, is a fantastic place to start when you’re ready to submit your query. Finding an agent is a long process, but worth it when you connect with the right one. 

As a wise person once pointed out…publication isn’t a selection process, it’s a survival process.

(Post originally appeared on Purple Knot blog tour.)